Mozilla slates second Firefox 3.0 auto-update this week

Hopes to convince laggards to upgrade before Firefox 2.0 loses support

Mozilla will take another stab this week at convincing users running older versions of its Firefox browser to update to version 3.0, the company said Tuesday.

On Thursday, Mozilla plans to offer Firefox 3.0.5, the most-up-to-date edition, to users of Firefox 2.0.0.18, the latest version of the company's 2006 browser. The offer will be the second so-called "Major Update" presented to users since Mozilla launched Firefox 3.0 in June.

The first offer was triggered in late August, and was accepted by more than 50 percent of the people using the older Firefox 2.0 at the time, Mozilla said.

Currently, three-fourths of Mozilla's users are running Firefox 3.0, according to data released Monday by Web metrics firm Net Applications. During November, Firefox 2.0 accounted for 4.8 percent of all browsers used, while the newer Firefox 3.0 held a 15.6 percent market share.

Mozilla will repeat the original offer, which let users choose between accepting the update, postponing it 24 hours or declining it. In August, declining the offer meant that Mozilla might repeat it at some later date, something still possible after Thursday's offer.

"Right now, we're planning on doing one additional Major Update offer in early 2009, with slightly modified text that explains to users that (at that time) Firefox 2 will no longer be supported," said Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox, in an e-mail Tuesday.

As Beltzner noted, Mozilla plans to drop support for Firefox 2.0 after it releases a final set of security patches for the older browser; that update, Firefox 2.0.0.19, is now slated to appear two weeks from today, on December 16. The last two security updates -- Firefox 2.0.0.17 and 2.0.0.18 -- patched a total of 26 vulnerabilities in October and November, respectively.

Some users reported problems with several Symantec consumer security products, including Norton 360, after updating to Firefox 3.0 in August. At the time, Symantec urged users to update their Norton-branded software on Windows PCs before trying to upgrade to Firefox 3.0.

Users who decide Thursday that they would rather return to the older version will still be able to download Firefox 2.0 from Mozilla's Web site and reinstall it.

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Gregg Keizer

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