Mozilla 1.4.2 Released

Monday May 10th, 2004

Thanks to herman for informing us that Mozilla 1.4.2 came out a little over a week ago. This latest release from the 1.4 branch features only bug fixes (no new features) and will be mainly of interest to developers building products from the stable branch. Most end-users will want Mozilla 1.6 or the upcoming Mozilla 1.7.

More information about Mozilla 1.4.2 can be found in the Mozilla 1.4.2 Release Notes, with builds available from the mozilla1.4.2 directory on This likely to be the last release from the 1.4 branch; 1.7 is expected to become the new stable baseline after the release of Mozilla 1.7 final in a few weeks.

#2 Innovation has been slower than molasses (roadmap)

by morg

Tuesday May 11th, 2004 4:32 PM

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I say that with hesitancy. I don't want to be harsh, but I think it has got to be said.

In the past year since 1.4 was released, what have we actually accomplished?

1.4.2 has "thousands of bug fixes" according to the release notes. It also has NTLM support in the platform that needed it most, Windows.


Above and beyond what 1.4.2 already has we have added very few new major features. We did extend NTLM to other platforms. The only other thing that really stands out, though, is the spell checker, but so far that is mail-only. Composer and Browser text boxes have no spell checker.

The "what's new" section of the release notes for 1.5, 1.6, and 1.7 RC1 are at:




As you can see, the totality of our efforts in the past year have been NTLM, spell checker, a few tweaks, and a lot of bug fixes. The result in 1.7 will indeed be a better product than 1.4.2. But it won't tremendously outshine it. Some people will stick with 1.4.2. Who could blame them?

Meanwhile Firefox has not advanced much feature-wise, either. Of course, there is a very good reason for that. We are getting ready for its 1.0 release.

My concern is the pace of the development of the suite.

Who or what is to blame for the slowness? I do not blame the developers. They are doing a great job. I don't blame the drivers. They're doing a great job, too. I don't blame the AOL-related organizational changes at Mozilla.

I put the blame on our overly aggressive release cycle. Putting out a new major release of the Mozilla suite every 3 months is the problem. This causes the alpha series to be open for checkins for only a short amount of time. In fact, while the next alpha branch is open for checkins, most developers are focused on finishing up work for the next major release, and are not focused on getting new stuff ready for the new alpha. Then the new major release comes out, and a few days later (it seems like) the new alpha branch closes for checkins! Our new features ideally should be checked in during the alpha cycle, not after. The current schedule makes this difficult.

There are major new features that the suite needs. Everything from a context menu for bookmarks to autosave of open web sites (for crash recovery purposes) and so on down the line. In particular, the Mail app needs a lot of new features to compete with Outlook, Eudora, and so on.

We can look back at the past year and be proud of all of the bug fixes, the minor new features, and the two new major features. But the coming year is going to be very hard.

Win XP service pack 2 will include a new version of IE. This will probably fix bugs, but most importantly it will contain a popup blocker. Consequently, our deadliest killer feature will no longer be our best selling point against our biggest competitor. Our next best killer feature is tabbed browsing. Unfortunately, many users have very simple browsing habits, and they will never need or want tabs.

We have the momentum. Mozilla and Firefox will continue to get new users, but if we don't do something to encourage more feature development the pace of new users will fall off. Dramatically.

We should increase the length of the release cycle to 6 months. Version 1.8 final should be released not sooner than November. Until then, we can just do minor revisions of 1.7 (1.7.1, 1.7.2) if that becomes necessary. This period of 6 months will allow developers to spend enough time on new features so that they will be ready for check-in for the next revision. A longer release cycle gives developers more time to code the big new stuff. Then, 1.9 can be scheduled for May 2005.

The other benefit of this is that it will help shift the public's attention to Firefox. The suite should stilll be developed. The Mozilla suite should be considered our "business user product" and testing platform.

Firefox should be what it is: the awesome looking flagship app that appeals to everyone across the board, bar none. I would include everyone from teenagers to college students to technophiles to suburban parents to older technophobic gentlemen. Firefox should continue to be based on the tried and true technologies of the suite + Firefox's own innovations.

As for the pace of Firefox's release cycle, we should keep it as it is: quick.

Then, every six months, Firefox can profit from the bumper crop of new features that we will hopefully have developed and tested on the suite.