Mozilla plans to change how Firefox ships in 2015

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 22, 2015

There has been one major change in past years in regards to how the Firefox web browser is developed and shipped to its users. Mozilla changed to a rapid release cycle in 2011 and has been using the model ever since.

While the organization does not plan to change the six week cycle just yet, its Go Faster initiative changes how Firefox for the desktop is shipped.

The linked Wiki page does not provide many answers as to why Mozilla is making the change, but if you watch the Go Faster presentation on Mozilla Air or here on Ghacks, you will notice that the organization mentions the following reasons:

  1. Shorten the time it takes to validate ideas using user feedback and deliver features to users.
  2. Reducing risk.
  3. Improving quality.
  4. Reducing time to download updates and new versions.
  5. Reductions in build and release time.

Mozilla came up with two basic approaches that it wants to take at this point in time:

1. Offer opt-in options to experimental feature add-ons. Validate ideas with users before they are shipped with the main product to all users.

2. Controlled roll-out features to test features to test features on a subset of users, use phase rollouts to make sure services scale, and to fix problems in a feature early.

So how is Mozilla going to accomplish that?

Developers are working on integrating Go Faster support into desktop Firefox currently. One of the core features that Mozilla implements currently is to integrate support for system add-ons and updates.

Basically, what Mozilla plans to to is ship official Firefox features using the improved add-ons system. Moving features, not all of them but some, away from core Firefox enables Mozilla to deliver and update them as often as the organization wants without having to update Firefox as a whole at the same time.

This allows Mozilla to test features on a subset of users, modify or update them as needed, and also to remove them again if they are not liked by part of the focus group.

Since add-ons are restartless, this could mean that feature changes are rolled out while the user is using the browser. The example given in the demonstration was a new search interface that was updated while search was being used to display different information after the update.

The development plan mentions another improvement that is part of the Go Faster initiative. Mozilla plans to ship localizations separately from the core browser which means that language packs get decoupled from releases.

What's Go Faster's Schedule?

Mozilla targets the initial integration of the system add-ons feature for Firefox 43 which will land in the Developer Channel of the browser on September 21.

The organization plans to ship the first add-ons in the fourth quarter of 2015 and has already picked two which it plans to make available.

The first implements the Hello UI, Firefox's real-time chat component, as an add-on. The second, universal search, will be shipped as a Firefox experiment as well in the last quarter of 2015.

Now You: What is your take on this initiate?

Mozilla to change how Firefox ships in 2015
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Mozilla to change how Firefox ships in 2015
Mozilla launched the Go Faster initiative recently which will change how Firefox, or more precisely specific features and components, ship in the future.

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  1. anon said on July 28, 2015 at 2:42 am

    you don’t have to post this comment – fyi errors:

    Basically, what Mozilla plans to to is ship official

    Controlled roll-out features to test features to test features on a subset of users,

  2. Guest said on July 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    IMO this is a very good move by Firefox (Mozilla), if I’m reading it right. During a browser update, it will basically ask you “do you want ‘pocket’, do you want ‘hello’, etc.
    I believe as long as these potentially unnecessary addons are unchecked by default during the installation or update process, then there is no harm, no foul.
    However they need to be very careful not to make certain core functionality ‘optional’, (I’m looking at FTP here) even though it will theoretically make no difference from a usability point of view, it is the principle of the matter. If you make FTP an optional addon, you’re basically saying “okay FTP, you’re on shaky ground here, watch out we might remove you completely” – and that is somewhat unacceptable. Note that I do not use FTP at all, so that’s a completely unbiased opinion.

    I find the situation with tab groups faced similar problems. Tab groups are a very excellent feature that could be very powerful when done right. Then they stopped developing it halfway, announced they were going to make it an optional addon, and that’s the end of that. No more support on tab groups aside from whacky addons, most of which break more often than not, or lose your tabs or tab positions.

    If you have a function that is either core, or a very powerful unique tool that makes Firefox stand out – don’t toss it into the trash.

    EDIT: Have you guys tried Nightly lately? It has some awesome new close buttons on the tabs. I switched to Nightly as my primary browser a couple of months back and I’ve experience nothing but excellence. Firefox is still going strong.

  3. abcdef said on July 24, 2015 at 2:31 am

    @Sören Hentzschel

    Do you have an english blog ?

    It would be great if you have one.

  4. juju said on July 23, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    run snowden run

  5. DaveyK said on July 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    FirefoxUser0815: Could you show me these average users that are requiring Chat and Pocket? Because I’ve sure not seen any of them! I’ve not met a single person who demanded such functionality built into the browser.

