Mozilla abandons development of Metro Firefox for Windows 8

Mozilla abandons development of Metro Firefox for Windows 8

Summary: After nearly two years, Mozilla has decided to throw in the towel on its effort to build a hybrid browser that would compete with Internet Explorer 11 on touch-enabled Windows 8 devices. The stated reason? A profound lack of interest.

TOPICS: Browser

After two years of struggling to build a hybrid Firefox for Windows 8, Mozilla has finally thrown in the towel.

Firefox Vice President Johnathan Nightingale made the announcement today in a post titled “Metro,” on Mozilla’s Future releases blog.

Earlier this week, I asked our engineering leads and release managers 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.

The decision means that Firefox will continue to be developed for the Windows desktop platform without the significant burden of building an additional version that would use the same rendering engine but run in the touch-friendly but significantly more constrained Windows Store (née Metro) environment, alongside other Windows 8 native apps.

The project had nine dedicated engineers and two product managers listed in its 29-person team roster. It took nearly a year after the first appearance of  a Metro style Firefox prototype in April 2012 before the Metro code made it into the Nightly channel. Last summer, the team had declared its intention to ship the final Metro code with Firefox 26 on December 10, 2013. In January, that final date slipped to March. Today’s announcement ends all development.

According to Nightingale, the failure of Firefox Metro follows a familiar story line: overly optimistic early expectations followed by disappointing adoption rates.

In late 2012, when I started up the Firefox for Metro team (I know that’s not what Microsoft calls it anymore, but it remains how we talk about it in Mozilla), it looked like the next battleground for the Web. Windows is a massive ecosystem and Microsoft pushes its new platforms hard.


[A]s the team built and tested and refined the product, we’ve been watching Metro’s adoption. 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 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment.

Part of the cause of that low usage rate is simply a case of too few touch-enabled devices running Windows 8. Every x86-based PC that runs any version of Windows, from XP through Windows 8.1, can run the desktop version of Firefox. The pool of devices capable of benefiting from a touch-optimized Metro Firefox is much smaller, perhaps one-thirtieth of the larger population.

Even more damning for the future of Metro Firefox was the lack of a compelling competitive case against Internet Explorer 11, the touch-enabled browser that’s included with Windows 8.1. Firefox made its reputation a decade ago as an alternative to IE 6—faster, less plagued by security concerns, and more in tune with emerging HTML standards. But in the Metro platform, Microsoft held all the advantages, with a fast native browser, a no-plugins model that blocks toolbars and most malware, and a significant head start in development. In fact, Microsoft is about to ship a major update to Internet Explorer next month with Windows 8.1 Update 1. That will be its second major refresh since the original IE 10 release in Windows 8.

Mozilla’s architects didn’t help their cause by creating a program that forces users to choose between desktop and Metro modes instead of allowing both modes to operate side by side as IE does.

Google, for its part, will continue to include a bare-bones Metro version in its shipping code for the Chrome browser. But it’s become clear that Google has no intention of building any products except a Google Search app for the Metro environment.

And with Mozilla's exit, that leaves Microsoft all alone in the Metro browser development business.

Topic: Browser

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  • Metro..

    is shovel ready
    • Metro Is Not Just Ready For A Toilet...

      In fact... Metro was developed inside a ceramic throne.

      Saying Metro is a failure is much too kind.

      The word "Metro" will now forever represent an order of magnitude of failure.
      • I disagree.

        Metro is far from being a failure.

        Ergonomically, it's pretty much the only interface that works well with tablets.

        Say what you will, but I'd rather have it survive than not.

        Also, why do you keep posting on these articles?

        If you hate Microsoft that much, why are you obsessed with them?

        What is wrong with you?
        • Of course you disagree.

          No one was expecting anything else.
          • Did you flag me?

            Oh, and you up-voted yourself.

            How cute.

            Then again, it's not like anyone was expecting anything else.
          • I see what you have done.

            You simply re-quoted what I said without any original thought.

            You probably think that is clever.
          • You sir

            should do the world a favor and shoot yourself.
          • Irregardless of the trollness of a post,

            calling for someone to shoot themselves is inappropriate. I mean, seriously...a user
            interface on an operating system as a reason
            for suicide? Come on, be realistic.

            As for the trolls and shills, how many "average users" read ZDNet? Uh huh! That's what I thought! So what do you receive for all your
            work posting on these comments, other than
            the self-gratification? Although, you do provide
            me, as a moderator, a level of comic relief from
            the stress of everyday life! So, thank you for
            the laughs!
            ZDNet Moderator
          • "Irregardless" not a word--simply use "regardless"

            Really the only proper use for word "Irregardless" is for the name of a very good restaurant in Raleigh, NC. "ir" is a negative prefix. "less" is a negative suffix. Combining the two is like multiplying -1 by -1 which of course yields +1.
          • +1 for Metro

            best touch interface for tablets right now.
            Metro is the fastest, most efficient touch interface for multi app usage... followed closely by Samdroid's Note multi windowing.
            iOS is like playing Angry Birds that only goes to Level 3.
          • Touch*

            Yeah, for touch it's fine. For the desktop it's a some degree. I am not a fan of Microshaft, in fact I removed WinXP and replaced it with Xubuntu Linux.

