A recent proposal to remove the version number from the Firefox Web browser’s “About” dialog attracted a surprising amount of attention. As critics and supporters moved to take sides on the issue, it gradually devolved into a divisive controversy.
It turns out it was all just a misunderstanding. The issue started when Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler filed a bug report calling for the removal of the version number. He was under the impression that the move had been directed by Mozilla’s user experience team, but the move was premature.
Speaking to ReadWriteWeb, Mozilla user experience engineer Alex Faaborg explained that a final decision had not yet been made on the issue of version number presentation. It was a miscommunication, and Dotzler was caught in the middle. The subsequent controversy that arose from the simple misunderstanding reflects the general atmosphere of unease that has emerged during Firefox’s transition to a more incremental development model.
Although there are still challenges to address relating to add-on handling, update methodology, deployment issues, and enterprise support, the overhaul of Firefox’s release management strategy has largely been smooth. The significant performance and memory footprint improvements in Firefox 7 that will soon land in a stable release show that the new model has tangible advantages for end users.
The fixation on the actual version number and how it is presented in the user interface is little more than a sideshow that distracts from the more substantive technical issues that would benefit from constructive discussion and community engagement.