Which version of Firefox do I select for software testing?
March 17, 2011 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Is there an appreciable difference between versions of Firefox with respect to software testing?

I'm about to start software testing a plug-in on Firefox. The developer said the plug-in was built for versions 3.6 & up. There have been 15 sub-versions of 3.6 released in the last year. How do I determine which of those releases I should be testing our plug-in on? Are they all equally stable? I'm having a difficult time looking for a cut 'n' dry answer, so thanks in advance for the assistance.
posted by Hesychia to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If he says 3.6 and up you should be testing on 3.6.0 or whatever the first 3.6 release is. That's what you're saying is supported.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:17 AM on March 17, 2011

I do software testing, so I might be able to help. But I don't fully understand the context.
Are you testing the plugin for an institution? If so I'd think that you'd test primarily for whatever version is institutionally supported.

If it's just a general release, I'd test for the latest stable version. Which I believe is 3.6.15.

Another factor to consider is risk. If it's say... banking software, you'll want a higher test coverage than if it's something less important. If it's a relatively low risk operation, test to what's stable or supported.

Anyway hope that helps.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:18 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: Testing the plug-in for a small company - nothing to do with banking or e-commerce. It's for a beta release & the first time we've built it to work in Firefox.

I guess I'm still a little confused. If dev says - 3.6 & up...I'm guessing that means the plug-in should work on 3.6-3.6.15. But what I don't understand - are all 15 releases considered reliable & stable on their own, & each subsequent release should be considered definitive? Or is 3.6 seen as the stable version?

I think the problem I'm having is that dev is basically saying that the 15 versions released within the last year are institutionally supported.
posted by Hesychia at 11:30 AM on March 17, 2011

Where I am, we have a browser support chart, which makes it easier. ;)

Mozilla actively supports versions 3.5 and up. Anything above 3.5 and 3.6.15 is considered to be stable, which makes 3.6.15 the most recent stable.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:41 AM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Hi, I'm a Mozilla developer.

The 3.6.x point releases are "security and stability" updates - they include only critical security and crash fixes. Mozilla itself does not provide any sort of support for older point releases - you need to keep up with the latest version if you want to be secure. This means that Firefox 3.5.18 and 3.6.15 (and soon 4.0) are our only "supported" versions.

That said, there are a significant number of users who do not have the latest security update, so you should probably care about those users. We do take care not to break add-ons in our security updates, as long as those add-ons are not doing explicitly unsupported things. Really this is a business decision - explain to the client the cost of testing all security updates vs. just the current update, and let them decide whether the benefit is worth the cost.

There was one unusual change in Firefox 3.6, which is the abilitity to run plugins in a separate process which shipped in Firefox 3.6.4. This is a more significant update than we would usually ship in a stability update, but it still should not affect normal browser extensions or add-ons.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the clarifying answer, mbrubeck.

Right as you were responding, I went looking for stats on # of users that update to each new point release & are active users. I saw the general stats page on mozilla's website for downloads of 3.6. Is there anything more comprehensive than that elsewhere?
posted by Hesychia at 12:01 PM on March 17, 2011

If you have a website then just look in your apache logs. The browser version will be listed as part of the user-agent. You can take the last month's worth of logs and with a bit of scripting you can get a nice histogram of what versions your users are using.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:25 PM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, Rhomboid!
posted by Hesychia at 12:28 PM on March 17, 2011

Bear in mind, firefox 4.0 is due to release soon; it's at RC1 status now and final is expected on the 22nd of March IIRC. Given it's a fairly big update in terms of JS performance, HTML5 support and a new UI, expect a number of users to switch fairly quickly once it hits final release, and those that have been running the beta will be updated automatically.

There are some changes that can impact add-ons so your dev will presumably need to do some testing for that.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2011

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