Firefox 64-bit development quietly ended for Windows

By on November 22, 2012, 1:30 PM

It appears Mozilla has quietly toe-tagged 64-bit builds of its Firefox browser for Windows. In a Google Groups discussion, managing engineer Benjamin Smedberg requested coders halt development on nightly builds of its 64-bit Windows distribution.

Mozilla's reasons to end 64-bit flavors of Firefox are numerous: limited plug-in availability, more frequent hang-ups and performance issues, stability problems due in part to a niche user/developer base, difficulty distinguishing between 32-bit and 64-bit bug reports and a general feeling that 64-bit users are second-class.

There was a five-day lapse between the question's proposal and the subsequent confirmation which affirmed the demise of Firefox's more futuristic alter ego. During this time, thread participants issued a number of mixed replies both for and against the decision.

One user said, "I agree whole-heartedly about switching off Win64 Nightly builds - crash-stats are just the tip of the iceberg.", linking to this discussion which spells out some of the troubles developers and users have been experiencing with x64 builds. Another user suggested, "How about you fix the problems instead?" -- the assumption being if Mozilla focused on 64-bit development, those supposed issues would no longer be a reason for the organization to eviscerate the project.

Since Smedberg's proposal specifically called out Firefox builds for Windows, 64-bit development appears to be safe for other platforms, like Linux -- for now. If it were to be canned for Linux users though, a x64 build of Chromium seems like the best alternative for 64-bit purists.

It's interesting to note that although Firefox alternatives like Internet Explorer and Opera offer 64-bit browsers, Google Chrome remains exclusively 32-bit for Windows. By virtue of being 32-bit, Firefox is limited to 2GB of memory usage -- one of the benefits to being 64-bit is access to more physical RAM. Unlike Mozilla's browser, Chrome runs each tab as its own process. This trick allows Chrome to gracefully surpass the 2GB limit without having to be 64-bit.




User Comments: 29

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captainawesome captainawesome said:

It's not clear but does this mean Waterfox is going under? I use Waterfox on all my Windows machines and it's great!

sapo joe said:

I stopped using Firefox altogether because of this. I loved waterfox, but it's been months since the last update and recently it started to crash every 5 minutes. So, I made my (painless) move to chrome, that, inspite of being 32bit, is running faster.

I just miss my youtube download component.

Edit: Just found a youtube dowloader for Chrome...

Guest said:

This doesn't mean that waterfox is done for, just the official 64-bit nightly builds. Waterfox is compiled from the source code which means it's safe.

Levingston Levingston said:

Waterfox updated a few weeks ago..maybe you should check their website every once in awhile for their browser updates, dude.

I stopped using Firefox altogether because of this. I loved waterfox, but it's been months since the last update and recently it started to crash every 5 minutes. So, I made my (painless) move to chrome, that, inspite of being 32bit, is running faster.

I just miss my youtube download component.

yhtomitn64 yhtomitn64 said:

Besides a process using more memory what is the benefit of a 64 bit browser?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Besides a process using more memory what is the benefit of a 64 bit browser?

So you don't have to run Windows, (x86), on top of Windows, (x64). There's arguably a speed penalty for doing so. As to whether or not that's a benefit, or can be quantified by a home user, remains to be seen / who cares.

I expect that until the majority of internet transmission is 64 bits , then perhaps a 64 bit browser wouldn't be necessary.

Remember, you can't argue against more, (or excess), memory usage in this market. Intel has capped CPU memory management capability on certain CPUs to 32GB. That's still way more than you'll ever need for a browser.

Keep in mind, software and hardware manufacturers are doing s*** simply because they can, hoping to invent a market for it later. 64 bit browser, gotta have it, (as long as it's not "Chrome" .

sapo joe said:

Waterfox updated a few weeks ago..maybe you should check their website every once in awhile for their browser updates, dude.

I updated to the latest and it didn't solve the problem.

If you read the news in question, you'd see they're stoping to develop it.

captainawesome captainawesome said:

I stopped using Firefox altogether because of this. I loved waterfox, but it's been months since the last update and recently it started to crash every 5 minutes. So, I made my (painless) move to chrome, that, inspite of being 32bit, is running faster.

I just miss my youtube download component.

Edit: Just found a youtube dowloader for Chrome...

