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Mozilla plans semi-silent updates to tug laggards onto the newest Firefox

Gregg Keizer | May 19, 2014
Mozilla is preparing nearly-silent upgrades to get customers stuck on older versions of Firefox onto the newest edition, according to notes on the company's website and its bug-tracking database.

One-fourth of all Firefox users ran an outdated edition last month, a problem that's prompted a Mozilla plan to return those people to the latest version. (Data: Net Applications.)

If the process works out for Windows users, Mozilla will try the same with those running Firefox on OS X.

The second under-consideration process would be similar, but would ditch the silent-download-display-the-UAC-prompt part. Instead, the new Firefox would either download in the background, then ask whether the user wants to run the latest, or give them the choice, then begin the download.

According to a Bugzilla entry by Jennifer Morrow, a user experience designer at Mozilla, the first method — silent download, show only the UAC prompt — was, "The 'ideal' state in which the next version of Firefox is downloaded silently, in the background, without any interaction from the user."

Not surprisingly, considering the push-back Mozilla's gotten from some users unhappy with the user interface (UI) overhaul that debuted in Firefox 29 late last month, some who penned entries on the developers discussion thread questioned the old-to-new effort.

"I know there are a bunch of people staying on [Firefox] 28 because of Australis," wrote Mike Hommey on the thread, referring to Mozilla's name for the new UI. "That's a big problem."

In his initial message on the same thread, Smedberg said that whatever form the update took, it would honor users' wishes.

"We will continue to respect the user update preference: If the user has updates completely disabled in preferences, we will not prompt for updates at all," Smedberg said. "If manual-apply is chosen, we will nag but not force-install the update."

But he also acknowledged that most users have not touched the default Firefox update option setting — which is expressed as "Automatically install updates (recommended: improved security)" — in the browser's Preferences section. "All evidence shows that most users haven't changed the default update preferences," Smedberg said.

Mozilla may also bake the catch-up feature into Firefox at some point, so that in the future it will not have to use the add-on hotfix workaround. "Let's see how well the hotfix works and what user feedback is like," Smedberg said. "We will probably decide to build something like this directly into future versions of Firefox as part of our support API, but that is not guaranteed."

 

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