By now, it should be easy to pick a browser. Most of you probably settled on a favorite ages ago, and it’s going to take some seriously cool new features — or a whole lot of crashing — to make you switch at this point. But even if you’re in love with your default you might be wondering if you’re running the right channel.
Opera offers up Opera Next to its users. Google Chrome and Firefox both have four versions being worked on at any given time. Fortunately for Firefox users, Mozilla’s got a handy new graphic that clearly shows what you can expect from each build — Stable, Beta, Aurora, and Nightly. To seasoned veterans of the web it’s a no brainer, but the image and a little explanation is handy for more casual users who want to know if the grass is greener on the other side.
As you move from left to right on the list, the Firefox builds become more cutting edge and less polished. The Nightly build is where full-on experimentation happens. Features sometimes appear one day and disappear the next, crashing is to be expected, and not all of your favorite Firefox add-ons are going to work.
Move over to Aurora, and you’ll be treated to the first taste of upcoming Firefox features in a (relatively) stable build. While you’ll get to play with these features early, there’s no guarantee they’ll ever make it to the Beta or Stable channels.
Once Mozilla decides which features and tweaks make the cut, they’re pushed to the Beta channel. It’s the most stable of the pre-release builds, and you’re probably not going to experience many crashes or incompatibilities here. You will still get to check out the new additions before your less intrepid friends who don’t want to move away from the stable Firefox releases.
Stable releases are the builds you read about, coming every six weeks and adding a handful of new features that have made it through the testing process. Bugs have been squashed, memory leaks plugged, and security issues resolved in the weeks following the Beta debut as Mozilla prepares to push the final release to the millions of Firefox users around the globe.
For those of you who don’t need an explainer about the channels, Mozilla has also posted a release timeline. Print this out, and you’ll have no problem staying on top of what’s coming when.
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