I was testing out my web code in Firefox today, and I got a message saying that Firefox 6 had been released. Wanting to make sure I was keeping up to date with our users, I installed the update. After restarting the browser when prompted, I noticed that it looked exactly the same. So I went online to check what's new.
Apparently, not much. Oh, there's a small list, but nothing really visible, and it's not really any faster than before. It seems that Mozilla's accelerated release schedule is nothing more than releasing what would normally be a "point release" as a major version instead.
But to what end? Chrome is on version 13; IE's current release is version 9 (with 10 available for preview); Opera is on version 11. Could this be nothing more than a way to "catch up", so "Firefox 5" doesn't sound like it's way behind the other browsers? It was speculated that Microsoft named their second console the "Xbox 360" because "Xbox 2" would sound like it was behind "Playstation 3"; this could be another example of toying with customer mindshare.
Or could it be a way to flush some of the old versions out of general support? Many companies I worked at had a policy such as, "Support the current major browser versions minus two", which today would mean "IE 7 and above, Firefox 4 and above, Chrome 11 and above, etc." — releasing a few major versions quickly would push older browsers that don't support up-and-coming standards like HTML5 out of the support window rather quickly.
Whatever the reason, there is one rather large detrimental effect. Extension authors have to certify that their code is compatible with major releases. Because Firefox just got a new major version number, all of my extensions were marked as "incompatible" and disabled, and that way they will remain until their authors update their xpi packages to mark them as compatible with this new major version. Essential debugging tools like FireQuery, HttpFox, even the Java console are among those that are off-limits until they are updated. Even the extension for the corporate virus scanner is disabled, as is Skype's "click to call" extension (which wasn't marked compatible with Firefox 5 either; not that I use it myself, but I have to be able to confirm that, for customers who do use it, its phone number reformatting doesn't make the page unusable).
Firefox, you used to be cool. I didn't mind inviting you over and letting you crash on my couch. But now you've stolen the food from my cupboards, gotten fat and lazy, started leaving your dirty clothes lying all over the house; and you're wild parties broke my antique table lamp without so much as a "sorry" from you. I grow tired of having to clean up after your mess. IE used to be where you are now, but at least he's been working on cleaning up his act.