    Secondly, could you explain how removing a bunch of customisability with Australis improved Firefox at all? Were average users put off Firefox because they could right click, hit “Customise”, then move too much around prior to this?

    Removing FTP from the browser (something which is on Mozilla’s to-do list), again, please explain how this will benefit anybody going forwards?

    Australis could easily have been more of a success if Mozilla had stuck to their original goals. Firefox was supposed to be a lean, light, fast and customisable browser. That is what won it an army of fans and users. With Australis, Mozilla betrayed a great many people by locking large portions of the UI in place and killing flexibility which Firefox had enjoyed for years. I personally cannot see any possible benefit of doing this. All it did was annoy many long-time users and drive them away from Firefox (market share figures clearly show the accelerating decline post-Australis).

    It’s why I also left Firefox. I’ve used it since version 0.6, but I was sick and tired of having to keep re-jigging my add-ons every few weeks to fix the latest pile of ill-thought changes from Mozilla. I popped Pale Moon on instead and haven’t looked back. I do really want Mozilla to succeed, but without them taking a step back and taking a good, long, hard look at what is wrong with themselves and with Firefox, I don’t see things changing any time soon unfortunately.

    They don’t listen, and they have absolutely no idea what people want from a browser. Sorry, but that’s currently how it is.

    1. Yuri said on July 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      To advance – to move forward you sometimes have to go a different way. Mozilla is not the only company who has changed their vision and goals.

      Mozilla just tried to modernize their browsing experience to stay relevant. These days the number of people who are doing a lot of tinkering with the UI is just not high enough to support it. On the other side people who like Facebook or Pocket or likes to make Audio/Video calls is rather high.

      At one point it just gets impossible to support both groups with features on board, or the browsing experience gets more and more slow. Mozilla has done the right thing.

      Btw. why do you think Chrome is the market leader? Because the combination of simplicity and design is rather intriguing. So, Mozilla had to change to stay competitive. But as long as add-ons as Classic Theme Restorer are still available, it is easy to regain the loss one personally has suffered.

      What Mozilla has done was no betrayal. They only looked at the market situation and adjusted their strategy.

  6. Will said on July 23, 2015 at 12:18 am

    Hey guys, keep trashing on Mozilla so you’ll eventually get what you want, it will just die, and you’ll end up using your favorite Big Browser instead (many seem to have made the switch already, so no big deal right).

    Then, you’ll cry. Happy crying.

    1. michal said on July 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      Do you really think FF will die because some self-proclaimed powerusers trash it? I highly doubt it.

      1. Lestat said on July 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        A better browser? And not to suite Chrome users?

        The opposite is true. Removal of features which Chrome does not have, making the browser look like Chrome and making the browser feel like Chrome and not to forget… keep up with Chrome’s release speed. Mozilla just has abandoned their original users and does everything to get Chrome or Chromium users on board! And so did Opera too.

        Opera and Mozilla are these days all about being like Chrome, because they wanted to be more relevant. And for this they sacrificed their unique and special features. Now these two browsers which have been rather attractive to Geeks in the past have become instead just as boring and bland as the competition.

        But Vivaldi and Seamonkey show that a different course is also possible :) Mozilla and Opera also should follow that direction again instead of running behind wrong ideals!

    2. Lestat said on July 23, 2015 at 11:08 am

      I would say Mozilla earns that harsh critics after all.

      In combination with Mozilla there only has been 1 another browser (Opera) which discarded all the features power users love for becoming attractive to Chrome users – which means an intentional change of the products target user group with intentional full willing alienating the origin userbase. As long as Mozilla does everything to be hip and sparkling to Chrome users and are ignoring their heritage, they earn to be criticized.

      If Mozilla would finally start to be a browser again with customization features, usability and productivity features built inside instead of tossing all advanced functions towards add-on developers and focus much more on advanced users again like it was in the past, things would be normalizing rather fast.

      But as it seems, that is clearly not the case. You always reap what you sow!

      1. gh said on July 23, 2015 at 4:12 pm

        reply to the post which begins with “Wrong “:

        Mozilla blogs have stated that their mission isn’t to achieve market share, rather the mission is to build a better browser (and preserve availabity of an alternative-to-the-other-big2 browsers). With that in mind, they have no need for, no justification for, bending the product to suit Chrome or ohwaitonefive users.

