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Google matches Mozilla, reduces time between Chrome upgrades to four weeks


Google plans to accelerate Chrome’s release schedule to match rival Firefox’s every-four-week cadence.

The Mountain View, Calif. company will also offer a new release channel, dubbed “Extended Stable,” that will be refreshed every eight weeks, aimed at enterprises weary of frequent deployments.

“As we have improved our testing and release processes for Chrome and deployed bi-weekly security updates to improve our patch gap, it became clear that we could shorten our release cycle and deliver new features more quickly,” Alex Mineer, technical program manager, Chrome operations, wrote in a March 4 post to the Chromium blog.

Goggle’s reasoning for the new tempo was identical to Mozilla’s rationale for speeding up Firefox in September 2019. Then, two Mozilla officials cited the same more-stuff-faster grounds. “We’re adjusting our cadence to increase our agility, and bring you new features more quickly,” said Ritu Kothari and Yan Or, the Firefox release management team leader and senior director of product integrity, respectively.

Not ready yet; shooting for third quarter

The switch to a swifter release cadence won’t happen overnight. Instead, Google will start the four-week interval in the September quarter, with Chrome 94. (For context, Google issued Chrome 89 last week.)

In the near term, Google will continue to upgrade Chrome every six to eight weeks. Chrome 90, for instance, is to launch April 13 (six weeks after version 89), Chrome 91 on May 25 (six weeks), Chrome 92 on July 20 (eight weeks), and Chrome 93 on Aug. 31 (six weeks).

At that point, things get a bit weird, as Google will pause only three weeks between Chrome 93 and 94; the latter is to launch Sept. 21. Between Chrome 94 and 95, though, there will be the new four-week standard, with the latter releasing on Oct. 19.

Extended Stable for enterprise

As well as the faster release tempo for Chrome, Google also decided to mimic Mozilla in another way: It will offer a less-frequently-upgraded version, called “Extended Stable,” for enterprises and other large organizations, just as Mozilla provides a Firefox “Extended Support Release,” or ESR.

Unlike Firefox ESR — which remains the same, feature- and functionality-wise, for more than a year — Chrome Extended Stable stays static for just eight weeks. Google will update Extended Stable every two weeks with security fixes, but only those which address “important” issues. Mineer did not elaborate or define “important,” but said: “Those updates won’t contain new features or all security fixes that the four-week option will receive [emphasis added].”

Only customers using group policies will be able to enable and run Chrome Extended Stable.

What of Edge?

Like Chrome, Microsoft’s Edge browser also relies on the Google-dominated open-source Chromium project for its underpinnings, including the core technologies that render pages and run scripts. With Chromium’s build schedule changing to speed up Chrome’s releases, Edge will have to follow suit.

Microsoft has yet to confirm that; in fact, its release timetable goes only as far as version 93, the version before the intervals begin shrinking.

More information about Chrome’s release cycle can be found on Google’s website.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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