Next Firefox major update, “Lorentz”, could be a minor

Mozilla is taking no break this year end, and the Firefox team is actively working on the roadmap for 2010.

According to recent entries in the Mozilla Wiki, the planned features for next year are:

  • Out of process plugins (OOPP), or the ability to run browser plugins (like Flash, Silverlight, Gears) on their own process to enhance stability and prevent application crashes when a plugin goes belly up
  • Updates which don’t interrupt the user
  • More responsive UI
  • Better startup time
  • Jetpacks support
  • Themes updates
  • Weave integration
  • Integrated Developer Tools

These features would be delivered in at least two releases.

According to an ongoing discussion, one of them could surprisingly be a minor release, approximately 3.6.3 or 3.6.4 for the estimated release time frame of March/April 2010. This would mark an important departure from Mozilla’s typical update/upgrade path which has limited new features to major updates with second digit variations like 3.0 to 3.5, or 3.5 to 3.6, leaving minor updates (3.5.5, 3.5.6, etc.) for security and stability bug fixes.

The rationale for this change is that OOPP, more responsive UI, and better startup time are already in Mozilla’s main code repository and could be at beta quality by mid-January. Then it would be a matter of porting the code to the 3.6 branch (technically 1.9.2) and release it as a minor update to all users.

The typical case would be for these features to wait for a whole new branching and stabilization cycle (a major update), unnecessarily keeping these improvements away from Firefox users.

Other features could also slip in this minor update but scope would be tightly restricted by schedule for the approach to make sense.

The remaining features would go into Firefox 3.7 targeted for mid-2010, slightly delayed following 3.6’s delay, now targeted for January.

Code name for this possible major/minor update is Lorentz, which like other Firefox code names is after a national park.

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