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.