The Mozilla Foundation is
its roadmap a little -- though not "scrapping" the
1.1 release as had been reported in some outlets.
The 1.1 release was originally planned for this month, but that has been changed
to a 1.5 release planned for September. Chris Hofmann, Mozilla's director
of engineering, talked to us about the change in the roadmap, and what's
ahead for Firefox and Thunderbird.
Hofmann said that the version number change was made for a number of
[The change] is partly technical, one of the features that is going into
this next release is a software updating feature, so we were able to do a
better job of testing incremental updates with this software update
feature. As we move up the numbering scale, and make sure that all of that
detection and ability to deal with numbering changes works with part of the
software update system and more importantly, recognizes the progress that
we've made in the last six months getting a number of features into the
product that we hadn't expected to be there and this far along.
Firefox developer Asa Dotzler also wrote about
One major consideration in this decision was the sheer volume of changes in
the Firefox core (Gecko) made a minor .1 increment seem misleading. While
it may not be obvious by looking simply at release dates, today's Gecko
core of Firefox has seen nearly 16 months worth of changes compared to what
shipped in Firefox 1.0. This is because we created our Gecko 1.7 branch
(the branch from which Firefox 1.0 shipped) back in April of 2004. At that
time, Gecko development on the trunk continued and very little of that work
was carried over to the 1.7 branch to be included in Firefox 1.0.
Indeed, there are quite a few new
features and other changes in Firefox 1.5, many of which we covered on
LWN with the first Deer Park
Alpha release. The 1.5 release should have improvements in pop-up
blocking, tab reordering, Scalable Vector
Graphics (SVG) support and ECMAScript
for XML (E4X) support.
One of the improvements that Hofmann highlighted for 1.5 is Firefox's extensions
system. According to Hofmann, the 1.5 release will handle versioning
information of extensions and "ability for the browser to recognize
extensions that might be incompatible with specific releases."
Hofmann also said that this release would allow the user to turn extensions
on and off, something that the Firefox 1.0 does not allow -- though some
extensions, like Greasemonkey
do provide that feature directly.
The 1.0 to 1.5 jump will also bring about some changes to the Firefox API,
which may affect
extensions that work with the current interface.
There's a pretty big shift in the API set for applications and extensions
that are moving from 1.0 to 1.5, most of the extension authors have taken
the work to make extensions that are going to be compatible with 1.5. There
might be a few more changes we make in the next few weeks of the
development cycle, but by the time we get to 1.5 release, the goal is to
have a very large percentage of the extensions available be compatible with
Thunderbird is also being shifted from a 1.1 release to a 1.5 release
around the same time frame as Firefox. Hofmann said that the version bump
for Thunderbird was, in part, because development had been moving along
nicely for Thunderbird as well -- but also because the Mozilla Foundation
is trying to keep version numbers for both applications in sync. He noted
that Thunderbird 1.5 would have improvements in spam detection and for
detecting phishing attacks, in-line spell checking and improved RSS
features. Thunderbird 1.5 will also feature improvements for updates, and
users should be able to do updates from Thunderbird directly.
Though the feature sets are sketchy at this point, the Mozilla Foundation's
roadmap calls for a Firefox 2.0 release in early 2006 and a Firefox 3.0 by
the end of 2006. One feature that Hofmann talked about for future releases
Runner. According to Hofmann, Xul Runner will allow Firefox,
Thunderbird and other applications "to share core components of
technology." According to Hofmann, any one of the Mozilla
applications would include the core features, and then users would only
need to download "a thin layer" for additional applications.
Hofmann said that the first instance of Xul Runner would be available
"around the time we ship Firefox 1.5," and that the next
versions of Firefox and Thunderbird would be built on top of Xul Runner and
"allow sharing of common code" that both applications use.
Given the amount of time 1.5 has been in development (Firefox 1.0 was
released in November, 2004) it seems a bit ambitious to plan the 2.0 and
3.0 releases in 2006. However, anything is possible.
Meanwhile, the Firefox 1.5 Beta is scheduled for August, and a second
alpha release is available now for brave souls who can't wait for new
features, or who are eager to help in testing.
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