Mozilla will not axe Firefox version numbers

Posted by Mark Raby

If you can't keep track of what version of Firefox you are using now, you're not alone.

That seemed to be why the browser's developer Mozilla hinted earlier this month that it was thinking of taking a radical step and getting rid of the confusing version numbers for future releases.

Product manager Asa Dotzler flirted with the idea in a note written on Mozilla's "Bugzilla" website. The idea was that instead of having a complicated version number like Firefox version 4.5.1, users would simply see "Firefox" and a note telling them whether or not their current version is the most up-to-date one.

It seems like a good idea on many levels, but not so much on many other levels. For example, technical support would be a nightmare for users who didn't have the latest version, and getting everyone to update to the most up-to-date download would be nearly impossible. Getting rid of version numbers would hardly change the fragmentation problem all browsers deal with.

So once Dotzler's comments started gaining traction, Mozilla had to step in and clarify.

"There are no plans to adjust the version number. It will remain in its current place in the about window, and we are going to continue with the current numbering scheme," Mozilla principal designer Alex Faaborg wrote.

Dotzler wasn't just making things up, though. After all, the Bugzilla message said the idea was to implement to no-version-number strategy in the long-term future. Faaborg's comment certainly leaves room for ambiguity as it is very focused on a "we're not changing anything right now" kind of message.

Faaborg did clarify, though, saying, "I really appreciate Asa giving us the authority and deferring to our decision, but in this case we didn't have the design sorted out enough ahead of time and we basically set him up. Had this actually been a practical joke that the UX team was trying to play on Asa, it would have been perfectly executed. That's what I mean when I say significant confusion."