Bad news first: Mozilla fans waiting in momentous expectation of Firefox 4 have a little bit longer to wait. Though Firefox 4 beta 10 just launched at the end of January, we may see at least two more beta releases before the browser’s full launch. Due to a number of bugs, including one serious Microsoft Hotmail error, launch has been pushed back again.
Last time we looked at the status of Firefox 4, at the end of October 2010, product manager Mike Beltzner had announced more delays for the much-anticipated browser. Beltzner had said at the time that it was necessary to move back the launch from November 2010 to early 2011, due to various instabilities. Now that it’s definitively early 2011, it’s not looking like Firefox 4 will launch until the end of February or maybe March. The browser has been in development since July 2010.
At this point, it’s probably better if Mozilla doesn’t announce a release date and instead just focuses on getting the thing fixed.
The good news? Mozilla doesn’t want this kind of thing happening again: Firefox 5, 6 and 7 will all be released sometime this year.
The foundation has apparently realized that in today’s fast-changing Web world, there’s not enough time to allow this many months to pass between iterations. On top of that, the landscape has changed and worthy competitors abound.
In years past, Mozilla could take their time with development because they were the most prominent developer of an alternative to the most-used browser in the world, Microsoft Internet Explorer. Over the past year and a half, however, Google Chrome really ramped up its development and serves an increasing number of users every month. Tons of evidence has demonstrated that Chrome is only on the rise. It’s fast, efficient, and already uses the tab-centric design that Firefox 4 will have.
So far, details are pretty sparse on what changes exactly all these future versions of Firefox will incorporate. The important thing is the focus on faster turnaround of important features and upgrades. And, more specifically, they want to go up against the rising monolith that is Apple's walled garden of content:
Our mission implies a vision where the currently closed "App" ecosystem and walled social ecosystems are replaced with Open Web Platform based alternatives. While this may not be realizable within the next calendar year, a co-ordinated vision of what we're building towards will help keep our product plans on track and inform our technology choices:
Let’s just wait until Firefox 4 before looking forward to 7, shall we?