The enterprise world is up in arms over Mozilla’s new Firefox development cycle — and some harsh words from Mozilla — and Microsoft is using this as an opportunity to talk up the benefits of switching to Internet Explorer.
Mozilla released version 5 of its Firefox browser this week, three months after it shipped Firefox 4 and it plans to continue this pace. The company is planning updates every six weeks and — more importantly — dropping support for older versions when the new ones come out.
This works great for consumers, who can easily and happily upgrade their browser to the newest version but, as ZDNet’s Ed Bott points out, it doesn’t work out so well for the enterprise sector. Corporate clients need and want stability because of the time and costs involved with deploying a major browser update.
Mike Kaply, a business consultant who specializes in customizing Firefox for enterprises, wrote a blog post about the new development cycle:
“As person involved in the corporate deployment of Firefox, I think (the rapid release cycle) a really bad idea. Companies simply can’t turn around major browser updates in six weeks (and each one of these is a major update). With security releases, there was a reasonable expectation that web applications wouldn’t break as a result of changes. With these releases, there is no such expectation. So a full test cycle needs to be run with every release. By the time this cycle is completed and the browser is piloted and deployed, another version of Firefox would already be released so they’d already be behind. And in the mean time, all of their browsers will be insecure, because all security updates are rolled into the major versions.”
Some Mozilla executives have said that they are not interested in the qualms of the corporate world. Mozilla product manager Asa Dotzler responded to Kaply’s blog posts with a couple of comments that seem to sum up the company’s sentiment towards the enterprise space:
“Mike, you do realize that we get about 2 million Firefox downloads per day from regular user types, right? Your “big numbers” here are really just a drop in the bucket, fractions of fractions of a percent of our user base. Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours. Until we run out of people who don’t have sysadmins and enterprise deployment teams looking out for them, I can’t imagine why we’d focus at all on the kinds of environments you care so much about.
“Years ago, we didn’t have the resources. Today, I argue, we shouldn’t care even if we do have the resources because of the cost benefit trade. A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy. I’d much rather Mozilla spending its limited resources looking out for the billions of users that don’t have enterprise support systems already taking care of them.”
And Microsoft executives are taking advantage of Mozilla’s hostile attitude to lure corporate customers to IE. Though Microsoft releases a new version of Internet Explore roughly every year, the major difference between the two browsers is that Microsoft continues to provide support for older versions of IE — exactly the kind of stability businesses look for.
Internet Explorer team member Ari Bixhorn responded to frustrated Mozilla customers on his blog, noting that the Internet Explorer team is committed to supporting corporate customers.
“I think I speak for everyone on the IE team when I say we’d like the opportunity to win back your business. We’ve got a great solution for corporate customers with both IE8 and IE9 (more info on our IE9 solution can be found here), and believe we could help you address the challenges you’re currently facing.”