No 64-bit version of Firefox 4.0?

I got up this morning and saw this, which led me to a pretty serious WTF moment, all before having my morning coffee.

From the article:

Mozilla’s Director of Firefox, Mike Beltzner confirmed the fact that an x64 flavor of Firefox won’t be added to the existing x86 version, per the 32-bit/64-bit Internet Explorer 8 model.

Firefox users should not despair though. Fact is that Mozilla hasn’t given up on delivering a 64-bit version of Firefox, just not with Firefox 4.0.

This implies that maybe there will be a 64-bit release for Firefox 4.1? Maybe? 4.2? 5.0? Will there be one at all? Ever?

I think that they should probably be a little more open about when there will be, and why there’s a delay.

While we’re on the subject of Firefox supported platforms that don’t make sense, also according to this article, there will be Firefox 4.0 support for Windows going back to Windows 2000… but the minimum version for Mac users is OS 10.5?

Seriously? Do they have any idea how many Mac users are out there running 10.4 or older? OS 10.5 came out in October of 2007. Windows 2000 came out ten years ago.

Linux “minimum version” is listed as “to be determined”. I’m guessing that based on the complete disregard for anyone in the Mac world running a legacy OS, Linux’s minimum version will be 2.6.30?

I know, all vitriol and sarcasm aside, I understand that there’s a lot going into the Firefox 4.0 release. And I suppose if I was feeling particularly masochistic, I could grab the source code of the latest build of the final release and just compile my own 64-bit binary.

But not releasing a 64-bit version of your browser — particularly in a release meant to play “catch up” to other competitors that have been thrashing you when it comes to innovation — is like a car stereo manufacturer only putting a cassette player in their product after the 1990s were over.

Get with the times, people. This is the kind of thing that makes people look at Firefox and think “Well, it was pretty cool back in 2005, but these days…” If there’s any wonder about the direction of things to come, a lack of innovation and keeping up with the direction technology is moving will kill a product — especially a browser — in the blink of an eye.

Some might say the same thing about Adobe’s delay in 64-bit Flash support that fired everybody up this summer.

But Flash is ubiquitous, and despite what Microsoft may think, Adobe doesn’t have any real competitors for Flash at the moment or in the near future. They can delay 64-bit support all they want, and it won’t hurt their marketshare in any significant way, not for the foreseeable future anyway.

But the browser market is still a hotly competitive one. Microsoft has been working overtime on not only making Internet Explorer keep up with the times, but are actually innovating new features and new ways for their browser to create interest among Windows users. Google has been turning heads for the past two years with Chrome. And Firefox has been slipping quietly into obsolescence. They can’t afford any delay in keeping up with the browser crowd.

Firefox might well be one of those “hey, remember this quaint old browser?” subject of discussion among technophiles, brought up in the same breath as the Commdore 64, Netscape Navigator, and OS/2, and sooner than one might think. It doesn’t take long for a browser to turn that particular corner, and there’s almost never any coming back from it.

I don’t want to see it go that way, but unless things change and change pretty quick, Firefox is only going to be slipping farther and farther behind the competition, and that’s one step closer to permanent obscurity.

19 thoughts on “No 64-bit version of Firefox 4.0?

  1. So, when new Linux users complain about this-and-that feature lacking, they’re being told to shut up because they’re given that software for free. They should be thankful instead. Not the case here. For some reason it does not apply to Mozilla… It is a “WTF moment”.

    Also, the ‘community’ always talks how you’re being protected from single vendor lock in. Because somebody else would fork the project if the original developer decides to quit. Or even better, you have the source and you can modify it for your own needs. So, Trent, why don’t you write some code to implement the missing functionality piece? Instead of having a “WTF moment”, spend your time writing the 64-bit port of Firefox 4.0
    You can call it ‘TrentFox’ 🙂

    • Ah, yes. The “if you don’t like it, do some programming yourself” response.

      While that is a strength of open source, that attitude is one of its failures. If end users have to resort to coding applications themselves in order to make them usable or useful, then companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and others will always have the upper hand, and proprietary software solutions will always and forever be the norm.

      My point is, I shouldn’t have to.

      Instead, what I will do, if Firefox ceases to meet my needs, is move on to another browser as my primary choice for my web needs. Unfortunately, in this case, it means a proprietary one, since if Firefox doesn’t do what I want it to, that’s the next best one on my list.

      “Just code it yourself” is not a valid answer to this problem. Sure, if FF fails to remain relevant, it’s quite possible that someone might pick up the torch, create a Firefox fork and innovate enough with it to make it competitive again.

      But dumping that completely on the laps of users is not constructive. Not everyone has the ability, ambition, or time to program their own applications or fork major projects. To suggest otherwise as the solution is, frankly, just going to ensure that open source forever remains an “also ran”.

    • So, when new Linux users complain about this-and-that feature lacking, they’re being told to shut up because they’re given that software for free. They should be thankful instead.

      Also: Where and when have I ever told someone to shut up because they’re getting software for free? 😕

      On the contrary, I’m often one of the only ones POINTING OUT features lacking in open source products, and bugs in how they operate.

      It’s one of my purposes in starting this blog to begin with.

  2. No Trent, I did not mean to imply that you (personally) told somebody to shut up. I apologize if accidentally got you grouped with the wrong kind of crowd.

    So, would you rather say your “WTF moment” is due to high profile of Firefox in the software World? (well flash also)

    • That’s a fair assessment. Firefox has done some amazing things in the world of technology, open source or not. It has motivated Microsoft to a flurry of browser development activity over the past few years, and it has done a lot for the open source movement as a whole by raising awareness and bringing a lot of people into a larger world.

