Software

Mozilla abandons experimental Aurora Firefox channel

New builds from Nightly to Beta

By Gavin Clarke

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Mozilla is killing the channel it introduced for developers to test experimental new features in Firefox and keep pace with Chrome.

The Aurora channel will stop receiving new code releases from 18 April, Mozilla has said.

New code will revert to the established Firefox Nightly builds from where it will land in beta builds of Firefox Developer Edition.

Mozilla created Aurora in 2011 as a means of injecting faster feedback into Firefox's development as it shifted to rapid release cycles with Firefox 5.

Rapid releases were introduced to close the gap on new features in Chrome with new builds of Firefox introduced every six weeks.

It was a time when Chrome was opening its lead as the web's number-two browser and as Firefox remained stuck on its market-share plateau.

Firefox was slammed for being increasingly slow and buggy, never mind lagging behind Chrome for features.

But rapid releases weren't a universally popular move, and Mozilla took stick for overreacting to the underlying need to simply fix long-standing bugs.

Mozilla Foundation executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker said of rapid releases: "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."

At the time, Mozilla said of Aurora:

The Aurora channel is where users can test the latest features and innovations. Users can expect an increase in polish from the raw, cutting edge features in our nightly builds. Aurora releases may not be as stable as beta or final releases.

Six years on, though, Mozilla reckons Aurora is redundant.

Head of developer marketing Ali Spivak blogged: "We have more modern processes underlying our train model, and believe we can deliver feature-rich, stable products without the additional 6-8 week Aurora phase."

Doing away with Aurora won't mean unstable code is rushed to beta, Spivak promised.

"Our engineering and release workflow will continue to have additional checks and balances rolled out to ensure we ship a high quality release.

"A new feature will merge from Nightly to Beta only when it's deemed ready, based on pre-established criteria determined by our engineering, product and product integrity teams. If features are not ready, they won't migrate from Nightly to Beta." ®

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