Mozilla: ok, you can have your 64-bit Firefox versions back

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 22, 2012
Updated • Dec 24, 2012

64-bit builds of Firefox were released by Mozilla in conjunction with 32-bit builds for nearly two years for the Windows platform. Mozilla about a month ago announced a change that stopped the creation and development of 64-bit Windows builds of Firefox in favor of concentrating resources on 32-bit builds and other projects.

A couple of reasons were given for that move, from missing or incomplete plugin support for 64-bit versions of Firefox to the builds being slower than 32-bit versions of the browser. A couple of reasons where internal in nature, the stability team for instance had problems distinguishing between 32-bit and 64-bit crash statistics.

What Mozilla may have failed to take into account back then was the backlash that it received after making the announcement. Mozilla reviewed that feedback and discovered that part of the 64-bit userbase of the browser did not use it for testing purposes but because they would run into the operating system's 4 Gigabyte memory limit otherwise. These users did not reach that memory limit because of memory leaks but because of very heavy usage of open tabs in the browser with some users having more than a thousand tabs open at the same time.

A compromise was found that may be in the interest of both Mozilla and the Firefox user base. Instead of retiring 64-bit builds of Firefox completely for the time being, Mozilla decided to continue creating those builds in the Nightly channel. Not everything will run along as smooth as it does now though as there are a couple of limitations and restrictions that current 64 bit users need to know about.

Mozilla will go ahead as planned and migrate all Firefox 64-bit users from the 64-bit Nightly channel to the 32-bit Nightly channel via automatic updates. Instead of stopping building 64-bit Nightly versions of Firefox, the company will continue creating those builds and users who want to continue using them need to download one of the future Nightly builds that are released after the migration to use 64-bit versions of the Firefox web browser.

Mozilla will make it clear to those users via the first run page that the browser is not supported and that the browser builds won't receive the same rigorous testing that 32-bit builds receive. The crash reporter will be disabled in 64-bit builds, and click to play enabled by default.

Firefox 64-bit builds on Windows are considered Tier 3 builds by Mozilla from that time on. A support page explains:

Tier-3 platforms have a maintainer or community which attempt to keep the platform working. These platforms may or may not work at any time, and often have little test coverage:

There you have it. Mozilla continues building 64-bit Firefox versions for the Windows operating system, and while the planned migration does not seem to be the best of ideas, it is likely something that 64-bit users can live with in the end. (via Sören)


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  1. nixnax said on December 27, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Running a fully updated version of Win7/64, the latest Flash player and latest Firefox, I have been part of the “collateral damage” users where Firefox and the protected-mode Flash player simply won’t play flash movies (primarily youtube. I’ve spent many hours searching for a solution – going back to Flash 10.3 is not an option, and disabling the protected mode is not a sane choice.

    So, after SIX months with no real solution, even my 8-year old knows that “Dad’s geek-browser”, Firefox, cannot be used to watch youtube movies – How sad is that?

  2. Marc said on December 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    First comment /@Richard Steven Hack

  3. Marc said on December 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    @Ross Presser
    Are we talking about a thousand active tabs? If not the answer is easy: Tab Bar or as it is now implemented in later builds “fast restart” IIRC. If yes, I’m as surprised as you guys.

  4. Marc said on December 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Guys guys guys let’s not call lunatics to those who we don’t understand, that only showcase your own ignorance. I will attempt to solve the mystery. A torrent site can easily provide more than a thousand links for a week of releases, similar with sites of direct downloads, wallpapers or art communities such as Deviant-Art, or just by opening your subscribed RSS feeds items in your browser.

  5. Gregg DesElms said on December 25, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Mozilla’s behavior, just generally, has been most unprofessional for quite some time. And it shows in Firefox… a browser which once touted its lightness and leanness, but which is now every bit the behemoth of its arch-rival Internet Explorer, which it has long decried.

