The Firefox rapid release process that Mozilla switched to has caused some confusion about continuing support for older versions of the browser. While there was never an official support timeline before and after the process change, it was assumed by many that major versions of Firefox were supported for at least six months after release. Mozilla recently dropped support for Firefox 3.5, and in a somewhat surprising move support for Firefox 4.
Firefox 4, or more precisely its only update Firefox 4.0.1 was released April 28, less than two months ago.
Firefox 5, which has been released yesterday is seen by Mozilla as a security update for Firefox 4. It in turn means three things:
Some users might say that it is not all that bad. Just update from Firefox 4.0.1 to Firefox 5 and you are protected again, and update again from 5 to 6 and so on. Some arguments speak against this practice. Enterprise users need to do a lot more testing because of the new release process, and users who came to rely on specific add-ons, might have to disable them or force compatibility on them to get them to work in the next major version of the browser.
Mozilla notes that the major version updates are typically less likely to cause incompatibilities and other problems, due to the rapid release process which pushes out smaller releases regularly instead of big releases occasionally.
One thing that I'm personally a bit confused about is whether automatic updates are applied to Firefox 4, or not. I installed a test version, and while it shows a new update for the browser under Help > About Firefox, it does not seem to apply that update automatically when I close the browser and open it again. The Aurora release on the other hand applies updates automatically on every start.
Does that mean that Firefox 4.0.1 or 4.0 users are not getting Firefox 5 delivered as an automatic update? If that is the case, does it mean that Firefox 4 users are running a browser with known security vulnerabilities?
If you are running Firefox 4, I recommend to update to the latest version of the browser immediately.
What's your take on all of this? Let me know in the comments. You can read the lifecycle policy discussion here at mozilla.dev.planning.
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