Mozilla is really busy. Last week, the company released the 12th version of the Firefox web browser, and this week brings the Firefox 13 beta release. Over the course of the last year Mozilla switched from a traditional to a rapid release model, which led to an explosion of version numbers. Users seem to care less and less about the updates and with this release Mozilla makes sure that even less will actually notice that the version number got another 1up.
For users on Windows Vista and upwards, the annoying prompts when an update is ready to be applied will now be a thing of the past. This is done by a system level service that can modify files in the installation directory without prompting the user. It is possible to turn this off, if you still want to be asked each time an update is ready. A bit more details on the rationale and functionality of this is given in Mozilla’s future releases blog.
Other than that, only minor improvements and fixes have been applied. For example the page source view now displays line numbers, which is handy for developers, but the average user won’t notice. As always, the full list of changes can be reviewed in the release notes.
In terms of market share, Firefox stayed mostly flat in the last few months. So it seems while their rapid releases stopped a downward turn, it wasn't able to acquire new users either (yet). Microsoft's Internet Explorer is continuously losing users, while Google Chrome seems to absorb most of those. Most interestingly, Apple's Safari also gained some users which is caused by healthy iOS sales.
The email client Thunderbird got updated to version 12 as well. As the release notes reveal, there haven't been a lot of changes. The most prominent ones are that the program now displays message extracts in the global search results. Other than that the usual security fixes and some improvements regarding RSS feed subscription have been added. Under the hood functionality for plugins offering alternative forms of mail storage has been added. This could be interesting for devlopers. Mozilla has a Wiki page up explaining whats wrong with the current way of storing emails and how it should be remedied in the future.
Lastly we'd like to highlight the fact that Firefox 3.6 (and it's Thunderbird cousin) now finally are no longer supported. Mozilla strongly urges people and organizations to upgrade from these versions. For companies who can't use a rapidly updating browser in practice, Mozilla has special Extended Support Releases (ESR) in store, which we covered last month in our Firefox 11 article.