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Wednesday September 17th 2014

Mozilla Facing IT Backlash for Its Rapid Browser Releases

While Mozilla’s recent release of version 5 of the Firefox browser is being met with much less criticism than the previous version 4, the speed with which both new versions were produced represents a new chapter for Mozilla. For years, Mozilla pursued a slow release cycle with its browser, and Google Chrome, over its life, has had far more significant upgrades than Firefox has had, even though Firefox is much older. Mozilla announced its intent to pursue a new rapid release cycle early this year. Not everyone is happy with the speed of the releases, though, and enterprise IT administrators may be among the most unhappy observers.

It’s easy for consumers to forget that businesses have much more stringent requirements for accepting new applications of all sorts, including browsers, into mainstream use. InfoWorld reports that many enterprise IT administrators find the quick release of Firefox version 5 to be an annoyance:

"Some corporate IT managers are unhappy with Mozilla’s decision to push out new editions of Firefox every six weeks with its new rapid-release program. Their beefs center around the retirement of Firefox 4 from security support — a move Mozilla decided on this spring when it kicked off its fast-paced regime — and their inability to test any new version before the next comes down the pike."

I have worked for a large enterprise whose IT administrators restricted me from even downloading and installing a new browser on a corporate-issued machine. Ironically, it was a beautifully equipped, expensive laptop that offered lots of efficiencies, but the IT folks put security over performance every time. I was literally steered away from the fastest browser I could get to remain, like a Luddite, using a slower one. These types of enterprise rules exist all over the world, and many people don’t factor them in when they, say, deliver predictions on whether the Android OS or a particular open source application will achieve dominance.

IT administrators are notoriously suspicious of open source software for what they perceive as security shortcomings, lack of support and documentation, and more. In recent years, open source browsers such as Firefox and Google Chrome have become wildly popular, but they also exist right at the intersection of IT administrators’ distrust of open source software in general, and distrust of applications that aren’t necessarily as secure as others.

You can bank on Microsoft picking up on this. As its Internet Explorer browser continues to lose market share to open source browsers among consumers, the company won’t necessarily ignore its grip on many corporate users. The key to this kind of play will be appealing to IT administrators to distrust open source browsers as insecure platforms.

Objections to Mozilla’s rapid release cycle are appearing left and right, such as this one, and this one, the latter of which says:

"As person involved in the corporate deployment of Firefox, I think it’s 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)."

Mozilla will face backlash for its new rapid release cycle, but your average individual browser user won’t be the one complaining. What’s good for the consumer is not always perceived to be good for business.


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