December 24th, 2012, 19:37 PM
Mozilla caves on x64 Firefox development after uproar
Mozilla on Friday backtracked from a decision to suspend all work on a 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows, acknowledging that user criticism had changed its mind.
"After I announced my decision to disable 64-bit Windows nightlies, there was significant negative feedback," admitted Benjamin Smedberg, a contributor to the open-source browser, in a message to a Mozilla planning discussion group. "After reviewing that feedback, and consulting with Release Engineering, I believe that we can keep a set of users happy by making a modification to the original plan."
In November, after months of debate, Mozilla suspended development of 64-bit (x64) Firefox for Windows, citing add-on incompatibilities, problems deciphering crash reports, and a low priority for the project.
At the time, Smedberg said that Mozilla had already decided not to ship an x64 Windows Firefox in the first half of 2013, and perhaps not at all during the year.
The x64 Firefox has been available only in the very preliminary build channel Mozilla calls "nightlies," a label for unpolished daily versions. Mozilla maintains three build channels for the general public -- Aurora, analogous to an alpha; Beta; and Release -- but the x64 browser has never made it to Aurora, much less the more stable follow-ons.
Some users said they would dump Firefox because of the decision to abandon the x64 nightlies.
The biggest advantage of a 64-bit browser on a 64-bit operating system is that it can address more than the 4GB of memory available to a 32-bit application, letting users keep open hundreds of tabs without crashing the browser.
"It seems that there are users who regularly run into the 4GB memory limits of 32-bit builds," Smedberg said in his Dec. 21 message. "These users often have hundreds or even thousands of tabs. These users are using the 64-bit nightlies not primarily to be part of our testing community, but because those builds are the best product available."