Project Dawn: the end of Firefox Aurora

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 16, 2017
Updated • Apr 17, 2017

Mozilla plans to drop the Firefox Aurora release channel with the release of Mozilla Firefox 53 on Wednesday, April  19th 2017. The change affects the Thunderbird and SeaMonkey projects as well.

Mozilla introduced what it called the Rapid Release Model in 2011 which changed the Firefox release system dramatically.

This meant two things: first, that Mozilla would release a new stable version of the Firefox web browser on  a six week schedule, and that it would use three development channels, Beta, Aurora (also known as the Developer Edition), and Nightly.

Firefox changes are introduced in Nightly versions. They are then moved to the Aurora channel first, then the Beta channel, and then finally to the Release channel which most users of Firefox are on.

Mozilla did change the fixed schedule somewhat when it introduced a flexible schedule for Firefox releases.

Rumors came up in early 2017 that Mozilla was considering dropping Firefox Aurora.

Project Dawn: the end of Firefox Aurora

firefox developer editon termination

Project Dawn changes this. Mozilla removes the Aurora channel from the Firefox release model. One of the effects of this is that Nightly changes will find their way to the Beta channel right away. Beta versions of Firefox get changes a release cycle earlier, as the Aurora channel is no longer part of the release system.

  • old Firefox release cycle: Nightly > Aurora > Beta > Stable
  • new Firefox release cycle: Nightly > Beta > Stable

The change has an effect on the Thunderbird and SeaMonkey projects as well, as they use the same release model as the Firefox web browser. Basically, what this means is that both projects will drop the Aurora channel as well.

This won't change the Firefox release schedule. The only change that users may notice is that the upcoming Nightly version of Firefox won't be uplifted to Firefox 56 next week. It remains on version 55 for the next release cycle to sync with the Beta and Stable versions of the browser. It will then be uplifted to Nightly 56 on the next schedule.

What about developers?

Firefox Aurora was known as the Developer Edition of Firefox. It shipped with a custom theme, came with some development related features enabled, and used a different profile by default as well.

The main focus of the Developer Edition was developers, and the removal of the Aurora channel raises the question whether that means the end of the Developer Edition as well.

In short: Mozilla plans to create a special Developer Edition of the Firefox web browser using Beta channel releases.

The upcoming Developer Edition is identical to the Beta version of the Firefox web browser when it comes to features that it supports. It retains the developer specific theme and features mentioned above however.

We don't know yet where you will be able to download the new Developer Edition of Firefox. One possible option is that you will download it from the same page it is offered on currently.

Existing Firefox Developer Edition installations will be moved to the Beta channel automatically. This won't happen next week though, as Mozilla is still working on the migration.

Implications of dropping Aurora

Features that Mozilla introduces in Firefox Nightly may find their way faster to the Firefox Release channel. That's good obviously, as it means that important features will be available a full release cycle earlier than before.

Mozilla may delay some features just like before if they need more time, simply by keeping them in the Nightly channel for another release cycle before it lands in beta versions of the browser. (via Sören Hentzschel)

Now You: What's your take on this development?

Project Dawn: the end of Firefox Aurora
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Project Dawn: the end of Firefox Aurora
Mozilla plans to drop the Firefox Aurora release channel with the release of Mozilla Firefox 53 on Wednesday, April 26th 2017.
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  1. silat said on May 16, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Can I run Nightly, Beta and Stable on the same computer?
    I know I could do that with Aurora.

  2. FixdieHard said on April 17, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Wow Aurora + Australis = Several Years of Grief, and now I have no Idea what it means, Vaporized Grief?

    But I can be certain.

    My old full theme Foxdie won’t come back
    dropped addons won’t be come back
    old dropped XYZ feature won’t come back
    things that RUN on palemoon won’t run on firefox anymore

    Enjoy automatic updates.
    Enjoy fixing (by losing functionality) more than one problem at a time.
    Enjoy slow death of soul of browser regardless of the cheerleaders.

  3. ZzzZombi said on April 16, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I’m using Dev Edition right now. What’ll happen when this becomes final? It’ll automatically update to become “Beta” or would I have to download and install Beta fresh?

    1. Caspy7 said on April 16, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      It will update automatically. Your theme and other Dev Edition customizations should stay put.

  4. Earl said on April 16, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Well, Mozilla has been eliminating developers left and right with the intro of WebExtensions, so keeping a Developer Edition is becoming wholly unnecessary. As go the devs, so go the users (aka market share).

    No more “borealis” effects, eh? …in–or out in this case–for a penny, ~ for a pound, as they say.

    1. Caspy7 said on April 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm

      The Developer Edition was a rebranding of the Aurora code branch. Now that Aurora is going away, Beta will get the rebranding and what applied to it (Dev Edition) before, will still apply. This article says all this (with the exception of perfectly equating Dev Edition customizations and Aurora).

      1. Earl said on April 17, 2017 at 2:05 am

        So, maybe you should try reading what I wrote again instead of what you thought I wrote.

  5. Júnior Silva said on April 16, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    I do not use these channels from Firefox, I have always used the final version, which is very, very good!
    One thing has nothing to do with it … I hope Mozilla will natively introduce these experiments from Text Pilot, Snooze Tabs and Page Shot. They are very good! I use it a lot! Snooze Tabs is amazing, use a lot!

    1. Caspy7 said on April 16, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Mozilla already has plans to include the Page Shot functionality in Firefox 57. It will be called “Screenshot” under the Action dots menu in the location bar.

      I seem to remember a post discussing including the Snooze tabs in Firefox proper, but can’t find a link on it now.

  6. Alexander said on April 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Makes sense to me. I have Beta and Nightly installed, and Nightly is pretty stable already. As for Beta, I don’t notice more any more crashes on beta than I do on the release version I use at work, I just see features that aren’t done yet (like time estimates on reading list right now). Aurora just seems neither here nor there: if you want really new features, use Nightly, and if you want some testing, use Beta.

  7. Anon said on April 16, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Beta will take the bugs that used to be fixed in aurora. Think 54 will be last beta I run as main browser. 57 looks to be time they kill customization so may be sticking to 56 at end of year.

    1. HK-Rapper said on April 16, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      >so may be sticking to 56 at end of year

      Or you just install Firefox 52 ESR and still receive security updates till April 2018. I’m really taking my time here with full 12 months before I migrate to anything higher than FF 55, which I recently uninstalled in favour of the ESR. (Be rather sure to backup addons you love, which might get deleted or become incompatible when a dev decides to not support older versions anymore!)

      1. Zsolt said on May 30, 2017 at 6:50 pm

        The f*ck cares about security updates. I want features. There were some useful features added in 55, such as lazy tabs.
        And it seems like they’re not pushing this photon crap past mozilla-central until v57, so I’m gonna stick with 55 or 56. (depending on whether they screw up something for v56 or not.)

  8. Anonimouse said on April 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm

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