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Firefox 115 browser breathes life into old operating systems

Release is good news for fans of Windows 7, 8, and macOS from Sierra to Mojave.

The latest version of Firefox browser is out and should help keep some older operating systems viable, at least for another year.

Firefox 115 is the latest version of Mozilla's open source web browser. It is also the project's newest Extended Support Release - in other words, it's a long-term support version which will get security updates through this time in 2024.

This is good news if you are still running Windows 7: version 115 still runs on this now elderly and officially discontinued OS, so you will have a current web browser for some time to come. However, Mozilla has officially said that this is the last release for the venerable Redmond code.

This latest browser also still supports Windows 8.0 and 8.1, if you're still using either of those for some inexplicable reason. The Reg FOSS Desk hasn't been a regular Windows user for over 20 years, as you might imagine, but like many others, we still think that Windows 7 was the last attractive version. Windows 8.1 reached its end of life at the start of this year - but we hear that the free Windows 10 upgrades still work, even now.

Firefox 115 also still runs on older versions of Apple's macOS, back to 10.12 "Sierra". The current version of Google Chrome, 114, does still run on Mac OS X 10.13 "High Sierra" and 10.14 "Mojave", but displays a banner to warn users that this is the final version for those operating systems. This will almost certainly mean that all the other Chrome-based browsers will now drop support too: Microsoft Edge, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave et cetera.

For most people, that means that Firefox is now your last best hope for a current web browser for these aging OSes. This vulture still has a 2011 Mac mini in daily use which can't officially run anything newer than 10.13, so this is good news for some of us. (Yes, we do know about Open Core Legacy Patcher, and we are considering giving it a whirl to try to get that machine at least up to Catalina. It worked a treat installing Monterey onto an old Dell Latitude, but unfortunately that machine's Wi-Fi card is unsupported.)

Otherwise, this latest browser is a relatively unexciting but solid build - which is probably what you want from a long-term support version. The Mozilla What's New page is particularly stark. One of the only immediately visible new features is that you can open a new tab with the contents of the Linux middle-click–to–paste function that we described yesterday. Chrome has supported this for years, and we missed it when using the Fox. It also has better hardware accelerated video playback on Intel chips on Linux, so you might be able to detect smoother video and lower CPU utilization.

Another newly added feature is what Mozilla is calling quarantined domains, which restricts add-ons from running on certain websites – but if this bothers you, you can disable it in about:config. The Tab Manager function also now lets you close tabs and there's undo and redo in password-entry fields. The tool to import data from other browsers has been upgraded, and the browser can share payment methods with Chrome-based browsers.

The current beta version of the Thunderbird email client has also been re-worked onto the 115 codebase. As we noted back when this beta came out, it's usually based on the current Firefox ESR, because that means security fixes for a year to come. The new "Supernova" release is getting close now, so we'll see.

Coning soon: A new, and once again independent, Waterfox

Another thing that is based off the current Firefox ESR is one of our favorite forks of the Mozilla browser: the Waterfox Project's browser.

Although the current version of Waterfox unfortunately no longer supports XUL add-ons, it still remains a slightly more private alternative. If you still require XUL extensions, or run even older versions of Windows and macOS, Waterfox Classic is still maintained.) For instance, Waterfox's removal of Mozilla telemetry meant that it was immune to the Foxstuck bug that kicked Firefox users offline last year.

A blog post from Waterfox lead developer Alex Kontos indicates that the project is now once again independent of former corporate backer, System 1. We hope that the project continues to thrive – it remains our go-to browser on Ubuntu Unity, for instance, because unlike Firefox it integrates perfectly with the Unity desktop's global menu bar.

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