Waterfox uses a separate updater. It is not built in like Firefox. You should search your start menu for it

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

@captaincrancky

I expect that until the majority of internet transmission is 64 bits , then perhaps a 64 bit browser wouldn't be necessary.
64bit data on the Internet is not a requirement to support 64bit browsers - - they are two different concepts. 64bit data is also not a requirement to support IPv6 network addressing.

Try this analogy; An interstate UPS truck carries many more packages than the local delivery truck. Whether Interstate or local, the package still has the same tracking number, is the same weight and size. The Internet is akin to the package itself, not the truck in which it was it transported. Our browsers can 'hold more packages' in a 64bit browser than they can hold in a 32bit browser. Due to User Interface design issues, a single webpage is seldom more than a few Page Down strokes. Even vary large PDF presentations can be delivered in 32bit Internet packets.

sapo joe said:

I stopped using Firefox altogether because of this. I loved waterfox, but it's been months since the last update and recently it started to crash every 5 minutes. So, I made my (painless) move to chrome, that, inspite of being 32bit, is running faster.

I just miss my youtube download component.

Edit: Just found a youtube dowloader for Chrome...

Waterfox uses a separate updater. It is not built in like Firefox. You should search your start menu for it

Read my other reply.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

Another user suggested, "How about you fix the problems instead?" -- the assumption being if Mozilla focused on 64-bit development, those supposed issues would no longer be a reason for the organization to eviscerate the project.

EXACTLY... such an easy decision to just drop 64-bit because people couldn't be stuffed doing it until the shit hits the fan rather than being pro-active. Hopeless...

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

Besides a process using more memory what is the benefit of a 64 bit browser?

64-bit has better native process protection mechanisms in Windows e.g. harder to exploit holes such as memory leaks in applications in 64-bit.

Apart from that, not really anything special but memory limits are worth at least monitoring. Particularly for Firefox. Running half a dozen addons and a dozen tabs, my firefox memory can easily hit over 1GB. 32-bit limit is normally 2GB (you can get this up to 3GB with some options enabled). Not a whole lot of headroom.

dcnc123 dcnc123 said:

Yeah... I think they should focus on 32bit... or better yet improve their bug tracking to determine what and which version of the browser got errors.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Apart from that, not really anything special but memory limits are worth at least monitoring. Particularly for Firefox. Running half a dozen addons and a dozen tabs, my firefox memory can easily hit over 1GB. 32-bit limit is normally 2GB (you can get this up to 3GB with some options enabled). Not a whole lot of headroom.
Almost everyday I regret giving in to updating past FF 3.6. I can put up, literally hundreds of tabs and chug along on a machine with only 1.5 GB of memory. It's usually hovering around 700 to 800MB. This is on an XP box. When FF does finally decide to crash, it just goes away in an instant. Running multiple security solutions, I could care less if a 64 bit browser would be more natively secure. It's a moot point. Of course, I do my banking on another machine.

I'm on FF17 now with Windows 7 32 bit. about 70 tabs are open, and task manager is telling me I'm using about 700MB of memory.

I'm not sure what add-ons I would have to install to get results similar to yours. Let me know please, so I'll have the good sense to avoid them.

Guest said:

They never actually worked on it.

Guest said:

The problem I've seen with 64 bit browsers is not the browsers themselfs but the plugins.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I honestly don't see where the fuss is! Why not stop creating problems for themselves and fix the ones they are facing. Since they started the rapid version acceleration, I have heard nothing but complaints. Stopping development of 64-bit is not a solution, it's a stall on moving forward into the future.

MrAnderson said:

We really need to just push everyone off 32 bit so that developers can focus on 1 code base. And the people that are actually using 64 bit and know it can have some peace. Microsoft should stop offering 32 bit Windows (We had XP, Vista, 7, now 8). 64 bit runs 32 bit code, and it will let all the driver manufacturers hurry up and support 64 bit since 32 will bite the dust... Geez... Are we there yet! No?! What's the hold up?!

p3ngwin said:

Other browsers manage it like Internet Explorer, and even smaller market-share browsers with smaller engineering teams and less money mange it like Opera.

What's Mozilla's excuse ??

Plugins? Java and Adobe Flash have 64bit version for a while now. So what's the reason ?

Incompetence, laziness, disorganized.

MrAnderson said:

Other browsers manage it like Internet Explorer, and even smaller market-share browsers with smaller engineering teams and less money mange it like Opera.

What's Mozilla's excuse ??

