Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Firefox at 64-bit: Do You Care?

Mozilla has begun collecting feedback on what appears to be a more serious approach to move Firefox for Windows from 32 to 64 bit. 

Taking the step from 32-bit to 64-bit has been much more difficult than many had anticipated and has been in the workings for close to a decade - compare that to the relatively quick transition from 16-bit to 32-bit in the mid 1990s. Of course, there are hurdles that need to be overcome and the benefits of a 64-bit app are only now becoming much more mainstream with more vendors now motivated to think about a transition.

Mozilla's product manager, Asa Dotzler, just posted a somewhat careful question to the Firefox community and asked users what they would expect from a 64-bit version. The question by itself may be confusing as the perception of a technology may not be aligned with its potential. However, Dotzler's post indicates that very little research has been done on Mozilla's side to figure out what the opportunities of a 64-bit Firefox really are as he tells his blog readers that "any help is appreciated."

Of course, Mozilla has done some research and was out quite early with a 64-bit version of Firefox. Firefox 3.1 was the first 64-bit version of Firefox and was released in fall of 2008. "Released" is an overstatement as Windows Firefox 64-bit builds have never made it past the developer channel and are even today only offered via a nightly build download (now in version 8.0). Last week, Mozilla announced much more serious test builds of Windows 64-bit builds as it installed Windows 2008 servers "that can generate the 64-bit version of Mozilla Firefox."

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