The Mozilla Foundation's Firefox development team has decided enough is enough and will stop supporting Windows XP and Vista in March 2017 and also bin Firefox OS.
The OS first. In this post Mozillans Ari Jaaksi and David Bryant, respectively the head of connected devices and veep for platform engineering, write that “By the end of 2015 Mozilla leadership had come to the conclusion that our then Firefox OS initiative of shipping phones with commercial partners would not bring Mozilla the returns we sought.”
That decision means that “as of the end of July 2016 have stopped all commercial development on Firefox OS.”
But that decision did not mean that Firefox OS is dead because the pair write that “In the spring and summer of 2016 the Connected Devices team dug deeper into opportunities for Firefox OS.”
“They concluded that Firefox OS TV was a project to be run by our commercial partner and not a project to be led by Mozilla. Further, Firefox OS was determined to not be sufficiently useful for ongoing Connected Devices work to justify the effort to maintain it. This meant that development of the Firefox OS stack was no longer a part of Connected Devices, or Mozilla at all. Firefox OS 2.6 would be the last release from Mozilla.”
The pair explain what that means as follows:
Today we are announcing the next phase in that evolution. While work at Mozilla on Firefox OS has ceased, we very much need to continue to evolve the underlying code that comprises Gecko, our web platform engine, as part of the ongoing development of Firefox. In order to evolve quickly and enable substantial new architectural changes in Gecko, Mozilla’s Platform Engineering organization needs to remove all B2G-related code from mozilla-central. This certainly has consequences for B2G OS. For the community to continue working on B2G OS they will have to maintain a code base that includes a full version of Gecko, so will need to fork Gecko and proceed with development on their own, separate branch.
B2G OS is Mozilla's attempt to craft an OS offering developers an alternative to closed mobile ecosystems like iOS and Android. But as explained above, B2G OS developers now have a lot of work to do if they're to chase that goal.
Jaaksi and Bryant sympathise with developers who now have the unexpected task of forking Gecko, but are unrepentant:
We realize that these decisions are painful for those of us who had high hopes and dreams and work tied up in Firefox OS — in the idea of an open source, user-centric, Mozilla mission-based operating system for the mobile space. We also recognize that this decision makes it much harder for the b2g community to continue its work. We wish we could have found another way. However, we believe that these have been necessary decisions and the best possible way for Mozilla to continue on its mission.
Mozilla's also causing some pain for Windows XP and Windows Vista users, as in threads like this one Firefox developers are discussing ending support for Microsoft's older OSes. The decisions not been finalised, but it looks like Firefox 53, due in March 2017, will shun XP and Vista.
Stat-harvesters Netmarketshare and StatCounter say XP still has between six and ten per cent market share on the desktop and Vista has a point or two. If those users are typical, and Firefox therefore has about 10 per cent market share on the desktop, plenty of folks are going to be looking for a new browser before long. ®