26. August 2023
Bugzilla Celebrates 25 Years With Special Announcements
posted by Dave Miller - Bugzilla Project Lead
Happy 25th Birthday to Bugzilla!
Today, August 26, marks the 25th anniversary of Bugzilla!
The first two paragraphs lifted from our Bugzilla history:
When mozilla.org first came online in 1998, one of the first products that was released was Bugzilla, a bug system implemented using freely available open source tools. Bugzilla was originally written in TCL by Terry Weissman for use at mozilla.org to replace the in-house system then in use at Netscape. The initial installation of Bugzilla was deployed to the public on a mozilla.org server on April 6, 1998.
After a few months of testing and fixing on a public deployment, Bugzilla was finally released as open source via anonymous CVS and available for others to use on August 26, 1998. At this point. Terry decided to port Bugzilla to Perl, with the hopes that more people would be able to contribute to it, since Perl seemed to be a more popular language. The completion of the port to Perl was announced on September 15, 1998, and committed to CVS later that night.
25 years is a long time in the software world, and it makes us happy that so many people still use Bugzilla to track bug reports and feature requests for their own products. We hope to continue to breath life into Bugzilla and continue to modernize it over the years to come!
New Legal Entity to Manage the Bugzilla Project
Back in December I made an enthusiastic post about getting Bugzilla back in motion after it kind of stalled for a while. And then after a month I kind of stopped posting about it. So what happened?
Well, response to that post was actually pretty enthusiastic in itself. I heard from several people who wanted to donate money to the project to get it going again. Which then led to a new problem: we didn’t actually have a legal way to accept donations at the time. So after asking around a bit, and a few conference calls between myself, my own company’s lawyer, and a couple of Mozilla’s lawyers, it was decided that Bugzilla needed a legal entity to manage it, similar to how Thunderbird has been operating recently. And, that’s where the little bit of time that I’ve had to spend on Bugzilla has gone the last 6 months. And as you can understand, with the legal work going on in the background, there wasn’t much I could actually talk about until all of the pieces were actually in place.
Which now brings us to today, when I’m happy to announce the formation of Zarro Boogs Corporation, which will now be overseeing the Bugzilla Project. This is a taxable non-profit non-charitable corporation - we have filed with the IRS our intent to operate under US Tax Code §501(c)(4) (still pending approval from the IRS) meaning the IRS would require us to spend money raised on project expenses and not make a profit, but money donated to us will not earn you a tax deduction because we aren’t a charity (software development is not considered a charitable cause in the US). Unlike Thunderbird, which is a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, we are an independent entity not owned by or associated with the Mozilla Foundation, although they have licensed the use of the Bugzilla trademark to us.
The name Zarro Boogs Corporation is a shout-out to the phrase returned by Bugzilla when you run a search which returns no results, “Zarro Boogs found.” The buggy spelling of “Zero Bugs” being intentional because it’s generally believed that there’s no such thing as a project with zero bugs in it, only bugs that haven’t yet been reported, thus, saying “Zero Bugs” is, in itself, buggy. There’s a nice write-up of this on Wikipedia.
If you would like to contribute to the project, we have a donation page set up on GitHub Sponsors. We hope to have additional ways to donate that don’t require a GitHub account in the future.
Those releases I talked about back in December are finally happening! Look for these (except for 5.9.1) this coming week! Right now we’re aiming for Wednesday, August 30th. We are aiming for September 15 for 5.9.1 (because it’s the 25th anniversary of the port from Tcl to Perl).
4.4.14 – The 4.4 branch has been on life support for a LONG time (it was initially released in 2013!!!). It supports outdated OSes that are hard to find or install, let alone test for these days, and we’ve been itching to drop it for a long time. But our support policy says that we have to support it for 4 months after the following two major releases. The next major release after 4.4 was 5.0, and there have been no major releases after that, which means that 4 month countdown hasn’t even started yet. I am intending this to be the final release of the 4.4 branch (barring any additional security issues being found in the next 4 months) as the 5.2 release below will start that 4 month countdown to End-of-Life this branch.
220.127.116.11 – Why 18.104.22.168 when there’s a 5.0.6 release? Well, if you paid attention to the change logs, 5.0.5 and 5.0.6 contained a massive schema change, as well as reformatting almost all of the Perl code in the source, both of which are a violation of our support policy for a stable branch (a new-to-the-process release manager pushed the release out not realizing that, and by the time we caught it, it was too late). A lot of people noticed this and never upgraded to 5.0.5 or 5.0.6, since they didn’t contain any security fixes. 22.214.171.124 will give those people additional fixes for 5.0.4 without forcing them to pick up those schema and code reformatting changes. Additional updates to the 5.0 branch from now on will continue from 126.96.36.199 and onward.
