Mozilla ditches Windows 8 Metro version of Firefox
Mozilla has decided not to ship a version of Firefox for the Modern UI in Windows 8, saying it needs to focus its work where it will have “the most impact”.
Two years ago, Mozilla – the development firm that backs the open-source browser – started working on a version of Firefox for Windows 8’s touch-focused Modern UI, formerly called Metro.
The product has never been released, however, and last week Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox, has asked the developers to “take the Windows Metro version of Firefox off the trains”.
“The team is solid and did good work, but shipping a 1.0 version, given the broader context we see for the Metro platform, would be a mistake,” he said.
On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1,000 active daily users in the Metro environment
The reason it would be a mistake, Nightingale went on, is that very few people are testing the software on Metro. He acknowledged that the interface is now called Modern UI, but explained that Metro “remains how we talk about it in Mozilla”.
He said Mozilla initially thought that Metro would be “the next battleground for the web” because Microsoft “pushes its new platforms hard” and Windows has a large existing user base.
“In the months since, as the team built and tested and refined the product, we’ve been watching Metro’s adoption,” he said. “From what we can see, it’s pretty flat. On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1,000 active daily users in the Metro environment.”
That leaves Mozilla with a choice between pulling the browser or shipping it without enough “real-world” testing, which means bugs will be found only once it’s live, leading to follow-up work for developers. “When I talk about the need to pick our battles, this feels like a bad one to pick: significant investment and low impact,” he said.
Pick your battles
Nightingale admitted that stopping development may be the wrong decision. “This opens up the risk that Metro might take off tomorrow and we’d have to scramble to catch back up, but that’s a better risk for us to take than the real costs of investment in a platform our users have shown little sign of adopting,” he said.
“We’re not as tiny as we were when we shipped Firefox 1.0, but we still need to focus on the projects with the most impact for our mission; the massive scale of our competitors and of the work to be done requires us to marshal our forces appropriately.”
Firefox can still be installed on the Windows 8 desktop, so Windows 8 users aren’t left without Mozilla’s browser. However, it means the browser can’t be set as the default across your system.
Mozilla has also never created a version of Firefox for Windows 8 RT devices, saying the platform was too locked down by Microsoft to create a fully-featured browser.