The 64-bit builds of Firefox for Windows have been cancelled, with no news from Mozilla on the future of the browser on that platform.
The Mozilla Foundation has announced that it is ceasing work on the 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows, claiming that the browser is a 'constant source of misunderstanding and frustration.
Currently, Mozilla builds Firefox in 32-bit and 64-bit flavours for all its platforms, excluding the Android build codenamed Fennec. On Linux, it's typical for the 64-bit build of Firefox to be bundled by default with 64-bit distributions, while on Windows it can be installed manually as an alternative to the default 32-bit build.
It's the Windows version, however, that Mozilla claims is causing heartache. In a post
from Mozilla's Benjamin Smedberg, the 64-bit builds are claimed to be 'a constant source of misunderstanding and frustration
' for users, causing extra work on the development team for the open-source browser.
Smedberg points to issues with the lack of available 64-bit plugins under Windows, with many popular plugins requiring the 32-bit build of the browser to operate, frequent hangs in plugins that do exist due to differences between the 32-bit and 64-bit editions, and issues with bug reporting that cause important bugs to get lost in the 'noise' of 64-bit-related issues.
According to The Next Web
, which has been tracking the discussion since Smedberg suggested shutting off nightly and weekly builds of 64-bit Firefox for Windows, the issue has now come to a head - and 64-bit Firefox for Windows is no more.
With a claimed 50 per cent of Firefox Nightly users on Windows - who, by definition, are on the cutting-edge and who don't mind trading stability for the ability to try out new features before anybody else - using the 64-bit build, Mozilla's decision to cease building the software leaves a not-inconsiderable proportion of its user base in the lurch. Those running on Linux or OS X can continue to enjoy the benefits of a native 64-bit browser, but Windows users appear to be left with legacy 32-bit code for the foreseeable future.
At least, if they choose to stick with the official Firefox builds. As an open-source project, the Firefox code is open to all to remix and rework as they see fit, and one such project does exactly that with the aim of making a more reliable 64-bit Firefox. The Waterfox Project
takes the Firefox codebase and tweaks it to improve performance and introduce full 64-bit capabilities. Available exclusively for Windows, the software typically lags behind Firefox - the latest Waterfox is 16.01, compared to Firefox 17.0 - but for now looks like the best choice should Mozilla stick to its guns on the 64-bit Windows issue.