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Mozilla Forcing Firefox 3.5 Users to Upgrade

The 12 million consumers still using Mozilla’s Firefox 3.5 may soon be forced to upgrade to v3.6 if the automatic updates are turned on. The plan was revealed in a message posted by Firefox release manager Christian Legnitto last week, revealing that the Firefox team wants the upgrade done "quickly" and to Firefox 4.0 preferably, even if the team has to "dangle the carrot."

"We don't think self-selection will ultimately get us to the place we need to be," he said. "We will force 3.6 on 3.5 stragglers not choosing to update to Firefox 4 or 3.6 (give them the stick). We feel comfortable making the major update choice for users because a) the versions are very similar and b) we'd rather lose a small amount of miffed users than leave a large amount of users vulnerable."

Firefox 3.5's end of life became apparent a few weeks ago when Mozilla released the browser's last set of security patches. Now the team wants to kill off the browser in June altogether, and thus have begun to offer an upgrade to Firefox 4 to people running Firefox 3.5 and Firefox 3.6 starting last week. But many will resist the change, and apparently can do so simply by disabling automatic updates.

"We are treating the automatic update checkbox enabled as a 'Yes, I want Mozilla to keep me updated,'" Legnitto wrote. "Previously as a courtesy we had people opt-in between major versions due to the potential jarring nature of the update. We feel the difference between 3.5 and 3.6 is not severe and with 3.5 reaching end-of-life 3.6 is the security update for 3.5 users."

Starting Tuesday, May 17, Mozilla will switch the snippets over to the "unsupported" snippets. While that's happening, the Firefox team will put a big warning on all Mozilla web properties, pointing Firefox users to the new version to download. "Your version of Firefox is no longer protected against online attacks," the warning reads. "Get the upgrade -- it's fast and it's free!"

In other words, Mozilla plans to annoy stubborn Firefox users to the point where they have no choice but to upgrade. Ingenious.

"These 3.5 stragglers (with automatic updates turned on) have been shown multiple in-product pop-ups urging them to update to Firefox 3.6, a pop-up urging them to update to 4.0, first run pages telling them to go to mozilla.com and get a newer version, etc," Legnitto later said after apologizing for using the word force. "So far, they have not taken the updates for whatever reasons."

Mozilla notes that there will be a certain percentage that simply can't upgrade including those on older/unsupported Linux platforms, users without administration privileges, users on PPC machines or Mac OS X 10.4 and below. These doomed souls will simply suffer the barrage of eternal upgrade warnings, or jump ship entirely and use a different, non-nagging browser.

To download the latest version of Firefox locally (v4.0.1), head here.