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Mozilla hits back at Firefox 3 quality slur

No rush job on 700 'blocker' bugs

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Mozilla has hit back at claims that multiple bugs in its forthcoming Firefox 3 browser will be ignored in order to meet release schedules.

IDG analyst Gregg Keizer reported that fixes for as many as eight in ten identified bugs would be ready in time for the scheduled release of Firefox 3 (Gran Paradiso) next year. Keizer cited notes from a Mozilla development meeting to support his claims, carried in a story in the New York Times last Thursday.

"We have 700 bugs currently marked as blockers," the notes said. "That's too many. We're asking component owners to set priorities on blockers, as a first pass of what bugs should be Beta 2 blockers. You want it to be about 10 per cent of blockers, or what you can get done in four weeks."

Mozilla defines a "blocker" as a flaw serious enough to justify delaying a release, or at least closer examination.

"We'll be doing pretty much the same thing for Beta 3, which means that something like 80 per cent of the [approximately] 700 bugs currently marked as blockers will not be fixed for Firefox 3. The hope is that by 'fixing the most important blockers' several times, we'll get to a point where we can cut the rest without feeling bad about the quality of the release. And if we do feel bad, we can add an extra beta or two," the notes added.

Mozilla developer Asa Dotzler hit back at the suggestion that Mozilla was compromising on quality in developing the next version of the open source browser.

"That claim is simply horseshit," he wrote in a blog post. "We've already fixed over 11,000 bugs and features in Firefox 3 and now we're discussing how to handle the remaining 700 issues we wanted to get fixed for Firefox 3."

Mozilla developer Mike Shaver said Keizer cited genuine notes but misunderstood the meaning of the term 'blocker'. "It appears to be an honest mistake, since a set of meeting notes did include that prediction, along with other elements that mention other approaches to the Firefox end-game," he writes. "But it’s not our intent to cut Firefox blockers from the fix list against a hard numerical target or fixed deadline."

"The 'blocking' flag doesn’t always strictly mean 'we would not ship Firefox 3 if this specific bug isn’t fixed'. It can also mean 'we should look at this in more detail before we ship'", he added.

Security bugs within the 700 flaw total will be treated as "important". Bugs that impair surfers' browsing ability will also be prioritised. Up to three beta releases of Firefox 3 are planned. The last release was an eight alpha version of the code, released in September. The final version of Firefox 3 is due out some time next year.

The superstructure of Firefox 3 alpha is built around Gecko 1.9, an updated layout engine. The browser is also due to include features held back from Firefox 2, such as the revamped Places system for storing bookmarks and a rejigged history function. ®

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