Who is going to use the Metro version of Firefox anyway?

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 2, 2014
Updated • Jan 2, 2014

firefox 26 metro

News broke today that Mozilla has -- once again -- delayed the delivery of the so called Metro version of the Firefox web browser on Windows 8.

The version that you can only run on Windows 8's start screen interface has been in development for quite some time, and while it is already available to Nightly users of the browser on the operating system, it is not for stable users which make up the bulk of the user base.

The latest release calendar confirms that Mozilla plans to release the Metro version of Firefox to Firefox 28, which will be released on March 18, 2014 if things to as planned.

That does not mean that Firefox is not available at all on the operating system. Windows 8 users, with the notable exception of those using Windows RT devices, can install Firefox or run a portable version on the desktop part of the operating system.

The Metro version of Firefox won't provide any useful features that the desktop version does not offer, at least not on regular desktop PCs.

It may offer better touch-optimization and integration with other new Windows 8 features such as the Sharing Charms menu though. While I can understand that this may be advantageous to tablet users, it needs to be noted that Firefox for Metro won't be available to Windows RT users. And it is those users who would benefit the most from the web browser.

So why would anyone use the Metro version of Firefox if they can use the desktop version instead. There are a couple of reasons where it may make sense.

First, if you are using Start Screen apps in Windows 8, you sometimes may click on links that open always in a web browser optimized for the start screen. This is Internet Explorer by default, but if you do not want to use Microsoft's browser for that, you need to find another browser that you can use for that purpose. And Firefox can be that browser if a Start Screen version is available.

Second, there may be setups or situations where you may prefer to use a Start Screen browser, for instance if you are running a tablet without keyboard or mouse, or for presentations. Since the browser is optimized for that environment, you may benefit from the Metro version.

It is however very likely that the majority of desktop users won't use the Start Screen version of a browser that often, as the desktop version offers many advantages that the Start Screen version does not offer. This is not only the case for Firefox, but for all Metro browsers.

It is for instance not possible to change the window size of the browser to exact specifications. While you can snap it to the left or right, it is not the same as selecting a custom resolution for it.

What's your take on this? Is a Windows 8 version of Firefox worth the effort, or should Mozilla have spend the resources on other tasks instead?


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  1. Mystique said on January 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Its strange that mozilla would cater to a minority of users when they barely even develop their x64 firefox at a quicker rate rather than keeping it on the back burning but having said that there are several better alternatives to Firefox such as Cyberfox, Palemoon and Waterfox all of which do support 64bit users.
    I think its rather obvious that there has been a large surge in users making the shift to 64bit computing as it is several times better.

    Will I be touching this abomination? Not with a 50 foot pole!

  2. pd said on January 3, 2014 at 7:40 am

    cancel it. Windows RT has been a massive failure and will be killed soon.

    give us a genuine 64 bit version instead.

    1. Anonymous said on January 4, 2014 at 5:42 am

      It’s not for windows RT…

  3. sades said on January 3, 2014 at 5:03 am

    The deranged

    Why do they waste devs resource for this lost cause anyway?

  4. imu said on January 2, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I’ve tried FF on Android and that was disaster so I don’t think Metro version would be any better :) Oh! I forgot I have banned Windows Store anyway :)

    1. BobbyPhoenix said on January 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      When was the last time you used FF on Android? I’m currently using it as my default since it’s the best I’ve tried out of stock, Chrome, and pretty much all the others. If it was recent maybe your device is older? Either way I think you should give it another try. It simply works great on my Note 3.

  5. geeknik said on January 2, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    The metro version of Firefox would probably work really well on my Dell Venue 8 Pro which is a real x86 tablet running Windows 8.1 on a quad core Atom CPU. Current Atom tablets aren’t slow by any stretch of the imagination. The Dell Venue 8 Pro runs circles around both generations of Nexus 7s.. And as far as Firefox being terrible with touch input, I have to disagree, Firefox is a great browser on Android tablets including my Kindle Fire HDX 8.9.

  6. Rodalpho said on January 2, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    WindowsRT is a dead product. Future windows devices will be running “real” x86 or x86-64 Windows on either atom or core platforms. Atom tablets will be thin/light/cheap and slower, but not unusably slow like the previous generation of atoms. Core tablets and laptops are essentially ultrabooks, but with >10 hours of battery life their only substantial tradeoff is their much greater cost.

    As of right now, Chrome and Firefox are completely terrible with touch input. They’re nigh unusable, while IE is pretty good. Touch doesn’t matter much now, but it absolutely will in the future. Mozilla is on the correct path.

  7. Bernhard said on January 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I’ve been using the Aurora spin of Firefox to get a Modern UI browser that is not IE11 for a few weeks now. My Ultrabook has a touch screen and as a tablet I use (and enjoy) a Windows 8 8-incher. On both systems I really like the option to switch to a quick-n-dirty Modern-UI browser for day to day use.

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