Mozilla, the open-source organization behind the Firefox browser, has laid out plans to upgrade Firefox 3.5 users to Firefox 4.0 in an attempt to kill the aging pre-4.0 releases as soon as possible. More than twelve million users who are still running Firefox 3.5 versions will be automatically updated to the latest GPU-accelerated version, thanks to the silent updating mechanism. This is a first for Mozilla as they’ve thus far put users in control whenever a Firefox software update became available.

“We need a plan to obsolete Firefox 3.5 as we can’t support it into perpetuity. We have been frustrated with our efforts to move users off of old releases and are worried too many people do not upgrade and are on vulnerable and unsupported versions of Firefox,” the team wrote on the MozillaWiki site. Also, Mozilla is now offering a new pre-release channel for those wishing to try out experimental Firefox features before they are rolled out to beta releases.

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The new channel dubbed Aurora lets you “experience the newest innovations in an unstable environment that’s not for the faint of heart and provide feedback on features and performance to help determine what makes the final release”, Mozilla said. At press time, the Aurora channel hosted Firefox 5.0 Alpha 2 for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Last month Google debuted a similar Chrome alpha channel for Mac OS X users dubbed Canary. Google Chrome was the first browser to sport a silent updating mechanism. This has worked out well to keep all users on the same page with Google, helping the company roll out important security updates at a rapid pace.

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