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Firefox 0.9! No, wait, 0.9.1! (aka Lessons learned?)

Discussion of general topics about Mozilla Firefox
Linuxn00b
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 5:13 am

I figure this post is likely to draw some heavy flak, but I really think some lessons MUST be learned from Firefox 0.9 release.

First of all, yes, I AM aware of the circumstances surrounding Moz 1.7/Fx 0.9/TB 0.7 release, AND of the pressures involved - I've been following Moz/Fx development pretty closely through various forums/blogs/mailing lists. So, this post is not so much about blaming Ben et al for how Fx 0.9 release went, but rather about drawing the right conclusions from the grander picture.

Albeit Mozilla/Firefox dev process strives to follow OSS development model (release early, release often, "when-it's-done"-bound release schedule instead of deadline-bound, etc) as opposed to old-skool corporate development model (release by customer-driven deadlines, etc), I think at the moment things look as if the WORST of both worlds prevailed. Moz 1.7 was rushed as a stable milestone instead of 1.8 (still missing release schedule by a month or two - depending on what recent roadmap you look at), Firefox 0.9 was rushed to coincide with Moz 1.7...

I think it is becoming clearly evident that not all is right in the state of Denmark. Time after time after time Moz and Fx release dates have slipped over the last couple of years. I mean, come on, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out after so many "accidents" that the [quarterly] release schedule for Mozilla is NOT sustainable! It is also becoming clearly evident that lack of proper, long-term, well thought out roadmap is harming Mozilla BAD.

I understand the NEED for well-deadlined Moz releases, but claiming one's project has a well-defined release schedule and then repeatedly MISSING one's deadlines in NOT helping Mozilla's relations with the corporate world. Something HAS to give!

But what I really want to talk about is Firefox. And unfortunately, same goes for Fx. Until 0.9, everything was more or less ok - when Ben felt Fx was ready for a minor, a minor was released (well, more or less, ok?). Then comes 0.9 and the Moz 1.7 pressure, and surprise-surprise : just 10 days after the release Ben announces 0.9.1 "in the next few days" (even though the problems were pretty much known BEFORE 0.9 went up).

So, here's the question : WAS IT WORTH rushing 0.9 with a puny RC just 5 (FIVE!) days before? Did it do a lot of good to have 0.9 included on the CD with Moz 1.7 just to have users forced to download 0.9.1 a couple of weeks later? With all the hype surrounding Firefox (as a poster child of OSS and IE slayer), that 0.9 did way more harm to Firefox image than 0.9 did good as a release!

Yeah, yeah, I know all about the "Technology Preview" and the "no guarantees" clauses in Moz press releases. With one hand Mozilla and friends are hyping Firefox as the next best thing since sliced bread and placing it front and center on www.mozilla.org (while quietly wondering how come IE usage hasn't dropped below zero in favor of Fx yet), and with the other the folks are releasing sub-standard stuff like 0.9 to live up to the "Technology Preview" status... Great going! That does one hell of a lot of good to convert people to Firefox...

Time to wrap this up, I guess. Firefox has a great chance to break with Mozilla's plagued release schedule past and truely make it to a decent 1.0 release "when it's done". Unless someone figures out it's a great idea to ship Fx on a CD with whatever Moz version that gets released two weeks PRIOR to when Fx 1.0 is ready to ship.

So, what say ye, Ben, time to draw conclusions or what? What say ye?

peter.reisio

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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 5:36 am

just just wasted a lot of time typing that :p

Linuxn00b
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 5:47 am

I wasted more time contacting all those whom I convinced to use Fx to say that they should definitely avoid 0.9 for now (how did I know an update was on the way? call it an informed hunch!).

michaell
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 5:53 am

Linuxn00b wrote:I think it is becoming clearly evident that not all is right in the state of Denmark. Time after time after time Moz and Fx release dates have slipped over the last couple of years. I mean, come on, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out after so many "accidents" that the [quarterly] release schedule for Mozilla is NOT sustainable! It is also becoming clearly evident that lack of proper, long-term, well thought out roadmap is harming Mozilla BAD.

