Mozilla was quick to release a couple of new versions of Firefox -- version 3.6.10 and version 3.5.15 -- just one day after turning off update notfications to address a bug that was causing headaches for some people.
The bug, which seemingly popped out of nowhere, caused the browser to crash during launch. It wasn't something that was detected in pre-release versions.
"Interesting that this doesn't show up in the top 300 crashes in 3.6.9pre or 3.5.12pre," Christian Legnitto, Firefox release manager, said in a bug comment.
Later on, Legnitto said that even though this caused a spike in the number of Firefox crashes, it was still a "drop in the bucket vs. active daily users." Nevertheless, "because it is a crash on start-up that could prevent people from using Fireofx entirely, we feel it was best to get a fix out quickly."
You can grab the latest version here (3.6.10) or here (3.5.13), or hit the "Check for updates" option in Firefox's Help menu.
If there's one thing I hate, it's plugin problems. That's plug-ins as in browser plugins, or one of the few reasons why I switched from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome for my default browser. In Chrome, a crashing plugin only affects itself; the rest of the browser is spared the messy issues (and random shutdown) that arise from problems on a page. The worst that can happen is that the actual tab your own shuts down: the rest of your browsing experience should remain unaffected by a plugin catastrophe.
Well, Firefox is borrowing a page from Google's book of process isolation, for that's the exact technique that Mozilla has built into the Lorentz version of its popular browser. The various tabs you open in Firefox Lorentz remain isolated from each other's wicked ways, in that crashing plugins will only affect the page or tab they're on--prompting a gray fade-out of your screen and an automatic reload, if you so choose. The rest of your multi-tab browser will stay exactly the same as it was pre-crash.
The long development of Firefox has left many a crashed browser in its wake. But a recent study undertaken by the Mozilla Metrics team shows that the relatively new Firefox 3.6 is much more stable than Firefox 3.5. As each release matures, the rate of crashes goes down with each update. Version 3.6 has already surpassed 3.5 in overall stability, having gotten about 40% more stable since release.
Another interesting statistic uncovered by the study was that Firefox 3.5 started out significantly less stable than version 3.0. Firefox product lead Mike Beltzner explained that the cause was 3rd party applications. The 3.0 build was what took Firefox into the mainstream and developers began building on top of it in larger numbers. When the code was altered in version 3.5, many API calls that worked fine before caused crashes.
Whatever the cause, we're certainly happy to see Firefox improving over time. Now that we've got these numbers, you've got another reason to update if you're still on 3.5.