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The ever-changing face of Firefox.

by  David Dwyer on  11/06/2015    1140 Reads

Mozilla has released Version 38 of Firefox and is well on the way to releasing Version 39.  Most other browser companies take these things at a more leisurely pace, but Mozilla has always been known for the speed and frequency with which it brings out new versions.  This is largely because Firefox is open-source software, developed by enthusiasts worldwide who are constantly trying to improve it and make it more secure. 

Since August 2004, Mozilla have offered a bounty (currently $3000) to anyone who finds a security bug that needs fixing.  Many other companies, including Facebook and Google, have now followed suit.  The bounty is offered to prevent the finders trying to sell the bugs on the black market to criminals who could use them to get malicious software onto people’s computers.  Some 10% of Mozilla’s bug-finders turn down the money, but for many people $3000 is a large sum, so it is obviously a good incentive. 

Since the release of the original Phoenix browser in September 2002, followed by Firebird in May 2003 and finally Firefox in February 2004, the versions have come thick and fast.  Where Internet Explorer uses patches to fix known problems, Firefox produces a new version.  Not all the fixes are curing security issues, however.

Firefox launched Version 36 in February 2015 in support of the new HTTP/2 standard (see “Hypertext Transfer Protocol takes a great leap forward”).  It was also released for Android a couple of days later.  There were a few issues with both versions, so version 36.0.1 was released for both in early March.  Version 36.0.2 appeared ten days later to fix issues with crashing on Android and with Flash videos on desktops.  More versions followed on March 20th and 21st, fixing security issues.

Then, on March 31st Firefox 37 was released, providing a much higher level of security and protection, using HTTPS for searches with Bing and improved protection against website impersonation.  Following several crashes, version 37.0.1 came out on April 3rd, while version 37.0.2 was released on April 14th for Android, to sort out issues with the “request desktop site” feature, and on April 20th for desktop problems with graphics and security.

Now we’re on to Version 38 and 38 ESR (extended support release), which have also had a couple of rapid upgrades.  The original versions appeared on May 12th, with lots of features and the inevitable security fixes.  Versions 38.0.1 and 38.0.1ESR for desktop and Android followed on May 14th and 15th respectively, both sorting out security issues.  At the time of writing, we’re on Firefox 38.0.5, released on June 2nd, which added further functionality and fixed two more issues.

Clearly the changes won’t stop there.  In fact, Wikipedia (“Firefox release history”) shows that Version50 is planned for release on May 31st ,2016.  Mozilla don’t rest on their laurels.  Some people find all these changes irritating and frustrating – the forums are full of people whingeing about them – but the company obviously has a strong security ethic and desire for improvement, which are to be welcomed.

David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.

 

Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

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