Mozilla's Firefox 6 Launched with 2,600 Long-Known Bugs

Mozilla's Firefox 6 may contain as many as 6K known bugs, of which about 2,600 were not only known about but went untouched for more than 150 days -- or since the release of Firefox 4, Tyler Downer, former Mozilla community lead, wrote in a blog post Saturday as ConceivablyTech reported.

UPDATE [ 8/29/2011 ]: In another blog post, Tyler Downer clarified that he is not an employee of Mozilla, but is actually a volunteer and has never been given a title by Mozilla. Additionally, he clarified that "Firefox did not ship with 6,000 bugs. Rather, there are 6,000 UNCO bugs in the Firefox Product on BMO. Not 6,000 real bugs, but rather 6,000 bugs that haven’t been marked as NEW." 

When Google Chrome announced a shift to a six-week release cycle in July 2010, Mozilla was only issuing security updates every four to six weeks. In March, Mozilla announced its Rapid Release program that put it on a six-week cycle as well.

"Before Mozilla instituted the rapid release process, we would sometimes have new capabilities ready for nearly a year before we could deliver them to people," Mitchell Baker, chairperson of Mozilla Foundation, explained in a post published two days before Downer's. Baker argued that Mozilla needed to move at Internet speed even if it meant occasional problems like add-ons not working with new versions.

Established in 2003 as a non-profit, the Mozilla Foundation has a small staff and depends on volunteers, individual donors and businesses to further its goal of promoting "openness, innovation and participation on the Internet."

But it appears the rapid release system has not given Mozilla's volunteer triage/QA team enough time to address bugs.

"Triage as we know it today is NOT ready to handle the Rapid Release process." Downer wrote. "With the old model of releasing a new major version once a year, triage had a bit more time to go through a massive pile of bugs, to find regressions and issues, and there was a pretty good chance that most bugs would get caught, just because we had time on our side, and we could afford to miss a bug for 6 weeks, because we would most likely get around to it."

Downer accuses Mozilla of ignoring bug reports. "Several thousand contributors that we have told 'Thank you for filing a bug report with us. We don’t really care about it, and we are going to let it sit for 6 months and just ask you to retest when you know it isn’t fixed, but thank you anyway. Oh, and Mozilla is run by the community.' Even though nobody means this, that is what we tell an end-user who just submitted their first bug and is ignored."   

Downer explains that he left Mozilla not because of the Rapid Release program but because the triage system is broken and is not being fixed. He thinks Mozilla needs to add anywhere from one to three full-time employees to handle the triage process.

"I hope this will be heard and understood by the right people," Matt Brubeck, a Mozilla Firefox engineer, commented on Downer's blog.

"It is; we’re working on fixing this with Tyler’s help actually," Aakash Desai, product manager, engagement tools for Mozilla, responded to Brubeck.

Browser competition among Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera has led to new focus on page load speed, user interface and the support of new standards, but also faster and more frequent releases. To handle bug issues, Google launched a a bug-bounty program in January 2010. Most recently, Google shelled out about $17K to bug hunters.

According to NetMarketShare's July 2011 report, Microsoft's Internet Explorer has 53% of the browser market, Firefox 22%, and Chrome nearly 14%.

"I hope to see some sort of improvement in Triage, and when I do, I will jump right back in," Downer wrote. "But as it is, I see no use in contributing to a project that seems to have gained little attention from Mozilla. No, there is no glamor in Triage. But neither is there any glamor in 20,000 UNCO bugs."

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