Google to rev up Chrome release schedule

Wants to push out updates of browser's 'stable' build every six weeks

Google on Thursday said it will pick up Chrome's release pace by issuing a new version of the browser about every six weeks. According to Anthony Laforge, a Chrome program manager, the new schedule will put a a new "stable" version of the browser in users' hands roughly twice often as in the past. The picked-up pace will debut over the next few months.

Google calls the production line of Chrome its "stable" build, but also maintains two other release editions -- "beta" and "dev" -- that produce more frequent updates.

Laforge said Google had several goals in mind for the move, including getting new features to users faster, releasing updates on a more predictable schedule and taking pressure off its developers to finish features.

Increasing the frequency of Chrome releases means programmers won't have to rush a feature to make an every-three-month deadline, delay the next browser release if they wanted to squeeze in the new functionality or ship the browser with the new feature switched off, said Laforge.

"With the new schedule, if a given feature is not complete, it will simply ride on the next release train when it's ready," he said in an entry on the company's Chromium project blog . "Since those trains come quickly and regularly (every six weeks), there is less stress."

Other browser makers, particularly Mozilla -- which issues security updates to its Firefox every four-to-six weeks -- have sought solutions to the same problems. In Mozilla's case, it has experimented with less ambitious upgrades that it believed it could deliver faster. In January, for example, Mozilla shipped Firefox 3.6, a relatively minor update that was to be followed by another, to be dubbed Firefox 3.7. However, the company ended up dropping Firefox 3.7 from the schedule, and decided instead to introduce new features in its patch updates.

The first example of that was Firefox 3.6.4 , the update that shipped in June with a new crash protection feature designed to keep the browser alive when popular plug-ins drop dead.

Microsoft and Apple , which develop Internet Explorer and Safari, respectively, release non-security updates much less often than Google and Mozilla. Microsoft last issued a new browser, IE8, in March 2009, and has not said when it will ship the under-construction IE9.

Apple, meanwhile, upgrades Safari on a two-year cycle; only one of the five versions shipped so far has debuted less than 24 months after its predecessor.

The last time Google upgraded the stable build of Chrome with anything other than security patches was in late May.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about browsers in Computerworld's Browsers Topic Center.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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