      2. FirefoxUser0815 said on July 23, 2015 at 11:54 am


        Mozilla does the exactly right thing! They understand that if you want to play in the same league with the big one’s they have to deliver features in which so called 0815 users are interested and features which draw the casual user towards Firefox.

        The so called UI customization was never being able to do so. That is the reason Firefox was stagnating for long time in terms of user numbers. Granted, removing that features has also lowered user number as a whole, but latest stats showing that users are rising again. It may need a long time to get it as high as it was, but with features like chat and social networking Firefox will rise to even higher grounds, as that is what simple users demand.

        Mozilla is at least that fair to give all of you who wants pro features to install add-ons.

        So, i really do not understand you complainers – Everyone gets what he/she/it wants. Grab your favorite add-on or create the one’s with features you want to have back but accept that Mozilla is not so clueless to think that advanced users are the one’s ho make a difference between winning or losing the browser race.

        In the end its all about attraction. And mainstream features have for the mass mainstream users a much more higher value than a handful of so called “Geeks-Toys”.

        So, in the end, Australis and all the from you so hated “removal of features” makes perfectly sense if a company does not want to stay forever in a small, limited corner!

  7. clas said on July 22, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    You know its one thing to say they are going to listen to users…and its another thing to actually listen. they have not listened for many releases now.

  8. RottenScoundrel said on July 22, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    But, Mozilla needs to go back to Mozillazine and see after every fast release hundreds of people asking “where has … gone?” or “how do I now do…?”

    They didn’t care then and suspect it will be no different with this huffing and puffing. Look at the way Pale Moon is finally taking off. Changes to it are made to the underlying operations and security, but useability is stock standard and un-touched each revision. If it ain’t broke…

    And – as for “performance mentioned above, I suspect that poster is, (A) not using Firefox and (B) has not used the latest incarnations of Pale Moon. I just had to go back to FFx 38 on a friend’s PC and it is slooooow. So slow I thought it was his Internet connection, so I jumped on his wifi with my surface and bingo, speed was there with PM.

    Just for the record, up until a few months back, I have been using Mozilla browsers since before it was called FFx as Netscape Navigator. I didn’t jump ship without good reason.

  9. ams said on July 22, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    “integrate support for system add-ons and updates”

    The mistrustful side of of me reads between the lines and mumbles
    “ah, improved backdoors, more out-of-band infiltration/exfiltration funcitonality”

    Who, what segment of the userbase, asked for “universal search?” WTF is that supposed to be, anyhow?
    Good luck trying to convince me that it, and the motivation for developing it, is something other than a new way for mozilla to spy, and to monetize day-to-day, moment-by-moment, user activity.

    Even the eternally hopeful side of me has a tough time NOT reading between the lines. I’m forced to do so, because that (quoted) techmarketingmumbletyspeak is meaningless when taken at face value.

    Contrary to specious claims to the contrary, mozilla browser is no longer a product dedicated to protecting and facilitating users’ best interests. The mozilla organization has sold us down the river; evident in their newly-adopted “standards” (beacon, ping) and newly-added “features” (too many to list here), they are continually pandering to “corporate” interests.

    Howabout we STFU and quit pointing the finger of blame at the self-serving dumbtards staffing mozilla.
    Perhaps the concept of “meritocracy” is fatally flawed simply because it sounds/looks too much like “mediocrity”.
    The status quo is one of “technocracy” and we have only ourselves to blame.

  10. fokka said on July 22, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    sorry for the second post, but i would like to ask you guys something. like i said above, i’m not saying firefox is perfect or anything, but i sincerely want to know, when you (or others= say that you are disappointed in firefox and mozilla, that everything went downhill since australis, or even since the rapid release cycle, what things specifically do you mean? what exactly was so much better in the past, than it is now? is it a couple big things like australis, or is it more the small things that accumulate?

    i know i could give a couple examples myself, but in the end i’m still quite happy with my firefox and that’s why i don’t entirely get the whole negativity.

    so feel free to tell me what it is that you think is so wrong with today’s firefox.

    1. Andrew said on July 22, 2015 at 7:55 pm


      For me it was:
      1. Extensions stopped working because it was “incompatible” to the version number due to the rapid release.
      2. Loss of excitement over a new whole point version increment since the rapid release schedule (you can always expect a big change with a version number jump, now not so much)
      3. Removing customization capabilities in the UI without using a extension with the australis theme.
      4. Just sheer annoyance that they ignore or close any negative backlash in regards to any changes.

