Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Game of Technological Follow the Leader


Since its founding in 2004, Mozilla released new versions of Firefox infrequently, often waiting until a list of features and UI (user interface) updates were completed. Bug fixes and security updates were released as needed between major updates.

Recently, that all changed. Firefox started to lose market share to Google's Chrome browser. Google has followed a policy of rapid version release to catchup with other browsers. They have done so and in fact many people predict that they will even surpass Microsoft's Internet Explorer very soon.

In an effort to stop their market loss or even to recapture lost ground, Firefox decided that their only option was to adopt the rapid release strategy. Within a year, they went from version 5 to version 12 (which was released today). This is a very stupid move in my opinion.

This is stupid for two major reasons: it hurts developers and destroys the mystery.

When a company released a new version every six weeks or so, it's hard for extension developers to keep up. Because of the rapid release, several of the extensions I use are disabled because they are not compatible with the newest version. Some of the better extensions are written by hobbyists who don't always have the time to write the two or three lines of code need to update the extension. And when they do. The get it updated a new version of Firefox is released. What a pain!

My favorite part about the early versions of Firefox was waiting expectantly to get the new versions to see what the new features were like. Between the first 3 or 4 versions, there were major interface changes. Each version had a different look and feel. Not so with the new versions, there is nothing to really differentiate them for each other.

In the end, there is really nothing that Mozilla can do to stop Chrome from taking their market share. Google has the biggest advertisement system in the world. Eventually they will convert the whole world to Chrome. It is inevitable.