The Anti-release


I mentioned this in today’s Project Meeting, and now it’s come up in the newsgroups.
Normally, I’d take the time to write up a more in-depth explanation, but since my schedule is… uh… “hectic” right now, I’ll just say this:

  1. No, we have. Not. Released. Firefox. 2. Yet.
  2. When people link to bits directly on a random FTP mirror, they’re doing a number of people harm including, quite possibly, themselves:
    • Digg and Reddit posts linking to direct FTP mirrors could be costing the operators of those mirrors hundreds to thousands of dollars in bandwidth bills, or may cause them to crash by linking directly to them. This could cause them to “un-volunteer” their services as a mirror, making it even harder to obtain Firefox on release days.
    • People posting direct link to FTP mirrors don’t know if that mirror is a member of the Mozilla FTP Mirror Farm, or some random, unverified mirror. We work hard to verify that the mirrors in our farm are serving the same bits we released, and we cannot make the same claim about other mirrors that aren’t part of our farm. When using direct FTP links to random mirrors, users run the risk of downloading bits that have not been checked to ensure they do not contain a virus or trojan.
    • “That’s ok,” you say: “I link directly to!” That can be even worse! Killing the project’s FTP server does not help anyone, least of all people trying to obtain Firefox builds. And it makes for a grumpy IT group. And nobody wants grumpy IT groups. Especially a day before a release.
  3. Linking directly to builds hinders our ability to remove/retract bits that we may have to remove for some reason. While this may not seem like a big deal, it becomes a problem when supporting users, one of our most important values. If, let’s say, we pull a locale, due to a stop-ship bug—and yes, this is not a hypothetical—then users who’ve (pre-)downloaded that build will not receive valuable security updates for those builds. The counterargument to this is “Well, you should provide updates for everything you’ve ever offered on your FTP site.” If we did this, we’d be spending valuable (and über-constrained) Build Team and QA resources generating updates and testing them for builds that weren’t the final bits, and were never “released” as such.
  4. Posting links before we release may point people to an incomplete FTP areas or mirrors. I haven’t finished posting the source tarball, for instance. Will it happen before we release? Yes. Will there be unnecessary confusion from the open source community, wondering where this deliverable is? If you post links to an FTP site with the builds, yes.
  5. Most articles have an unerring ability to link to the wrong thing. Slashdot’s front page, for instance, currently links to the Windows British English build. I cringe at the thought of the community having to waste time while we’re finishing things up with IRC, blog, and Bugzilla chatter asking “I got my build from Slashdot; why did you guys spell behaviour wrong?” And where are Slashdotters wanting uhh… you know… Linux builds supposed to get them? It’s unclear from the article that directly links to an .exe for one [correct for one country, but mostly-wrong for everyone else] locale.
  6. User experience can be degraded, leaving a bad taste in people’s mouth: Firefox 2 has a number of components that use live content on websites. The whole community has been doing a lot of work to refresh, update, and translate this content, and parts of it are still coming together for the release. When you download a build, there could be various content, including certain parts of help, that are not yet ready. When you tell your friends to go download Firefox 2 before we announce it’s ready, you’re subjecting them to a degraded user experience, which could push them to go back to… “other browsers.”

Now, before you suggest it, it’s not as easy as putting in .htaccess restrictions, or setting the permissions on the files so people can’t download them. The nitty-gritty details are in the newsgroups.
So please… just remember: “Preed the Release Engineer says: friends don’t let friends download Firefox before it’s released.”
We know everyone’s excited for the 2.0 release. We are too. But give us 24 hours, so we can make sure that your first experience with Firefox 2.0 is befitting of everyone’s hard work on this major release.
I promise it’s worth the wait.