    I no longer have the slightest bit of sympathy for either Mozilla, or its users. It, and they, get what they deserve.

    And that’s tragic, because Mozilla and its work used to be something about which to be exicted.

    Even more tragic, though, is that Chrome is probably the best browser, overall. In my entire life I never thought I’d ever say that. My how things change.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  6. Jim said on December 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I normally avoid forks/recompiles of mainstream browsers, mainly because their updates tend to lag behind the mainstream browser by several weeks. That’s not a big deal for feature releases, but it’s definitely a bad thing when it is a security release.

    That said, I might give Cyberfox a try. I haven’t heard of it before and it would be nice to have a browser that matched my OS. Thanks for the info.

  7. Glenn said on December 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Martin, first of all, it’s “were”, not “where”. Second, frankly, I’d rather have a 32-bit version that works better than have a 64-bit version (just because it say “64-bit” in front of it); there’s so little actual difference between how each performs compared to the other that it’s next to irrelevant having a 64-bit version.

  8. Mark said on December 24, 2012 at 8:12 am

    May be we forgot something – Mozilla has no customer, her only client is Google.

  9. Stoner said on December 24, 2012 at 2:00 am

    A thousand tabs… My god. And to think I’ve been proud of having a few hundred open at once (on Chromium of course, Firefox couldn’t handle it).

  10. A&L said on December 23, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I just installed Cyberfox and will give it a whirl for a while

  11. Jon said on December 23, 2012 at 5:38 am

    I used Waterfox 64 bit for a while but it hasn’t been updated since version 16.0.1. Now I’m using Cyberfox which can be found on Sourceforge.

  12. Karl Gephart said on December 23, 2012 at 4:22 am

    I gotta agree with 4-5 tabs max, including app tabs. That’s the purpose of bookmarks–to find stuff–not tabs! :-)

  13. A&L said on December 23, 2012 at 1:54 am

    I’m happy using waterfox 64 bit, works great

  14. Ross Presser said on December 23, 2012 at 1:24 am

    A thousand tabs? What is that, three months worth of running without a reboot or ever closing a tab??

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 23, 2012 at 1:29 am

      I honestly do not know. Would really like to know how they manage to work with that many open tabs.

  15. Richard Steven Hack said on December 23, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Mozilla has severe “developer’s disease”, i.e., the developers are totally in control and design decisions are made willy-nilly without any serious consideration of either the consequences or customers. The same is true of Google and Chrome.

    “the browser builds won’t receive the same rigorous testing that 32-bit builds receive. The crash reporter will be disabled in 64-bit builds,”

    That’s just stupid. Wow, Mozilla gave us a completely unsupported and untested 64-bit browser! I’m so thankful! If this doesn’t represent Mozilla’s opinion of its customers I don’t know what does.

    As an aside, any browser user who has a thousand tabs open is a lunatic. The only time I have more than, say, four or five tabs open is when I follow one of those chains of porn sites when you click on a pic and you end up at another collection of pics rather than the pic you clicked on. Following that nonsense might cause me to open another dozen or two tabs. :-) Do people really need two dozen or more tabs to do their work? I doubt it. It’s just laziness at closing unused tabs.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 23, 2012 at 1:32 am

      My maximum number of tabs is about 50 per session, usually only when I open a lot of forum threads at once using the Multi Links add-on. I tend to have about ten pages open that I need for future articles but do not want to bookmark.

  16. Mystique said on December 22, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I honestly don’t understand the apprehension in moving to 64bit, I’d expect that 90% of households to be running if not capable of running 64bit software yet companies such as mozilla are letting us down… 64bit is here NOW and its here to stay!

    The prices of ram is so dirt cheap right now that most people could max out their mainboard and not break the bank either.

  17. Nebulus said on December 22, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Mozilla does a lot of stunts lately when in comes to developing their browser, and then they back off. I wish they would slow down, consider every option, listen to their users and then make a move.

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