The Mozilla Foundation has finally managed to release an alpha version of a later release before the previous release. What does this mean to end users? It means confusion as people don't know what to download. What does this mean to people who want to file bugs? It means that unless you've been involved with the project for a while, you have no idea what you should be testing. What does it mean to extension authors? It means that your users will be using 25 different versions of Mozilla. Is there a way to test your extension or theme with all of these? No. Same goes with web sites actually. They've been known to break between versions. I know of one web application that only worked on Netscape Communicator 4.06 and no other version. Of course, if you're an extension author, you could try only building only to the stable API releases. Do you know which the most recent one is? (Hint: The version number begins with 1 and ends with .4) I doubt many people knew that, since this isn't indicated anywhere. But, of course, don't file bugs on it, since it's too old.
In the world of Mozilla, software that was released two months ago is considered old and outdated. For other software, two months is considered new. If your file a bug on a build that is a month old, you get chastised for using an old product and the bug often gets marked invalid. Sure, some bugs are invalid (or duplicates) since they were fixed recently; many others aren't.
I stopped upgrading Mozilla a long time ago, opting instead for an occasional update. I used Mozilla 1.4 up until a month after 1.6 was released. I could have updated to get a few features or security fixes, but I didn't. Why? I'm tired of updating software. And just for the Firefox crowd, I'm also using Firebird 0.7 (still the old name). Why don't I update? I'm tired of updating software. Will I update to 1.7 or 1.8 or Firefox 1.0? I don't know. Perhaps if it's the one or two days a year when I'm not tired of updating software, I will.
I used to get excited when a new version of something arrived. I don't any more, as the new version is more of the same. Ordinary users aren't going to update software either. (People who have at some point posted a message on Mozillazine.org aren't ordinary users in this sense). They're not going to update unless there's a compelling reason to do so. And that reason has to be more than my urge not to update since I'm tired of updating software.
This is also why people don't switch from IE. Popup blocking is the only real advantage that any end user would care about, and that advantage is going away with the next IE update. Mozilla has lots of great features like tabs and type ahead find and DOM inspectors, but the reality is that advantages don't sell a product. Actually, the disadvantages of the competitor are what makes people switch. An IE user might say "Look at all these popups and ads; this makes it very difficult to use; perhaps there's something better out there." Then, they might start using Mozilla (or Firefox). However, I can't imagine any ordinary user saying. "Look at how I have to select the Find command and then type in what I want to find on the page. I wish there was a way I could find text by pressing the slash key and then typing what I want and having it find the text incrementally." No user thinks this way, since most people aren't creative enough to think of the easier way. You have to show them the easier way. And make sure to show them, since ordinary users won't know which of the many Mozilla versions to try.
I'm sure there's some reason for having a new release or pseudo release every month. Perhaps it's for QA purposes so that people who aren't tired of updating software will always get the latest versions and test them. Maybe it's to get more feedback as people who aren't tired of updating software will always get the latest versions and provide feedback. Maybe it's for marketing purposes so that slashdot and other tech news sites post articles about the newest release. I'm not sure about the latter. Mozilla has so many releases that it hardly qualifies as news any more. Reporting about a Mozilla release is like reporting that the month ended.
In my opinion, if there is still a need for frequent releases, why not make the version numbering more sensible and release ten alphas and betas, then release a final build once a year or every nine months, like most other sofware? I'm sure someone will tell me that I'm all wrong, but, as an end user, I'm tired of updating software.