There appears to be a bug in the latest versions of Firefox, which disallows the proper behavior for updating the browser with security fixes. The Mozilla site has begun an investigation into a problem that occurs over several versions of the browser, and can cause crashing.
Mozilla has stopped providing security updates to Firefox users as it investigates a bug that caused computers to crash last week.
Computerworld blogger Michael Horowitz first reported on the problem last Sunday after he tried to update older editions of Firefox on several different machines.
When Horowitz asked Firefox 3.5.11, 3.6.3 and 3.6.8 if there was an update, the browsers told him no newer editions were available. Firefox’s up-to-date versions are 3.5.12 and 3.6.9, which Mozilla released a week ago when it patched 15 vulnerabilities, 11 of them labeled "critical."
Computerworld staffers reproduced the issue when they tried to update a copy of Firefox 3.6.6 on Windows Vista and Firefox 3.6.8 on a Mac.
Normally, older versions of Firefox will automatically receive an update with 24-48 hours after it’s released, or when the user manually selects the "Check for Updates" from the Help menu.
Monday, Mozilla said it has stopped offering Firefox 3.5.12 and 3.6.9 because of a bug that crashed some users’ machines after they’d updated, then restarted the browser.
"We’ve limited updates to Firefox 3.6.9 and Firefox 3.5.12 at this time as we evaluate some early feedback which indicates that a subset of our user base may be finding the releases unstable," said Michael Shaver, Mozilla’s head of engineering, in an e-mail reply to questions yesterday.
According to an entry in Bugzilla, Mozilla’s bug and code change database, the company began receiving a large number of crash reports after releasing Firefox 3.5.12 and 3.6.9 last week. The reports have come from machines on all three platforms — Windows, Mac and Linux — that Firefox supports, with the majority of them occurring during browser startup.
Mozilla did not say when it would switch updates back on.
The problem would seem to be much more a problem on the Linux platform, where fewer people have access to another method of downloading another browser, or an update, when the default browser (usually Firefox) dies or crashes.
For Windows users, there is the small blessing of having Internet Exploder, which can download another browser in a pinch. Mac users can use Safari to do it, if they want to replace the ailing Firefox.
Mozilla, after an early great beginning, seems to be having an entire stretch of bad luck, with the problems that kept Thunderbird down for so long, and Firefox trailing in speed since Chrome came on the scene and upped the ante for Opera’s dev team.
Now this, right when the company was poised to make a decent stab at parity with the version 4 of the browser.
Have you noticed this behavior? Tell us when you noticed the change in behavior, it could lead to someone figuring the problem out sooner.
This could make you pull out your own hair…