5.2 – This will be the next major release, and will start the 4 month countdown for discontinuing the 4.4 branch. 5.2 is forked from the 5.0 branch after 5.0.6, and will contain those schema and code formatting changes from 5.0.5 and 5.0.6 in it. So if you did upgrade to 5.0.6, 5.2 will be equivalent to a point upgrade for you. Those schema changes should have caused a major release to happen anyway, so this is just fixing the numbering problem with that release (i.e. 5.0.5 should have been called 5.2 to begin with). Note that if you are using the 5.1.x development releases, those did NOT feed into this, and 5.2 would actually be a downgrade for you.
5.1.3 – The 5.1 branch is basically dead, as we’ve put all of our resources into finishing off the Harmony release (see 5.9.1 below). We’re going to encourage people on 5.1.x to move to Harmony, but you’ll want to be mindful of the release blockers first before you make the jump. There are some features in 5.1.x that were implemented differently in Harmony, and the code to migrate the related data may or may not work yet (if the feature in question is listed on the release blockers and you use it, you’ll want to wait for now). Even though this branch is dead, we’re going to put out a release with the current batch of security fixes so you aren’t left high and dry before Harmony is ready for you.
5.9.1 – Coming September 15! This will be the first official release off the Harmony branch, and will be classified as a developer preview release, not for production use. This is what will eventually be Bugzilla 6. The code is mostly good enough to use right now, but there are still showstoppers to be able to fully release it as a production release. There are also a few gotchas when upgrading from older versions of Bugzilla. If you’re interested in helping make Bugzilla 6 happen, that list of showstoppers is here. We are hoping to have Bugzilla 6 in release candidate stage (or at least in beta) by the end of November. The security content for this branch that goes with the other branch releases will be committed to git at the same time the other releases get them, since anyone who has this already will only have it via git pull.
Immediate Help Wanted
- Documentation. Harmony (5.9.1) in particular needs a LOT of documentation help, as what’s there now is pretty specific to trying to produce a testing environment for bugzilla.mozilla.org, rather than a standalone Bugzilla.
- Section 508 Compliance Audit. There are a number of US government agencies who use Bugzilla internally (NASA is a publicly visible example). New US government projects have to comply with the new accessibility guidelines in Section 508 of the Communications Act, so if we want them to be able to upgrade we need to comply (at least in our newer versions). See https://section508.gov/. There is a template for a compliance statement at https://www.section508.gov/sell/vpat/. I would love to get a volunteer (or a company who can sponsor someone?) who could audit the 5.2 and harmony branches for compliance, file bugs for things that are violations, and figure out how much of the VPAT we can actually provide at this point. Even if we’re not compliant yet (I suspect we aren’t) I would love to be able to provide a statement with the 5.2 release saying how compliant we are, and listing what’s left to be fixed to make us compliant. See also Bug 1785941. Some work has been done on this (as you can see in the dependent bugs to that one) but it still needs help.
Ongoing Help Wanted
You can always find a list of ways to contribute to Bugzilla on our Contributing page. A few highlights with additional details:
- Donate Money. Now that we have a legal entity capable of paying developers, we need money to pay them with (and also cover our server hosting expenses). You can donate via our GitHub Sponsors page. If you don’t have and can’t create a GitHub account, we hope to have other ways to donate in the future.
- Bug Triage! As you probably noticed from the lack of updates around here in a while, the bug list hasn’t been getting paid much attention to, either. Part of getting this project moving again means re-triaging the existing bug reports. Some of them are really ancient and may not even apply to the current code-base anymore. I’m going to have another blog post coming in the next day or two (for real this time) with information on this topic (specifics for how to help with it), so keep an eye out for that post!
- Code! Once we get the above triage moving, there will be bugs to fix! Bugzilla is an Open Source project, and anyone can contribute! We also have a relatively small user base compared to some of the big projects out there, so the amount of development we’ll be able to fund internally from our donations will still be limited. It will probably make better sense for us to use our internal developers (once we have money to pay some) to review patches and coach external contributors, instead of having them directly producing code.
- Paid Developer Time. If you are a business that makes use of Bugzilla, and has a staff person responsible for maintaining your Bugzilla installation, and that person is willing, please consider officially sponsoring that person to help with upstream Bugzilla development for at least a few hours per week. Most of our lack of development lately has happened because the last few companies that used to do that stopped providing developer time during the economic downturn a few years back (either laid off said person or pulled them away to work on other things), and they haven’t returned. The developers we have currently (until we get money donated as listed above) are all volunteer, and most of them are struggling to find time to work on it.
We have a lot of excitement ahead of us with the first developer preview of Bugzilla 6 coming later this week (I was hoping to have that for you all today as well, but we didn’t quite make it), and the new opportunities in store for us with a real business entity to support the project now. Come find us in any of our chat rooms (links are in the footer of our website alongside the social media links) or drop in on our developers mailing list if you’d like to help.