      1. Sören Hentzschel said on July 23, 2015 at 11:48 pm

        “Extensions stopped working because it was “incompatible” to the version number due to the rapid release”

        True for Firefox 5-9. Add-ons are “compatible by default” since Firefox 10, released 3 1/2 years ago… API incompatibility is always possible but that was the case before rapid release, too. And today it’s much easier for add-on developers. I know that, i am a Firefox add-on developer since Firefox 1.5, yes, one dot five.

        “Loss of excitement over a new whole point version increment since the rapid release schedule (you can always expect a big change with a version number jump, now not so much)”

        That’s a wrong assumption. Semantic versioning is about compatibility not about the number of new features. You should read ;) And I don’t know why it should be better to hold back improvements.

        “Removing customization capabilities in the UI without using a extension with the australis theme”

        That’s only half the truth. Mozilla removed a few options and added new options. The menu was not customizable before Australis. Plus: Mozilla added new APIs for add-on developers.

      2. Andrew said on July 22, 2015 at 10:46 pm

        You know, the sad thing is after Australis I ditched firefox completely, won’t even install it on my system anymore. I have read a lot on the crap they have been adding to firefox as a “integrated feature” but yeah it’s all bloat.

      3. mikef90000 said on July 22, 2015 at 10:33 pm

        @Andrew, you forgot to mention ‘gratuitous bloat’.

        Since the addition of the Australis interface and other unrequested features, minimum memory usage has grown substantially. Can’t remember exact numbers from the older computer I was testing on, but v29 used about 30-40% more memory than v24 ESR. On older, low memory Linux systems that can’t run Pale Moon I would recommend the latter.

        Sad, very sad.

  11. fokka said on July 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    it’s sad to see all the negativity here, even on a post that should be considered good news. i’m not saying firefox is perfect, or that mozilla didn’t make any mistakes in the past years, but in the end firefox remains a great browser with great performance and features and the best addon ecosystem out there, while still being the major open source browser, unaffiliated to big companies that want your data above all.

    do you really think it’s a good idea to “just start over”? throw away much of the work of the past ten years? how well do you think that would go between rising safari numbers, a google juggernaut that’s happy to throw chrome at you at every chance it gets and a microsoft that for once seems to have a clue how to program an OS and a modern browser?
    if you want firefox’ marketshare to crumble to opera levels, go ahead and cry for a fresh start. but i doubt companies like google or yahoo would be willing to financially support a browser with a low single-digit marketshare, meaning the mozilla we know can more or less close shop.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      I think many veteran users have the feeling that Mozilla is drifting away from its past, making modifications to the browser that are generally seen as not useful and better integrated as add-ons instead of natively.

      It would make sense for Mozilla to improve the way it gets user feedback, as there is a part of Firefox’s user base that is disillusioned by the course the organization is taking.

      If you’d ask those users what their favorite browser is, many would probably still list Firefox (I do for instance).

      I understand that core users are a minority and that the average Joe using Firefox may like features such as Hello or Pocket, but Mozilla has to understand that core users are vocal while regular users are not.

      I think that Pocket should never have been integrated this way into the browser for instance, and that it would have made much more sense to keep it as an add-on that users who want to use Pocket can install in the browser.

      Mozilla needs to own up to some decisions it made in the past and reverse them in my opinion.

      All in all, I want Mozilla to do well and better than it is doing now.

      1. fokka said on July 24, 2015 at 5:51 pm

        i agree on all points, martin. still, personally i’m still very happy with firefox and i think people tend to exaggerate, especially regarding hello and pocket.

        @andrew: good point as well. i actually thought the same thing when australis was released, but then i stumbled over custom theme restorer and later simple white theme, which made the development a positive experience in the end. others might not see it that way, true.

        @gh: ok, that one i completely understand. being ignored or even cencored by the people you like and want to help out is a kick in the balls. totally understand the disappointment here.

      2. gh said on July 23, 2015 at 4:05 pm

        Across the various *.mozilla.* sites, mozilla already has varous “feedback” pages running. You can find ongoing and archived (er, no longer accepting new votes on a given question) pages that report a tally indicating a majority of respondants disagreed with / disapproved of a particular intended change or intended planned feature. Same (majority of responses were negative) in regard to feedback requested on newly-rolled-out features. Repeatedly, mozilla’s reaction to negative collected responses in each instance has been to either: ask the question again, using different wording… or, inexplicably, lie through their teeth when reporting on the polled result when posting to the various mozilla blogs. For quick examples of this, check the archived polls/feedback regarding FirefoxHealthReport or the proposed (then, at the time) changeover to Australis UI. Based on this track record, to be it seems obvious that “mozilla is gonna do what mozilla is gonna do — based on their agenda, without regard for user wants”.