            (Yeah, I'm a Linux geek)

            I recently got a new desktop running Windows 8.1's not bad. Okay, It lacks many of the features I've come to love in Xubuntu such as tabbed directory windows and multiple work spaces but Win8.1 is still a fairly OK operating system. The Metro interface is just like Slingshot in Linux or Launchpad on a Mac.

            My point is that it really isn't as bad as people think...and that's coming from a Linux user. Embrace the change.
            James Stevenson
          • tried it, hated it

            After seeing the new look of Windows, I was so glad I'd switched to Linux prior to Vista.
            When Windows 7 came out, I was still a Linux user. Heard that Windows was supposed to be bullet proof now (ended up removing at least 3 dozen bits of malware from friends computers the first month and the tally kept getting higher).
            When Windows 8 came out, I wanted to give it a fair chance. I waited until the media went through it's "I love it, I hate it" moment. Then I went out, just walked through several retail stores and tried out the interface. I did what most people don't and looked up all the little differences you'd really not figure out on your own such as the charms bar and all that. Hated it.
            I'm not adverse to change, I use Gnome Shell and I love it. I tried out Unity on Ubuntu and I have no problems at all with it. I can use KDE with no trouble and I liked the Enlightenment Desktop when I tried out Bhodi Linux as well.
            I just really really hate the new Windows desktop.
            It's not just MS hate, it's that the interface is so ass backwards that it hinders any productivity I might have. In fact, sitting in front of a Windows 8 desktop reduces me down to the level of a Neanderthal in front of a log and no clue how to make fire.
          • dual screen

            Well, one useful use for Metro is in multi display mode. I leave one display to run Metro and a space where I collect social and news updates. I leave the primary display as normal Windows desktop mode.
          • @tmsbrdrs

            You tried Unity and liked it? Seriously?

            I hate Unity lot more than even gnome 3.x series(I thought nothing could make gnome 3.x uglier but Unity managed that fine).

            I think it might be our taste. I am happy with KDE but Metro(or modern or whatever crap MS names it) is not half bad. With (a lot more)tinkering in that MS interface, it can be made more useful.
          • "Metro" was an abortion

            One that regardless how much users hated, Microsoft keeps shoveling. It failed on the zune, it failed on the kin, it even failed on WP. When will it sink in?
            I hate trolls also
        • Oh Please !

          Metro is a mess and as for

          "Ergonomically, it's pretty much the only interface that works well with tablets."

          That is the most idiotic statement I've ever read. Yes I have plenty of grenades to lob at Apple for the restrictive practices of IOS but it does work damn well as a touch tablet interface.

          What bodes ill here for MS (and MS users) is that a major browser supplier thinks a metro version is just not worth the trouble. Given IE's very poor security record and the fact that if it does become the only touch browser available on the windows platform that is going to make it a juicy target for hackers as per the past. When you have choice you split hacker resources.

          IE users, you have been warned.
          Alan Smithie
          • Don't confuse IE10 or 11

            with IE6! Microsoft has done a pretty decent job of
            getting better's not perfect, but it's not
            the swiss cheese it once was...and this comes from
            a Slackware user that uses a whole range of browsers!
          • Still too intertwined with OS

            Until IE is fully decoupled from the OS it will always have more security issues than it should. However MS will never do this as it's not in their interest to do so. You cannot uninstall IE 11 in W8, only turn it on or off.

            Alan Smithie
          • I don't think Microsoft will ever decouple IE

            from the Windows OS. I can't remember for sure, but seems it was around Win95OSR1 when IE4 was released and incorporated deeply in the OS. That means for nigh on 17 years. Other parts of the OS use the rendering engine as well, so to think it would ever be completely removed is naive.
            It also seems that other OSes have followed similar functionality (ChromeOS in particular) and even some Linux distros I've tried have incorporated "webized" functions (software repositories, updates, file viewing).
            I do know that calls for help in regards to Windows problems from my family and friends have dropped to very low numbers...which for me is good! I have a difficult time charging family for support issues, and friends usually get a discounted rate. I'm also no longer full-time IT support, so I have time for other ventures.
          • From what I can tell...

            The web-based functionality inside of various Linux distros (other than ChromeOS) is not browser-specific and it's easy to uninstall a browser or a web server and replace it with a different one (or more).

            As far as I know, only Chrome (on ChromeOS) and IE (on Windows) are integral and uninstallable parts of the OS. Official Android makes the Android browser and other Google-supplied components uninstallable, but all one has to do to get rid of them is to root his phone.
            John L. Ries