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As mentioned in this PC World article, Firefox is on a rapid-release cycle that I personally find alarming.  I just upgraded to 5.0 last week and already 6.0 is in beta, 7 is in Aurora, and 8 is in trunk.  The major issue here isn’t so much the version number jumping, as they could be looked at 5.1, 5.2, etc. just as easily.  The major issue is that this is going to alienate much more than just enterprise users.  However, as someone who works in what some would consider an “enterprise”, I can tell you that my employer’s IT department is not at all happy about having to test all these new versions so often.  We’re often the first to adopt new versions of technology (we even have linux 3.0-rc5 pilot servers); however, a Web browser is often one of the hardest softwares to test, simply because of the amount of corner cases you can find in it.

The focus of Firefox is supposedly on the consumer.  These home users, or as they so eloquently phrase it, “individuals”, do not adapt to change.  This is why there are still people out there running Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 2000.  The especially obnoxious way that Firefox 4.0+ notify you of updates by displaying a large modal window every few hours, combined with the overwhelming amount of large updates coming in the next few months that will disrupt add-ons and change the UI in ways that will likely make more than a few people upset, will leave Firefox alienating a lot of home users.

Additionally, and as I’m not on the Firefox dev team you may take this with a grain of salt, it seems that shoving multiple major releases out the door in a matter of months is as big a mistake with testing and QA as it is with user satisfaction.  You can say that “release early, release often” is a staple of the open-source development model, but I don’t see Linus Torvalds readying the linux-5.0 tag any time soon.  Just because you are open-source does not mean you have to push out major release milestones every month.  No amount of programmers can work that long, and that hard, on that many revisions without there being cracks in the mould somewhere.

I’m not sure which browser is sitting in the best spot to take over Firefox’s share if it indeed does fall from its current place as one of the primary leaders of the Web.  Perhaps IE9 with its (broken but present) HTML5 support, or Safari 5 with its performant JavaScript engine.  All I know is that the browser I depend on for most if not all of my graphical Web browsing is seemingly becoming less dependable.