Following Firefox's New Development Channels with Ubuntu


Shortly after Firefox 4’s release, Mozilla announced the move to a channel development model, à la Chrome. On Windows and Mac, builds from these channels update themselves; what about on Linux, where both self-updating software and software outside management of the package manager (i.e. manually installed) is taboo?

If you use Debian, Mike Hommey and the Debian Mozilla Team’s provides packages for the Firefox Stable, Beta, Aurora, and Nightly channels. Be aware that these packages are still labeled Iceweasel, i.e. they lack the official Firefox branding. These packages work on Ubuntu should you want to use them.

What if you want something more Ubuntu-specific? PPAs following each of the channels exist, but they’re not obvious to find.

Nightly builds of Firefox trunk, formerly known as “Minefield” builds, are available in the Ubuntu Mozilla Daily PPA. Remember, Nightly builds receive little testing (e.g. can they build without errors?) and thus may crash frequently. Start using these builds by pasting the following into your terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install firefox-trunk

Firefox’s new build channel, Aurora, has builds that have had more testing than those from Nightly. Builds from the Aurora channel are available from the firefox-aurora PPA, which you can use with:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mozilla-daily/firefox-aurora
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install firefox

The Beta channel, containing builds that received more testing than Aurora and are (mostly) ready to be released, is available in the firefox-next PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/firefox-next
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install firefox

Lastly, if you want to follow the Stable channel, consider sticking with what’s available in Ubuntu’s normal repositories. Ubuntu has a (new) policy to bring stable Firefox updates to Ubuntu releases more quickly. If you really want to be testing the next Firefox release, try the Beta channel above. If you still want the “bleeding edge” of stable, there’s the firefox-stable PPA, which will go away soon, and Ubuntu’s Mozilla Security Team PPA, within which packages only remain until they are moved into the main archive.

Notice that the Aurora, Beta, and Stable channels contain packages of the same name: “firefox”; this means:

  1. You can only install Firefox from one channel at a time.
  2. They all will use the same profile and profile registry. You’ll need to manually switch profiles or alter shortcuts to launch the desired profile if you desire different.

Packages in the Nightly channel, however, are named firefox-trunk and can be co-installed alongside builds from another channel.

To switch to another channel, disable the source with Ubuntu’s Software Properties or delete the appropriate file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/:

sudo rm /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-mozilla-team-firefox-aurora\*list
sudo rm /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mozillateam\*list

Then re-add the appropriate repository to switch to a desired channel.

Hopefully, with easy-to-use PPAs available for each of Firefox’s build channels, more people, including you, will test these builds. Go forth and test!

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