What happens when you combine millions of rabid browser users, a software organization that shares many of its secrets with the world and a story posted to a New York Times web site that calls that software buggy?
You get a mini-storm on the Internet.
That's what happened over the last day or so when a story, originally written by Computerworld and repurposed by The Times, reported that Mozilla would let 80 percent of existing bugs still in the Firefox 3.0 Beta remain in the browser when it ships. Firefox developers are crying foul and decrying any claim that a dangerously buggy browser would ship to market.
"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," writes Asa Dotzler, a Mozilla community coordinator. (Note: Some profanity is included in Dotzler's post at the link.)
The Mozilla community that builds the Firefox web browser is open in its dialogue about what works and what doesn't work about the browser, which now owns anywhere between 15 percent and 30 percent of the world's browser market share. Last week, Mozilla evangelist and former board member Christopher Blizzard raised eyebrows by acknowledging Firefox' long-known "memory leak" problems were one of the top priorities it faced.
Mike Shaver, a Mozilla technology strategist, tries to take some other numbers and expand the story in a more positive way:
"Of course, we want to get Firefox 3 out to users soon, because there are tens of thousands of improvements there: better support for web standards, speed and memory improvements, great new productivity features, safety and security features, straight-up bug fixes, lots of UI polish, and powerful new APIs for extension developers. But we also need - - which trumps the 'want' of soon, as you would expect - - to make sure that we ship a product that's good enough for a quarter-billion users (on our current growth curve, we could easily see that many people using Firefox during Firefox 3's lifetime), that's worthy of the name Firefox, and that we're all proud to send into the world. Many of us worked on Netscape 6, so we take this pretty seriously."
So for those keeping track on Firefox 3.0, that's 11,000 bugs, about 700 bugs still remaining, 250 million users during its lifetime, for a product that will be given away for free.