Mozilla announced it will add another beta to the Firefox 3.1 development schedule, a move that will push the browser's ship date to the second quarter or later.
The decision was not unexpected. Last weekend, Shaver said that bugs in TraceMonkey had slowed the development pace, which in turn had kicked the browser's release into next quarter. He also said that developers were considering a fourth beta.
Another executive said that Mozilla might take advantage of the fourth beta to add some more features. “[But] we are going to be extremely conservative here,” said Firefox director Mike Beltzner, who also spelled out the criteria that new features must meet in order to be accepted. Those ranged from the obvious — they must be complete, for one — to the subjective. “We need to understand the benefit of taking the change,” Beltzner said, “and why it's needed for 3.1 instead of later.”
Although Mozilla originally conceived Firefox 3.1 as a “fast-track” upgrade slated to launch in late 2008, the new browser's progress has been much slower than planned. In fact, Mozilla has reworked Firefox 3.1's schedule several times. Last November, for example, it slipped a third beta into the timetable, in part to fix more bugs, but also to give features such as TraceMonkey, additional testing time.
Mozilla has not published a revised release schedule for Firefox 3.1 — Beltzner said he's working on one — but the addition of Beta 4 will clearly push the release into next quarter. Until now, Mozilla had regularly cited the first quarter of 2009 as the delivery date.
The delay prompted one developer to suggest that Mozilla rename Firefox 3.1. “Given all the efforts that went into Firefox 3.1 and given its prolonged schedule and expanded scope, I was wondering whether it might make more sense to name it Firefox 3.5 just as Firefox 1.1 was renamed Firefox 1.5?” asked Simon Paquet, who works on localizing Thunderbird, Mozilla Messaging Inc.'s e-mail client. “That way we would more clearly communicate to users that this isn't just a minor update but a major step forward.”
Shaver said Paquet was not the first to make the suggestion, but said that any talk of renaming the browser should wait until after Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 was released.
Shaver, however, has rejected the idea of a race. “This is much more about having the product done right than getting it out fast,” he said in an interview last Saturday.