Mozilla pushes devs to make Feb. ship date for Firefox 4

Engineering director exhorts developers to work on 160 blocking bugs

Mozilla hopes to have a final version of Firefox 4 ready to ship by the end of February, according to comments made by the company's engineering director.

"We've worked tremendously hard on Firefox 4, and it's time to ship it," Damon Sicore, Mozilla's director of platform engineering, said in a message Monday on the Firefox developers mailing list.

Sicore exhorted Firefox developers to slap down the bugs that still block the upgrade's release, saying that the count was still higher than what the company has used to pinpoint schedules in the past.

Currently, Firefox 4 contains about 160 "hard blockers," a term that describes bugs that would bar a final release. Historically, Sicore said, Mozilla has needed six weeks to make a ship date once a product had 100 blockers remaining.

"We have to reach Release Candidate status as quickly as possible, ideally finishing the hard blockers by the beginning of February and shipping final before the end of February," he said. "We'll need your help to balance these targets against the need to build a high quality product.

"We must press hard now," said Sicore referring to fixing as many blocking bugs as quickly as possible.

Mozilla developers often re-classify blocking bugs or drop bug-containing features to make a schedule.

Although Mozilla had originally planned to ship Firefox 4 in November 2010, delays last fall forced it to announce in October that it would instead wrap up development early this year.

Mozilla plans to issue at least one more beta version of Firefox 4 -- identified as Beta 9 -- but may do more if necessary. "We'll drive the beta bugs to zero and ship another beta," said Sicore. "If we can't get them to zero in reasonable time, we'll repeat."

Firefox 4 Beta 8 was released Dec. 22.

Sicore's hint that Firefox 4 may need just one more beta runs contrary to previous plans by Mozilla, which had listed a ninth and 10th beta, then one or more "release candidates" on its schedule, before it would issue final code.

Even though Mozilla urged developers to work as quickly as possible, Sicore stressed that the company would not ship Firefox 4 until it was solid. "We'll need your help to balance these [schedule] targets against the need to build a high quality product," Sicore said. "[But] we must ship the best possible product we can."

According to Internet measurement company Net Applications, Firefox currently accounts for 22.8% of all browsers used worldwide. Since its peak in November 2009, Firefox has lost two percentage points. Google's Chrome, meanwhile, gained more than six points in that same period, and now owns a 10% share.

"I know you're all tired and stressed," said Sicore to Firefox's developers. "Stay focused. Be nice to each other. Firefox 4 is gonna kick ass."

The current Firefox 4 beta can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Mozilla's site.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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