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23 November 2012, 12:50

Mozilla puts 64-bit Firefox for Windows on hold

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Mozilla is putting 64-bit Firefox for Windows on hold to concentrate resources on the 32-bit Windows version of the browser. Last Friday, Firefox developer Benjamin Smedberg proposed that Mozilla should drop the experimental 64-bit nightly builds of Firefox for Windows and, despite some protests, that proposal appears to have been accepted.

Back in March, Firefox Product Manager Asa Dotzler wrote an email to the Mozilla Development mailing list which led to Mozilla deciding not to elevate the 64-bit Windows version of the browser to the status of an official release, but instead maintain nightly builds of an experimental 64-bit version.

Since then it has become apparent to the developers that the experimental 64-bit version was diverting tester attention away from of the testing of the official 32-bit edition for Windows. Therefore, Smedberg suggested that the 64-bit nightly builds should be dropped until the supported 32-bit release is of higher quality and Mozilla can muster the resources to concentrate on development of 64-bit Firefox for Windows.

Smedberg has received numerous responses to his proposal by users who are disappointed that the 64-bit nightly builds would be discontinued. Users with a large number of open tabs, for example, will run into the resource limit on the 32-bit version of the browser. Google's Chrome browser, which does not provide a 64-bit version on Windows either, gets around this problem by splitting each tab into its own process, an approach that the Firefox developers were planning to integrate into their browser as well, but those plans have been dropped.

In response to the criticisms, the Firefox developers point out that they simply do not have the resources to deal with the 64-bit specific bug reports from testers of the nightly builds and that they want to concentrate on fixing the 32-bit version instead. Smedberg comments: "if we had infinite resources, we certainly would continue with win64 builds now. We will revisit our priorities and probably will resume win64 builds in the future if we decide that focusing on win64 is an important project priority. But almost certainly not until the middle of 2013."

The 32-bit version of Firefox for Windows, for the most part, works flawlessly on 64-bit systems. Users who absolutely need a 64-bit version of Firefox may want to look at Waterfox, an unofficial derivative of Firefox that aims to provide exactly that. While it is a few versions behind the official Firefox release, it does provide a pure 64-bit experience for users of Windows XP, Vista and 7.


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