Weekend Discussion: Is Netscape Doing the Right Thing?
Friday May 12th, 2000
Netscape recently released its plans for the PR2 branch. Mozilla.org then released their tree plans for the next few months, and then followed up this evening with a more detailed position on tree management. The one thing that is clear is that Netscape is working on an accelerated schedule. Mozilla.org has yet to release a beta, and Netscape is currently working towards a second beta. Feature freeze for Netscape is coming much earlier than for Mozilla. This means that Netscape's feature list will probably be truncated somewhat (although the developers are trying mightily to get the remaining features in), and it also means that there might be changes to Mozilla before its release that impact its compatibility with Netscape's final release. Netscape has promised standards compliance, but there is also the serious question as to how bug-free that standards compliance will be by final release.
Is Netscape doing the right thing by pushing ahead and trying to get a release into the public's hands? Or will they just end up alienating Mozilla developers and website developers by rushing a product to market? Is it even fair to consider it "rushing"?
(as I seem to remember Mike Shaver saying, but it could have been someone else) on how easy it is to upgrade the code in the field.
There's currently a pref, on by default, marked "automatically install new and updates software". If _this_ works correctly and is bug-free, a few problems with other bits don't matter so much, because the problems can be fixed later. NS 6 will be the first major application to get field-upgrading *right*.
On the other hand, it is good to remember that browser versions stick around for far longer than you would like. The feature set of NS 6 release 1 will affect web development in a fundamental way for the next five years. If things don't work, and the on-the-fly upgrading doesn't hit enough people, they will not get used - even if future versions support it.