A great collective gasp issued from tuned-in Firefox fans when Mozilla announced that it was switching to a Chrome-like release schedule for its browser. The goal was to make Firefox more adaptable and to keep pace — though not with Chrome specifically, but rather with the rapidly-evolving web.
One side effect of a rapid release schedule is skyrocketing version numbers, something both Google and Mozilla want users to ignore. But that’s a tricky proposition when users have been raised on slowly-climbing digits trailing the names of their favorite apps. Rather than cling to traditional versioning ideas, companies are now pushing channels — constantly updated snapshots of the different development stages of a program. Both Chrome and Firefox now offer stable, beta, and bleeding-edge versions to suit a user’s wants.
Mozilla, though, wants to make sure that version numbers are buried deep with its browser where only developers, enthusiasts, and sniffing code can call them up. Over on Bugzilla, the always outspoken Asa Dotzler has posted Bug 678775 to get the ball rolling. As Dotzler states, it’s just another step in a process that is already “well under way.”
The bug has sparked some rather intense discussion — more than you might expect for something as seemingly minor as hiding the version number on the About Firefox window. Functionally, the window is “about” letting you know whether or not an update is available and to download that update if one is available but hasn’t been pulled down automatically. While the version number is displayed, it’s certainly not a critical element. The proposed tweak would remove the number and instead display a line about when the last update was applied and whether or not your install is current.
UPDATE : To clarify, Mozilla will only remove the version number from the about Firefox window, not from other locations, like the Troubleshooting Information page.