      As such, I like to think that I’m right in holding it to a higher standard. The folks at Mozilla set this bar, not me, however. They at one point innovated in big ways, and they have arguably fallen behind.

      This “WTF moment” is my *facepalm* at the current state of affairs. Basically, if they want to continue to be relevant, they’ll get this sorted out, and quick. As anybody who has paid much attention would know, the browser market is a competitive and highly unforgiving one.

      Myself, I want to see Firefox succeed. But like Linux itself, it needs critics. It needs someone to point at what they’re doing and ask “WTF?”. Without that, they’ll just continue down the wrong path.

      Will I, with my little blog and rant make a difference? Not by itself, no. It won’t. I have no illusions about that. But I still think it needs to be said. Maybe if I say it enough, others will see what I’m talking about and ask the same questions, point out the same problems, and if enough people do, the RIGHT people might take notice.

      Or not. And Firefox will fade into obscurity.

      I, for one, hope it does not.

  3. I agree, Mozzilla needs to be careful that they do not become redundant. If they can’t keep up with innovation then they will be overtaken by other browsers and forgotten.

    You can’t sit still even in the free software arena or else you will become irrellevant. I don’t think there is a good excuse for not having a 64bit version. It totally floors me that 64bit is constantly snubbed when 32bit is yesterdays tech. It’s 2010 for crying out loud, how long has 64 bit architectures been out?

  4. I am running a 586 version of Firefox on a 64×86 processor in 64bit openSuSE. I have to because of flash is x86 and it is flaky enough as a 586 application because of flash. Yes I could run a 64x86version easily installed from rpm on the native OS repo but there is no point because of flash.

    As we know in Linux you just need to run the OS in 64 bit mode to take advantage of 5+ Gig of memory and 2 terabyte hard drives. Linus has made it a hard and fast rule to not break the applications.

    Now the ultimate issue really is no 64 bit browser encourages add on producers to not create 64 bit add on’s and encourages adobe to not produce a 64 bit flash.

  5. It doesn’t really matter to most Linux users. You get your Firefox from your distro, and most distros have 64-bit builds. The fact that Mozilla won’t provide a 64-bit binary build themselves is pretty much irrelevant. The situation is just the same as it has been for each other Firefox release; Mozilla’s never provided a 64-bit Linux binary itself, but all major distros do.

    I think the original article was mostly thinking about Windows and didn’t really consider the Linux case at all.

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  8. Mozilla builds 64-build nightly preview builds, but the previews are highly unstable.

    I’m using the unofficial amd64 builds of SeaMonkey with the latest Flash and it works fine.

  9. Assuming youv not seen the IE9 backwards compatibility thing then xD

    No XP
    No Vista
    No Windows 7 SP0
    Only SP1<

    I really feel for them 😦

  10. Reminds me of the very early days. I remember the excitement of using xmosaic in ’92 on Unix, which became NCSA Mosaic in ’93 on Windows 3 & WfW (and I still have a working v3.01 beta). Then Marc Andreessen, Jim Clark and others started Mosaic Communications Corporation (MCC). After some potentially legal dispute over the name, it was changed to Netscape Communications Corporation (NCC or just Netscape). I became a registered Netscape Developer. That relationship lasted about 2 years before I gave up in disgust and stopped being an active developer. Even IE (before v7) was based on Mosaic (which M$ licensed from Spyglass, who owned the rights to Mosaic. M$ paid Spyglass $2mill, and later were forced to pay a further $8mill after IE4 because M$ said they were no longer using Mosaic code, but that – of course – was proved to be another lie.) Then Netscape became Mozilla… and the rest, is history. I can see paralells with what happened to Mosaic/Netscape happening to Firefox (and other Mozilla projects). They have become a victim of their own success. They are doing what Netscape ended up doing… they stopped *listening* and decided “We know what’s best!” A kind of parody of Micro$oft really. What a shame.

    And so, the World continues on…

    • “Stopped listening”, indeed. One look at the “new” interface in Firefox 4 and you can pretty easily see that. They’re basically just ripping off other browsers (most notably Chrome and IE) with the tabs-on-top nonsense and the elimination of useful things like menus, and calling it “innovating”.

      I wish software developers would stop copying the mistakes of others in an endless loop and just focus on what actually works… things would probably be a lot better for everyone.

      • Yes, I agree. It’s what Micro$oft refer to as *innovation*. Of course, the truth is that they have never actually innovated. But… I best not get into that can of worms (though I could write a book, and prove it. I was also, once, part of the MSDN, and even long before MSDN existed, I worked on DOS code. All that was when I was a much more naive and almost altruistic developer.) 😉

        It would be rather nice if companies actually gave customers what they wanted, or more importantly, what they needed. Rather than just regurgitating the same old stuff that didn’t work, with a superficial face lift and a few tweaks under the hood (pardon the mixed metaphor). 🙂

        The companies hire Psychologists who tell them that eventually, the customers will give up wanting any real change and just accept what they are given. I see it happening all over. And it’s the same with politics now also. 🙂

        The Marketing people run the World. Sad, isn’t it? 🙂

        BTW, OT: Apologies for not commenting before. I have wanted to, but I would have just been agreeing with other commentator’s. 🙂 I’m not big on being a Cheerleader! LOL Anyway, I do enjoy your blog and your sanity. Thank you! 🙂

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