web browser versionsSo, no sooner do we blog about the Release of Firefox 6, and go on to outline how we also test our online scheduling tool in the very latest “alpha” builds of Firefox 8.0 too.. Mozilla go and bump the “alpha” build version from 8.0 to 9.0 overnight!!

So we decided to look a little closer at just what’s going on with Mozilla’s rapidly increasing “versioning” of Firefox of late…

In its simplest form, a browser version is made up of two numbers separated by a decimal point (period). The first number would be the “Major” version number, representing a significant milestone release. The second number would be the “Minor” version number, reflecting subsequent “minor” changes since the “Major” version was released. Sometimes a “revision” number or “build date” was also tagged onto the end of the version string.

Back in the days when there was really only two main players in the browser market, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, browser versions incremented steadily and logically. For Internet Explorer, the release of significant versions went a little something like this:
IE1.0, IE2.0, IE3.0, IE4.0, IE5.0, IE5.5, IE6.0, IE6.1, IE7.0, IE8.0, IE9.0
..with IE10.0 expected to be ready to coincide with the release of Windows 8 next year

Firefox followed in a similar vain for their significant releases:
FF1.0, FF1.5, FF2.0, FF3.0, FF3.5…

But then something happened to shake up the Browser world… along came Google Chrome!
Starting with version “1.0”, Chrome’s developers decided to do away with traditional versioning of each minor update. Instead, they decided that EVERY update they released for Chrome would be a “major milestone”! Hence, why after just a year or two in development, Google Chrome has already jumped up to version 12.0 (with “alpha” builds available right now for version 15.0!)

For most people comparing two similar software products, “Version 12” of one browser sounds more impressive and stable than “Version 3” of another web browser. So, not wanting to be outdone, Mozilla has now followed suite and instead of releasing logical progressions of Firefox 3.6, 3.7, 3.8…etc, they’ve jumped from 3.6 to 4 to 5 to 6 in a matter of months!!

To make matter’s worse, Mozilla could well be doing away with visible version numbers altogether in the not too distant future! Explaining the reasoning, Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler wrote in a discussion forum:

We concluded that most people don’t need to know what version number they’re using and what they actually want to know is whether or not they’re running the latest version. For the few people who care whether it’s version 7 or version 2011-08-16 or version, they can get this information from about:troubleshooting which is available in the Firefox Help menu.”

Dotzler added:

“We have a goal to make version numbers irrelevant to our consumer audience.”

So what can we learn from all this?

A software version number these days carries very little merit!

A higher version number of one product no longer means any more development has gone into it than a similar product with a lower version number!

Whilst these version numbers may well be irrelevant to a “consumer audience” as Mozilla state, they do still provide essential information to developers who create web-based apps such as ourselves!

If ever a user experiences difficulty with our software, one of the first things we ask them is which browser and version they are using! Making it more difficult for a non-technical user to locate this information isn’t going to be helpful!

Where will it end!?

Well, unless rival web browser developers stop competing for “version number supremacy”, who knows! …maybe it won’t be long until we see Firefox v53 and Google Chrome v182!!

Right now, Microsoft and Apple seem to be the only ones still maintaining some degree of sanity in the versioning of their respective browsers, Internet Explorer and Safari.

You can see which browser versions our web based scheduling software supports here

We have no plans on changing the way we “version” each new release of our browser based room scheduling software – you’re not suddenly going to see “MIDAS v12”!!

We keep our versioning really simple and straight forward. For example, our last releases of MIDAS were 3.10, 3.11, 3.12, 3.13, and our next will almost certainly be 3.14! (Unless we decide to code name it “Pi”! hehe!)