For years I’ve been a big fan of Firefox, but things seem to have gone a little askew lately. It was only a couple of months ago that I blogged about version 4, so I was extremely surprised when a ZDNet tech update arrived in my mail box today and announced Firefox 5. I momentarily thought it was a prank.

At the moment, having given my ThinkPad back to IBM (and being without Windows until next week), I’m a 100% Mac user. But I’m not using Firefox. Shortly after installing Firefox 4 on the iMac I started to receive complaints from another member of the iMac’s user base (known to you, dear readers, as the current Mrs Adams). And actually I was suffering the same problem. For all of it’s life the iMac has performed well, but now, for some strange reason, it was entering into long periods of ‘thinking about what it was doing’. Or in layman’s terms, not responding for minutes on end. This started around the same time Firefox 4 was installed, and the problems occurred when Firefox 4 was running (Mrs A tends to leave it loaded in her logged-on account, as do I). The problems stopped around the same time that Firefox 4 was downgraded to 3.6.something. No need for the jury to retire, m’lud.

However, that wasn’t the end of the Firefox issues. Shortly after downgrading Firefox, it upgraded itself (just a bit) to 3.6.17… and then the spinning beach-ball (a sight well-known to, but not welcomed by, Mac users) started to appear with annoying frequency. The browser would often be in a death spiral of unresponsiveness for up to two minutes – but at least this version had the good grace not to tie up the entire OS. I stripped out the plug-ins but to no avail.

At this point I decided to give Google’s Chrome a go. I did say back in 2008 that there was nothing to make me switch, but back then it was in beta. Now it’s up to version 12 (what, already?). Since installing Chrome I’ve never looked back. It’s fast, it never shows the beach-ball, and I’ve realised I can live without the Firefox plug-ins (apart from one that mimics Firefox’s live bookmark feature).

Anyway, back to Firefox. Version 5? It took thirty-three months for Mozilla to take Firefox from version 3 to 4. There were fourteen months between versions 3.6 and 4. But the gap between version 4 and 5 was just three months (a day less actually). So I’m not going to bother with version 5, I’ll just wait for version 6 in September. Think I’m joking? Wikipedia states that Mozilla hope to ship versions 6 and 7 in 2011. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols writes:

The Mozilla Foundation, following in the footsteps of Google’s Chrome web browser, seems to believe that if they keep popping out new “major” releases every six weeks, they’ll convince people they’re better than the competition.

Well, that would seem to be the way that Chrome got to version 12 in less than three years, so maybe he’s right. Mr Vaughan-Nichols states that this is a mere point release (a minor one at that), rather than a major release.

Personally, I’ll be selecting my browser based on speed and reliability rather than who has the highest version number.