Plugins? Java and Adobe Flash have 64bit version for a while now. So what's the reason ?

Incompetence, laziness, disorganized.

I agree. Driver support is at an all time high. There needs to be a hard deadline or no one will plan for the move. Here is hoping we will see it with Windows 9.

p3ngwin said:

We really need to just push everyone off 32 bit so that developers can focus on 1 code base. And the people that are actually using 64 bit and know it can have some peace. Microsoft should stop offering 32 bit Windows (We had XP, Vista, 7, now 8). 64 bit runs 32 bit code, and it will let all the driver manufacturers hurry up and support 64 bit since 32 will bite the dust... Geez... Are we there yet! No?! What's the hold up?!

totally agreed.

CPU's have been ubiquitously 64Bit for over 5 years, and we're still getting 32Bit OS's ?

people ask what the point it for 64Bit and what's the harm running 32Bit code on 64Bit OS's like Windows.

my answer is "you go back to running 16Bit programs on your OS and get back to me when your system runs like crap, then ask again why running 32bit programs on 64Bit OS's is insanity".

The Driver benefits alone are worth their weight in Gold.

you want to run legacy programs? then you can enjoy running them on legacy hardware, but what you don't get to do is hold up the evolution of the planet just because you want to try and run the latest software on your archaic hardware.

can't run the latest 64bit browser with all the benefits of GPU acceleration and 64Bit plugins, etc? replace that 5+ year-old computer and stop holding the rest of us back.

it's not as if we're going to migrate to 128Bit computing any time soon, so get rid of 32Bit and fully invest into the CURRENT generation of 64BIT computing.

MrAnderson said:

The thing is we get the good parts this time around. There is hardly any issues running 32 bit software on the 64 bit Windows. It is the drivers for hardware that need updating. In most cases there is no reason people should have to purchase new hardware if the manufacturer can create the updated drivers. I even would not mind paying for the updated drivers if I'm trying to use a device that was on XP. But why do I need to throw away my hardware if it is in ment condition and cost a lot of money. It is wasteful. Charge me like 15 bucks and extend my ability to have drivers for the current driver model for windows. Or if you tech is so old, look into open sourcing them.

p3ngwin said:

The thing is we get the good parts this time around. There is hardly any issues running 32 bit software on the 64 bit Windows. It is the drivers for hardware that need updating. In most cases there is no reason people should have to purchase new hardware if the manufacturer can create the updated drivers. I even would not mind paying for the updated drivers if I'm trying to use a device that was on XP. But why do I need to throw away my hardware if it is in ment condition and cost a lot of money. It is wasteful. Charge me like 15 bucks and extend my ability to have drivers for the current driver model for windows. Or if you tech is so old, look into open sourcing them.

I'm running Firefox with 35 tabs and about 30 extensions.

I have a triple monitor setup, I multitask a lot and I'm obviously an edge-case, or "power-user". This is relevant, as unless Mozilla get creative in Firefox's memory usage, as Web technologies increase in complexity and hardware requirements, more people will soon feel the pinch with even less tabs and extensions open.

I'm simply hitting the wall earlier than others soon will.

Firefox constantly stutters as it hits the 2GB limit for processes under 32Bit, this would not happen if Firefox was coded to capitalize on 64Bit hardware.

Chrome side-steps this problem by opening a new processes for each tab, and this works fine, as it's a lot easier to have more RAM than it is to circumvent the problem of hitting 2GB limit on Firefox's single process.

I can't do anything about Firefox's restrictive process, but I do have the flexibility to add more RAM if I need. That's not even considering the question why Internet Explorer and Opera can somehow mange 64Bit versions, so what's Mozilla's excuse ?

"But why do I need to throw away my hardware if it is in ment condition and cost a lot of money."

Your hardware may be in "mint-condition", but that doesn't mean it's software compatibility is competent. I have perfect-condition IBM 386-SX right here, why am I forced to buy an expensive modern computer to run Windows 8 and Firefox 32Bit ?

Updating your hardware from 32Bit to 64Bit brings you into the current generation of computing, and we're not going to be moving to 128Bit for decades, so complaining that your "mint-condition" hardware is obsolete is simply complaining that 32Bit didn't last decades longer than it already did.

Would you be as sympathetic to those running "mint-condition" 16Bit hardware, or did they already have their time and you would say they need to upgrade to current hardware to run current software ?

