Firefox 64-bit will live on through nightlies after user backlash

By on December 26, 2012, 5:00 PM

Mozilla is backtracking on its decision to kill the 64-bit version of Firefox following heavy backlash from users. Last month, managing engineer Benjamin Smedberg called for coders to cease development of the 64-bit builds, calling them a "constant source of misunderstanding and frustration" due to lousy support for plug-ins, performance enhancements and bug fixes, which effectively made 64-bit users second-class.

To an extent, it sounded like Smedberg thought Mozilla would be doing folks a favor by forcing them to use the 32-bit browser, which is better supported all around. However, many 64-bit users disagreed quite strongly with that notion -- especially those who regularly hit the 4GB memory limit of the 32-bit browser. That negative response has prompted Smedberg to announce a modified plan that serves as a compromise.

Although Mozilla still plans to force 64-bit users on to a 32-bit version of Firefox through an automatic update, the developer will continue to provide nightly builds of the 64-bit browser. It seems this move would help transition those running 64-bit variants to a more secure 32-bit version of Firefox, while folks who are hell-bent on running the 64-bit version can always redownload and reinstall it after the forced migration.

Additionally, Smedberg plans to change the default first-run and update page for 64-bit builds to tell users they're running unsupported software. He also wants to disable the browser's crash reporter, enable click-to-play plugins by default as well as reduce engineering loads by discontinuing 64-bit tests and on-checkin builds -- we're not entirely sure what that entails, but it simply sounds like less developmental focus.

"After I announced my decision to disable 64-bit Windows nightlies, there was significant negative feedback. 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," Smedberg said. "I do hope that the projects and developers who are interested in win64 will work together to maintain this build configuration. I am interested in hearing from volunteers who want to become the 64-bit build maintainer. I will also set up a discussion list specifically for win64 issues, if that would be valuable."

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