How Chrome and Firefox are Winning the Browser Wars – By Cheating with Version Numbers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you couldn’t have not noticed that there is a constant war between web browsers in the market. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera, Google Chrome… They’re all in the battle for the browser throne in the castle of Web.

When in war, everything is allowed, some will say. Some of the browser creators agree and they’ve started to live by that saying. I can’t tell how it will end but some of them are feeling the consequences right now.

The Bigger, The Better?

Several weeks ago, Mozilla released its Firefox browser 5.0. Being a techie and a geek that I am, I hurried to download the beta version and try it out. To my surprise, I downloaded the 4.x edition. Or so I thought.

You see, when Mozilla released Firefox 4.0 it had a completely new interface. I expected to see the same in the new, 5.0 version, but the interface was the same. Once I convinced myself that I actually downloaded 5.0, I thought – well, there’s probably a bunch of new stuff and fixes under the hood.

Boy was I wrong. The differences were minor, so insignificant that I really didn’t know why it was named 5.0. I found out that Mozilla started using different version numbering system, where practically every small code update should be announced like it was a whole new application. Can we all spell – hype?

We Didn’t Start the Numbering War; Google Did!

Google Chrome is the first browser that started with this version numbering system. As a result, the current Chrome version is 12.x. Twelve?! I get that the release cycles are shorter but I really don’t think that you should round up version numbers just because you implemented some minor bugfix, right?

So, which one will be your fighter in the browser wars?

Internet Explorer is relatively slow and Chrome and Firefox are the ones fighting the battle. I guess that version numbers, when you put them that way actually matter. But no one asked the users what they think…

Numbers as a Marketing Scheme

Do you remember that-awesome-feature Firefox had? You know, in version… 7.x or was it 9.7? You see the problem here? If they keep this up, in a few years (or even sooner) we, the users, won’t be able to tell the difference from the new and the old version, because we won’t remember them. The version numbers won’t mean anything.

Which plugin or extension is compatible with which version? Right now I know what the differences are between Firefox 3 and 4. Heck, I know differences between the various versions of WordPress and I know when this-or-that feature was implemented or abandoned.

Those are the question you might ask yourself or your friends. Unfortunately, the answer will be hard to find. Hopefully, they will end up bringing version numbering back to normal, no matter how fast release cycles are. Or you might end up browsing this blog in Chrome 54 or Firefox 42 by the end of the year

Title image credit: The Shoze Blog


Nikola Krajacic

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