4 people like this | MarkHughes said:

I agree with some of the above posters, It's time to clear out 32bit and move on. I'm a programmer for a large 3D CAD company and we have been pushing the use of 64bit for ages. Any programmer worth his salt should be able to make any code work in 64bit.

The 64bit machines should last quite a long time, But one can never say for sure how soon 128bit will be needed or if something different will come along before that, but I say the sooner everything is 64bit the better.

If making Firefox 64bit breaks a load of plugins, then those plugins need reworking, If the programmers of them can't be bothered then the plugin will die, and rightly so.

Viva la revolucion

p3ngwin said:

I agree with some of the above posters, It's time to clear out 32bit and move on. I'm a programmer for a large 3D CAD company and we have been pushing the use of 64bit for ages. Any programmer worth his salt should be able to make any code work in 64bit.

The 64bit machines should last quite a long time, But one can never say for sure how soon 128bit will be needed or if something different will come along before that, but I say the sooner everything is 64bit the better.

If making Firefox 64bit breaks a load of plugins, then those plugins need reworking, If the programmers of them can't be bothered then the plugin will die, and rightly so.

Viva la revolucion

totally agreed.

David40 said:

I think the competence of the coders is the problem with Firefox. They can't even get the 32 bit right. I have NEVER experienced a stable version and for the last 4 years they have not been able to fix a problem that causes ones computer to freeze if you try to access the menus. This has been a serious problem effecting thousands of users over many versions and patches, and they can't figure out a fix for it.

Guest said:

> MrAnderson said:

> We really need to just push everyone off 32 bit so that developers can focus on

> 1 code base. And the people that are actually using 64 bit and know it can have

> some peace. Microsoft should stop offering 32 bit Windows (We had XP, Vista, 7,

> now 8). 64 bit runs 32 bit code, and it will let all the driver manufacturers hurry up

> and support 64 bit since 32 will bite the dust... Geez... Are we there yet! No?!

> What's the hold up?!

Sure, are you planning to buy me all new machines, just so we don't offend your tender sensibilities?

p3ngwin said:

"Sure, are you planning to buy me all new machines, just so we don't offend your tender sensibilities?"

No one owes you new hardware. For the same reason I don't come along and ask you to compensate me for the potential lost in my hardware because you won't upgrade.

You're free to use your old software, or try and run modern software on your old hardware, but don't complain when eventually software evolves requiring you to upgrade your machines.

Just as we moved from 8bit, and 16bit, were slowly moving from 32bit too. You'll eventually have to upgrade your hardware, it's inevitable.

No one one owes you anything, you either adapt or die.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

> MrAnderson said:

> We really need to just push everyone off 32 bit so that developers can focus on

> 1 code base. And the people that are actually using 64 bit and know it can have

> some peace. Microsoft should stop offering 32 bit Windows (We had XP, Vista, 7,

> now 8). 64 bit runs 32 bit code, and it will let all the driver manufacturers hurry up

> and support 64 bit since 32 will bite the dust... Geez... Are we there yet! No?!

> What's the hold up?!

Sure, are you planning to buy me all new machines, just so we don't offend your tender sensibilities?

64-bit is an extension to 32-bit.

Rephrasing means there is no way to strictly code for 64-bit, because the code for 32-bit will always be present.

x86-64

Because the full x86 16-bit and 32-bit instruction sets remain implemented in hardware without any intervening emulation, existing x86 executables run with no compatibility or performance penalties,[2] whereas existing applications that are recoded to take advantage of new features of the processor design may achieve performance improvements.

Windows 32-bit has always included an emulator mode for 16-bit applications. Since the introduction to Windows 64-bit, the 16-bit emulation was sacrificed with the introduction of 32-bit emulation mode. It wasn't because 16-bit was no longer supported, it was because 16-bit was deemed no longer needed and removed. With this said I believe Microsoft will continue to support one emulation mode for backward compatibility.

It's not Microsoft's position to force software creator to support the newest OS bit release, it is our position as consumers. I feel as if I did my part when Windows 7 came out, by preordering Windows 7 64-bit upgrade. I have been patiently waiting for 64-bit software that has since been released as well as future releases. There is no reason to drop backward compatibility, especially when our hardware still fully supports 16-bit. With all this said; I do hope the next 128-bit architecture drops all this dead weight from the past, and moves forward without backward compatibility.

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