      3. Andrew said on July 22, 2015 at 8:26 pm

        Good points, I think also a lot of the core users see themselves as being anti-chrome or anti-google as part of their identity, and the changes with the rapid release and australis they feel they are losing that identity that they love because they see Firefox becoming another “chrome wannabe”, even if that’s not the case.

  12. Andrew said on July 22, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Since they started their Rapid Release Cycle they started going downhill imo…

    Soooo instead of rolling down hill they want to just jump off the cliff? kay…

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on July 23, 2015 at 11:34 pm

      Nope. A fast release cycle is necessary to be competitive. One release per year is not enough for a modern browser. Give Mozilla Googles marketing budget and Googles services and the world looks quite differently. But Mozilla has neither the same marketing budget nor service like a search engine to promote Firefox.

      1. Nebulus said on July 24, 2015 at 4:11 pm

        It is true that one release per year might not be enough for a modern browser, but why would Mozilla need a FIXED release cycle? If you have an idea for a new feature, you implement it, test it and release it when it is polished enough. In programming, rushing things only hinders the development process.

  13. RottenScoundrel said on July 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    After the Captain had the deck chairs rearranged several times over a 10-hour period, the Titanic still sank.

    Mozilla still just doesn’t get it. They continue to do what they think is a good idea rather than listening to what the users want. One only needs to go to the MozillaZine Forums and read why people are leaving. But, like the Titanic, my guess is sinking is their only path.

    Hey Mozilla-Committee, that horse I ordered seems top be a camel!

    1. michal said on July 23, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Kind of arrogant, don’t you think? You got spoiled, and that’s mozilla’s fault. Sitting on forums, using a free, opensource program does not entitle you to be a “finger manager”, pointing out the lazy, the wrong and the stupid among the working crowd. And whenever something new, changed apears in FF you just rant on people who spent hours on coding that stuff.

      Some may find my post insulting, trolling whatever. I get that. Does anyone else have a slightest feeling, that users do not posses power to order everything regarding FF? How about letting Mozilla develop FF in the way they feel it’s good for it, taking account for userbase at some extent of course? One could say that FF became so good because users told coders what to do, but I just don’t buy it. Majority of what browser is is their work and invention. Just consider who should get the prize – one that shouts “hey, give me a new feature”, “hey, it does not work!”, or the one who comes with a solution and answer the needs or problems.

      And one more thing. Would’t it be a safe and conservative approach to say that people of mozilla have a self-preservation instinct? They have to consider that their decision influence userbase and use of the product in general. Most of comments suggest, that they are like the captain you mention above, moving reckless towards an iceberg, deaf to loudhailers. That is just nonsense, considering that they built one of the most prominent opensource product so far. Maybe the reason FF looses usershare is not because some “powerusers” feel like FF is becoming crap, but reasons lay elsewhere? For example everyday joe does not care what browser he uses? Don’t forget that for years people uses IE just because they could browse internet with it, nothing more. So, if they got chrome installed somehow (and that one is being forcefeeded at every occasion there is in internet) then they don’t care to change.

  14. br0adband said on July 22, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I think they should just scrap the whole mess at this point and start fresh, honestly. As noted in the comment above, getting back to what they were originally supposed to be in terms of their intended purpose would be a great idea. They’ve grown to big, too complex, and making change just takes too long and there’s too many hoops they all have to jump through. I understand their current intentions based on that video’s content but, as an outsider that hates to see Mozilla doing so poorly, maybe they just need a good swift kick in the ass to jump-start things again.

    But that’s just my opinion, of course.

  15. Richard said on July 22, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Not certain going faster is the solution to what ails Firefox. Getting back to its roots would help a lot. I also suggest they ditch featuritis, the rapid release cycle and pander again to the geek crowd rather than trying to be another version of Google Chrome.

    Seems each time they revise their process they just get deeper and deeper into the swamp they created.

    1. fokka said on July 22, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      maybe i’m too optimistic (for once…), but i think the changes could very well benefit many firefox core users. the “go faster” title might not directly hint to it, but implementing functionality via official addons and testing changes on a small subset of the user base, before “hardcoding” it into the release channel could solve a chunk of the problems the geek crowd is so angry about in recent times.

    2. Oxa said on July 22, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Ah yes, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool said to push on.

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