The IT world is mad at Asa Dotzler, and with good reason.
Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, has increased it’s production schedule in a big way: it’s pushing new versions out the door in months instead of years, and ending support on it’s previous versions in the interim.
This is great for home users as they get the latest and greatest on a regular basis. In the business world however, rapid releases are bad news. Web browsers have to be tested for compatibility and security by IT departments, and this process can take weeks…months…even years in some cases. So what happens when the browser manufacturer your company bases its web platform on decides to create major releases every few months? Chaos.
Mike Kaply, a Firefox specialist and consultant, posted a blog lamenting the rapid release schedule. Firefox 4 was released in March of 2011, and now Firefox 5 is available just three months later. A response to his blog really hit home:
“I have 500,000 corporate users on Firefox 3.6. We’re just completing a test cycle of Firefox 4 on many thousands of internal business web applications. Many hundreds of application owners and their test teams have participated. We gave them several months to ready themselves. We worked with dozens of internal Add-On developers and product teams to prepare their add-ons for Firefox 4. ”
All of that work is for naught because Firefox 4 is no longer supported by Mozilla. The basic message is “Businesses should not be using Firefox.” That’s fine and everything, but when was this rule established? Just this week, it turns out, when Asa Dotzler, community coordinator for Firefox marketing and founder of Mozilla’s quality assurance scheme, made the statement “Firefox is for ‘regular users’ — not businesses. Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours.” Why wasn’t this stated years ago? Nobody knows for sure, but the mob of IT people carrying torches and pitchforks is well deserved.
On the flip side, Google is taking the approach of coddling the corporate world. Google Chrome is confirmed to be built with the enterprise in mind. There’s even a Chrome for Business page to prove it (Mozilla confirmed you can’t just assume these things). As the business world begins to shun Internet Explorer more and more, Chrome looks to be the up-and-comer. It’s fast, it can run add-ons and apps, and it can be administered via a control panel…exactly what IT people look for. Chrome’s “Apple-esque” Apps Store is available, with apps like LucidChart, Springpad, and Sliderocket taking hold and replacing traditional software apps.
Like Firefox, Chrome automatically updates to the latest version. The difference? Google will support up to three previous versions. This support is vital to report bugs, flaws, and gather security updates if needed. Typically Chrome updates include minor changes rather than huge, sweeping revisions. This helps maintain compatibility and gives IT departments shorter testing periods.
Google is focused on not alienating businesses because it plans on pushing Google Chrome OS as the next operating system for the enterprise. During the All Things Digital D9 conference in April, Rajen Sheth, business manager for Google, stated “My mission is to bring Chrome to business and to ask how we make it something that can reshape the enterprise desktop.” So, their philosophy is “If you love our browser you’ll REALLY love Chrome OS!” I think I agree with that strategy.