Just on the Mozilla point - are you aware that Mozilla announced a month ago that the Mozilla milestone schedule would switch to be 20-weeks rather than quarterly? I agree that the lack of a formalised medium to long term roadmap isn't good, but I'm not sure what you think the evident harm to the end result is.

I agree about the 0.9 release. However, I'm not sure it's a matter of learning lessons - that would imply that the developers didn't think that there were likely to be problems with the new extension and profile stuff, and now think that they made a big mistake. I'm not sure whether it would improve your view of the situation or not, but I would imagine they were aware at the time that it was a gamble on how stable the release would be, and don't see it as a huge deal that it didn't work out and they now need to spend a few hours on shipping a 0.9.1. It was intended to be a pre-beta release to test the new features, and the testing of the new features was achieved.

peter.reisio

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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 6:04 am

I agree that releases are buggy, but 0.9 is definitely improved over 0.8 (at least on my system)

I'm content to bear the bugs for now because I know it will be getting better and better - and I prefer Firefox over all other browsers I've tried

Linuxn00b
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 6:58 am

michaell wrote:Just on the Mozilla point - are you aware that Mozilla announced a month ago that the Mozilla milestone schedule would switch to be 20-weeks rather than quarterly?

Yup, I am. Told you - I'm following Moz/Fx/Tb development quite closely (both for business reasons and for reasons of personal convenience). Thank gawd for that much, but : a) took some while to do that, eh? b) I just hope the situation won't repeat itself again - from my experience more time allotted for an OSS (hmm... not only!) release rarely prevents last minute rushes... :p

michaell wrote:...that would imply that the developers didn't think that there were likely to be problems with the new extension and profile stuff

_I_ personally did not imply that, or in fact any other specific _technical_ detail. "Grander picture", right?

michaell wrote:I would imagine they were aware at the time that it was a gamble on how stable the release would be, and don't see it as a huge deal that it didn't work out and they now need to spend a few hours on shipping a 0.9.1.

I'm not talking about wasting extra few hours on preparing 0.9.1. I'm talking about harming image of the "IE Slayer" vs shipping with Moz 1.7. As in "short term win (albeit a tad Pyrrhic) vs long term lose". How do you convince someone not exactly computer-savvy to try Fx AGAIN after some crashes immediately after install? "Fool me once - shame on you, fool me twice - shame on me" -> "But you must understand, this is point release fixes the problems you've encountered!" -> "Right. Microsoft updates IE all the time too - my Windows Update sez so. Now bug off with your Foxbat that can't even handle ActiveX-es" (assuming that person even knows what ActiveX is and doesn't just say "Your Foxbat broke my Internet even when it was 'working'!"). It's that "hype vs delivering the goods" thing, you see...

What I'm saying here is was it really WORTH it?

flfenn

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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 7:37 am

If you look across all volunteer organizations in the world, rarely anything is done on strict time. Only a totalitarian dictator could make the trains run on time, and that only lasted a few years, and it was definitely not voluntary. So, consider the source of this mammoth project and the fact that it relies on volunteer developers and testers that mostly have never met face to face. Perhaps Linuxn00b, in his infinite business interest and wisdom, could invest something more than a cheap shot complaint into this venture. . .

And SMILE! Firefox is still free!

infoxicated
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 7:45 am

I agree entirely with the original post.

I was so po'd with the way the .9 release was shunted off the production line that I tried out Opera for a solid week. (actually, the Qute-gate scandal had a lot to do with it too.)

Fortunately I didn't like the Opera experience, and being the forgiving kind of guy I am I went back to Firefox. But all this effort to create the "brand" of Mozilla Firefox will surely go to waste if the foundation insists on releasing unpolished lemons on some arbitrary deadline?

You have no shareholders, no client contracts, no vendor contracts to satisfy by meeting these deadlines.

