Synthetic Monitoring

Simulate visitor interaction with your site to monitor the end user experience.

View Product Info

FEATURES

Simulate visitor interaction

Identify bottlenecks and speed up your website.

Learn More

Real User Monitoring

Enhance your site performance with data from actual site visitors

View Product Info

FEATURES

Real user insights in real time

Know how your site or web app is performing with real user insights

Learn More

Infrastructure Monitoring Powered by SolarWinds AppOptics

Instant visibility into servers, virtual hosts, and containerized environments

View Infrastructure Monitoring Info

Comprehensive set of turnkey infrastructure integrations

Including dozens of AWS and Azure services, container orchestrations like Docker and Kubernetes, and more 

Learn More

Application Performance Monitoring Powered by SolarWinds AppOptics

Comprehensive, full-stack visibility, and troubleshooting

View Application Performance Monitoring Info

Complete visibility into application issues

Pinpoint the root cause down to a poor-performing line of code

Learn More

Log Management and Analytics Powered by SolarWinds Loggly

Integrated, cost-effective, hosted, and scalable full-stack, multi-source log management

 View Log Management and Analytics Info

Collect, search, and analyze log data

Quickly jump into the relevant logs to accelerate troubleshooting

Learn More

Firefox version fragmentation increasing – is Mozilla in trouble?

FirefoxMozilla’s development pace for Firefox went into overdrive this year, as they adopted a strategy similar to that which Google uses for the Chrome web browser. Mozilla’s new, rapid release schedule for Firefox calls for a new version every six weeks. On Tuesday, November 8, it’s already time for the release of Firefox 8.

But there are clouds on the horizon. For every new version of Firefox that Mozilla releases, a fraction of users are for whatever reason not being upgraded. There’s a long tail of older versions starting to form, and over time this may accumulate enough version fragmentation that it could become a real problem.

To give you an example, Firefox 5 was the first version in this rapid release schedule and should be history by now, but it still clings on to almost 4% of the Firefox user base.

So imagine the effect of this kind of “left-behind” retention in the long run. Remember, at the current pace we’ll see at least eight new Firefox versions per year. Next November, the latest version will be Firefox 16.

The current fragmentation of Firefox

Here’s the distribution of Firefox versions for the final week of October 2011, as measured by StatCounter. Note that this is at the later part of Firefox 7’s six-week cycle as the latest release version, so browser users should have had plenty of time to upgrade – or rather, be upgraded.

Firefox version division
In case you’re wondering, the vast majority of the “3.6 or older” bracket is made up of version 3.6.

The good news is that the “legacy” versions of Firefox – those being version 3.6 or earlier – represent a rapidly diminishing portion. Early in June they accounted for 43% of all Firefox usage. Now, five months later, those older versions are down to representing “only” 28%. At the current rate of change, they will be down to around 8% in a year.

The bad news is that there is now a good-sized portion of users who are not following along from one version to the next in this new release schedule that Mozilla started with Firefox 5 in June.

Why is this happening?

It could possibly be an effect of the upgrade process not being automated effectively, or perhaps enterprise users are to blame. The typical reluctance of enterprises to upgrade software without ages of testing has been the bane of software progress for quite some time (part of the reason why IE 6 is still alive).

Perhaps those are both factors. We honestly don’t know. Firefox users do have the option to disable automatic updates, but they’re on by default. It’s hard imagining that many people opting out of upgrades.

A silver lining, the saving grace, the Good Thing

The saving grace in this whole situation is that at least the share of Firefox users running the very latest versions is not going to drop for a while. It might actually grow.

Why? Because people keep upgrading from older versions, like 3.6, filling up the gap that would otherwise be created. But once the pool of older Firefox versions starts to dry out, Mozilla could be in trouble.

Are we facing fragmentation hell?

As we mentioned in the introduction, with a new version coming every six weeks, we’re going to get eight new versions of Firefox every year (well, 8.7). If Firefox is going to leave behind a couple of percent of its users or so in every version update, things will quickly become messy even if those shares individually are rather small and will decrease over time.

This is what things could possibly look like just one year from now, unless Mozilla comes up with a more effective upgrade process that doesn’t have users staying behind for every new version that arrives:

Firefox version division, a hypothetical future

Now imagine web developers around the world collectively going bold from tearing their hair trying to test and support that many versions of Firefox. Then add another year on top of that, when we’ll be up to Firefox 24.

Final words

The bottom line is that leaving a chunk of the Firefox user base behind with each new version is not a sustainable situation in the long term, at least not with such a rapid release schedule.

It may well be that the good people at Mozilla already have some awesome plan in place to counter this trend, but if they don’t, it may be time to start thinking of one.

Real User Monitoring: How to Improve Your Target Audience Reach

In the first post of this two-part series, we talked about the need to fully un [...]

Web Performance of the Top 50 E-commerce/Retail Sites in 2021

By Rachel Frnka Many factors have led to the massive increase of online reta [...]

How Pingdom’s Real User Monitoring Can Help Optimize Your WordPress Website

Enterprise web applications or medium-to-large, consumer-facing websites are ty [...]

Web Performance of the World’s Top 50 Blogs

By: Rachel Frnka Am I the only one who thinks blogs were in their prime in t [...]

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp Down for Over Five Hours

Did you unconsciously open Instagram, Facebook, or WhatsApp several times throu [...]

Monitor your website’s uptime and performance

With Pingdom's website monitoring you are always the first to know when your site is in trouble, and as a result you are making the Internet faster and more reliable. Nice, huh?

START YOUR FREE 30-DAY TRIAL

MONITOR YOUR WEB APPLICATION PERFORMANCE

Gain availability and performance insights with Pingdom – a comprehensive web application performance and digital experience monitoring tool.

START YOUR FREE 30-DAY TRIAL
Start monitoring for free