Mozilla Kills 64-Bit Windows Firefox Development

Mozilla Engineering Manager Benjamin Smedberg had started a discussion on Google Groups about ceasing development of Windows 64-Bit builds last Friday (November 23rd). This had been purposed as well back in March of this year. Shortly before Mozilla’s Thanksgiving recess on Wednesday, Smedberg announced:

Thank you to everyone who participated in this thread. Given the existing information, I have decided to proceed with disabling windows 64-bit nightly and hourly builds. Please let us consider this discussion closed unless there is critical new information which needs to be presented.

The reasons for ending the development of the Windows 64-Bit builds were many but included:

  • Many plugins are not available in 64-bit versions.
  • The plugins that are available don’t work correctly in Firefox because we haven’t implemented things like windowproc hooking, which means that hangs are more common.
  • Crashes submitted by 64-bit users are currently not high priority because we are working on other things.

This announcement seems to coincidentally comes the day after a major Bug (813619) was causing a huge spike in the number of crashes on the Nightly Windows 64-Bit builds. Contrary to the last bullet point above, this bug was fixed rather quickly and a more ‘stable’ version of the Nightly Windows 64-bit build was available the next day. Plugins has always been Mozilla’s excuse, reason, justification, etc. for the lack of a Windows 64-Bit build. Though the (unspoken) bottom line is, it would be too much work for Mozilla to rebuild Firefox from the ground up to properly support Windows 64-Bit.

Currently in the 64-Bit Windows browser market there is only Internet Explorer and Opera. Chrome, like Firefox does have an unofficial/developmental 64-Bit version for Windows. So as it stands now the only way to get a 64-Bit version of Firefox is to go with the unofficial builds such as Pale Moon or Waterfox. Unfortunately, I never looked at Pale Moon and while I had been happy with and recommended Waterfox. That quickly changed when I went to install version 15 and discovered the developer’s were trying to secretly install Bloatware when installing the application. The user did have the option (albeit hidden) to not install the bloatware. However, I became extremely unhappy and reversed my recommendation when I found out that using the application’s uninstaller result in the bloatware being installed without my consent.

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4 Comments on Mozilla Kills 64-Bit Windows Firefox Development

  1. I sometimes use Pale Moon x64 when I know I won’t be needing multimedia plug-ins or wanting to save history and bookmarks for use in Firefox, but to be honest, I haven’t noticed any significant performance differences compared to 32-bit Firefox. I wonder if development of Waterfox and Pale Moon x64 will come to an end now that Mozilla is no longer doing the heavy lifting (as I’m assuming Mozilla has). I played around with Waterfox for a while but uninstalled it after the slealth bloatware problem was reported. Also, apparently because Waterfox shares its profile with 32-bit Firefox, every time I switched back to Firefox I had to start Firefox, confirm reinstallation of 32-bit plug-ins that had been disabled in Waterfox, and then start Firefox again. That eventually got old, despite the convenience of having the same history, bookmarks, toolbar layouts, preferences, etc., in both browsers.

    Anyway, I’m not sure how urgent it is as this point to have a 64-bit version of Firefox. The plug-ins aren’t there, and for probably the majority of users, the >4GB RAM to take advantage of it isn’t there.

    Incidentally — this refers to a previous post — the “development” build of Tab Mix Plus seems to have fixed all of the conflicts with Firefox 17.0 that I was getting with the most recent release build, and I’ve seen a bunch of comments elsewhere reporting the same thing.

  2. @peterinseattle Thanks for the info on TMP. I didn’t have the ‘profile issues’ as you mentioned as I created a separate profile just for Waterfox via the Profilemanager application. I am not sure if this will be the end of those. I’ve always wondered why “they” could make 64-bit versions, but Mozilla couldn’t.

  3. “…because we are working on other things.” Mozilla is focused on the mobile platform now like everyone else. Firefox is open source, that means anyone can access and work on the code. Pale Moon & Waterfox are unofficial forks. I’m sure you’ll continue to see the 64 bit builds from those teams as long as they continue to work on them.

  4. Moz claims plugins are the reason for not going 64, yet other 64-bit browsers, Explorer and Chrome, for example, seem not to have this problem. What does mozilla do to break compatibility? Maybe they should consider a redesign to allow multi-core usage (1 global lock in the javascript code mono-threads all scripting) and using the same plugins IE and Chrome do?

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