All you have is a fresh new brand to nurture and protect - production line lemons only serve to tarnish that brand, rather than promote it.

michaell
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 7:48 am

Linuxn00b wrote:I just hope the situation won't repeat itself again - from my experience more time allotted for an OSS (hmm... not only!) release rarely prevents last minute rushes... :p

Indeed. Various strategies for addressing this have been discussed and some tried - but if you have a distributed project which relies on people who work for different companies, and volunteers, to do things, you're not in a good position to enforce things. If you have any bright ideas (aside from coming up with a pile of cash and paying lots more people to do the work)...

michaell wrote:...that would imply that the developers didn't think that there were likely to be problems with the new extension and profile stuff

_I_ personally did not imply that, or in fact any other specific _technical_ detail. "Grander picture", right?

Ok, my point still applies, just drop the specific technical details I mentioned. You're saying they should learn lessons - that implies that something happened that they weren't expecting.

I'm not talking about wasting extra few hours on preparing 0.9.1. I'm talking about harming image ...
What I'm saying here is was it really WORTH it?

I think the developers are thinking of it more in terms of wasting extra hours on 0.9.1, and don't think that annoying the extension-using, nightly-using folks that inhabit these forums is harming the image in the wider world, which is where their target market is. Obviously the problems were a bit greater than anticipated, or they wouldn't be bothering with 0.9.1.

Anyway, I'm just speculating about what the developers think... if they agree with you, they can speak for themselves.

CeleronXL

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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 8:12 am

Hrmf.... While I generally agree that releases are rushed, I find that Fx 0.9 works perfectly when installed with a new profile. Not a single problem. The only bug I run into with this that I didn't before was tabs blanking on theme switch (bug 245327). It was a slightly different effect in older versions, but equally as annoying.

Linuxn00b
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 8:16 am

flfenn wrote:If you look across all volunteer organizations in the world, rarely anything is done on strict time. Only a totalitarian dictator could make the trains run on time, and that only lasted a few years, and it was definitely not voluntary. So, consider the source of this mammoth project and the fact that it relies on volunteer developers and testers that mostly have never met face to face.

IF I understand you correctly, it would seem that you UTTERLY missed my point...

CeleronXL

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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 8:40 am

Where was Ben's announcement of 0.9.1?

Warduke
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 8:50 am

Firefox : One Browser to Rule Them All.

flfenn

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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 9:04 am

Linuxn00b wrote:
flfenn wrote:If you look across all volunteer organizations in the world, rarely anything is done on strict time. Only a totalitarian dictator could make the trains run on time, and that only lasted a few years, and it was definitely not voluntary. So, consider the source of this mammoth project and the fact that it relies on volunteer developers and testers that mostly have never met face to face.

IF I understand you correctly, it would seem that you UTTERLY missed my point...


I got the point, but I also caught the attitude that a) you are not happy with the way things are going with development, b) you view this as a business venture and want the best product on the market (who wouldn't?), and c) you want someone to own up to the mistakes that you perceive were committed and make corrections. As a previous post suggested, unless you are willing to commit resources and/or talent to the project, let the ones who are do their work and wait patiently. Not that much money is being made from Firefox or Mozilla to warrant a boardroom brawl. I am sure the developers are doing everything that is possible to get the best product out there, and there is nothing wrong with posting a new release right after another one, because that is as a matter of fact an admission of mistakes made and corrected. If you have ever bought a new software product off the shelf and loaded it, 9 times out of 10 an update is available, and I am most appreciative of that effort. So what if they released a perceived imperfection. It is imperfect, ad infinitum. All software is and always will be. And guess what? .91 will not be perfect, either. As far as CD releases go, yeah perhaps .9 was not the best release to put on a CD with so many perceived bugs, but I continue to use .9 and have had absolutely no major problems with anything, extensions included. I am just an average user, so I do not delve in the finer points of programming code, but I find Firefox .9 to be a grand stepping stone towards greater things, and any minor flaws that have been found will be fixed, eventually.

I will leave it to the developers to comment further if they even feel it is necessary.

nulladd
 
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Post Posted June 25th, 2004, 10:30 am

firefox rulz
im running 0.8 no probs with several extensions (no major probs)
i briefly tried 0.9 it seemed to work fine

keep up the good work firefox devs!

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