Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Firefox Update Conspiracy

Modern software releases patches and updates incrementally, meaning you only have to download the code that is different. This allows for much smaller and more effective downloads. Patching systems such as this have been around since software had version numbers. Why then does Firefox require you to download the full program every time a new version is released?

Updating from v1.0.2 to v1.0.3 requires a 4MB download for a meager .01 version update. Don't get me wrong the security updates are welcome and show that the developers are committed to their product. It is the way that they are released I question.

If you step back and look at it, how hard is it really for the Firefox developers to release an incremental system, let alone a standalone patch? I understand it is nice to have precompiled builds for installs but using an archaic update system is inexcusable. Why then was it omitted?

1. Firefox developers thought their product was so good that it would almost never need to be updated
2. Firefox developers did not know how to program such a feature
3. Firefox developers did not have the time and resources to invest in such a feature


4. They deliberately omitted it so updates boost their media hyped Download Number

Whether or not this was intentional remains to be seen but it cannot be ignored that it is having this effect. Now think about it, say you have 10 million adopters of the initial v1.0.0 release, they all upgrade to v1.0.1, your download number now doubles to 20 million, these same users upgrade again to v1.0.2, you now have 30 million downloads. Finally to v1.0.3 with 40 million downloads and still only 10 million users! How much of the super hyped Firefox Download Number is due to the current users just getting the latest version? Much more than you think.


Yannig said...

So do Skype...
100,000,000 download ;-) !

Colin 't Hart said...

4Mb is quite small for a "patch" given the size of some "patches" from some proprietary software companies.

Andrew said...

IE's cache can easily be completely cleared try using CCleaner as one example.

If the patch was 4MB fine but its not it is the full program. You would have to talk to the Firefox developers on the real size of the code difference but I estimate less then 10KB. Now imagine updating the browser in a few seconds on broadband without having to reinstall anything.

bwsnyder said...

Four megabytes is not too much considering Firefox is a stand-alone product, unlike, say I.E. To get the latest version of I.E. you may have to install much more than 4 MB; especially if you don't do Windoh's Update very often.

Plus, the latest Norton Anti-virus definitions come in around 6MB and that's something one should download once a week if not more frequently. For dial-up users that's a real pain yet keeping anti-virus current is a necessity. Updating your browser once a month at 4MB a clip isn't too bad.

Andrew said...

If something is properly programmed you should never have to worry about something going wrong.

As for Virus Definitions, programs like TrendMicro do incremental updates and are mere KBs. If you ever used an update system like this you will notice how much better it is.

NewsBlaze said...

Web statisctics - 87.35% of all statistics are fake. ;-)

What is more interesting than the number of downloads is the overall usage on websites.
One year ago at NewsBlaze Daily News, It was IE 97% and firefox 1.5%. As of today, it is IE 83% and Firefox 15%. Firefox still has some bugs they need to work out, such as memory issues, but its popularity is increasing.

Andrew said...

Firefox is actually 8.9%:

Gaby de Wilde said...

After installing a patch all extensions are broken. I can't use it at all withouth extensions.

I don't get how they are they not part of the browser update.

And without registration before downloading the numbers mean nothing. Downloading is the whole goal of the program.

I thought the goal should be making a good browser and creating happy user?

Excuse me then :(

Andrew said...

If MLB radio uses ActiveX, than the only way to get it to work on FF is with IE Tab.