Mozilla kills Firefox for Windows 8 Metro, figures you probably won’t notice

Developers at Mozilla have spent the last few years getting the Firefox web browser ready to run on Windows 8 computers with Microsoft’s new Metro-style, touch-friendly user interface. A beta was released just over a month ago. But now Mozilla is pulling the plug.

It’s not that the browser didn’t work well on Windows tablets… it’s just that almost nobody was actually using the thing.

Firefox Metro for Windows 8

According to Mozilla millions of people are running pre-release builds of the desktop version of Firefox every day. Meanwhile the team has never seen more than 1000 people actively using a pre-release build of Firefox for Windows 8 Metro.

The team had to make a choice between continuing to develop a product that few people had shown interest in, and re-allocating resources to other projects where they could be put to better use. It kind of seems like a no-brainer.

It’s a bit of a shame, because it leaves Internet Explorer in the dominant position on Windows tablets, much as it was on Windows desktop and laptop computers for years. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with Internet Explorer (although I’m sure plenty of folks would argue that there is), it’s just that competition is always a good thing.

Fortunately Google Chrome does offer a Windows 8 touch-friendly experience, so there’s a bit of competition in the Windows 8 browser market. But if Mozilla’s experience is anything to judge by, either people aren’t really looking for alternatives… or maybe they’re just not using Windows 8 tablet apps such as web browsers very much.

Mozilla could reverse the decision and continue work on a Metro version of Firefox if demand picks up in the future — and since Firefox is an open source project, there’s nothing stopping independent developers from grabbing the code and picking up where Mozilla left off.

  • heapsofjeff

    That is quite lame. I have been waiting for it to get to a final build to download.

    • StephD

      Same here

  • John

    Personally, I’ve been waiting for a stable release before trying it. Oh well, I guess I’ll start using Chrome now. Same for the desktop side to keep things synced.

    If they add better touch support on the desktop version, I may keep using Firefox.

    • piktu

      Same here. I was waiting for it so I can have a more convenient experience with my ASUS Vivotab Note 8. When it comes to browsers, I don’t want to use a beta build. I may start using Chrome too.

      • bob

        John, piktu, heapsofjeff, StephD, Sopots: If everyone stays away from the betas there will be no stable releases. If you hang here you’re likely more advanced users than the average. The can help a lot by using the beta, at least now and then, and give constructive feedback. Firefox is only as strong as it community, including active users and testers.

      • me

        I understand what you’re saying but I guess I’m just too concerned with my own security and user experience. There are enough issues with stable releases of software and using a beta build may leave me vulnerable and/or diminish my experience with crashes and rendering problems. I view the browser as integral as the OS itself. I wouldn’t use the betas/RCs of Windows. I even waited a year before trying out Windows 8.

        It’s unfortunate, but, as an end user, I’ll be looking into switching to Chrome. The Modern UI version has been out a while now. I’ll probably switch my desktop browser on my Windows and Linux devices to Chrome as well in order to use the syncing feature.

  • Guest123

    I use firefox on my Win7 desktop as my primary browser, but I have to say I’m rather disappointed in its progress. I used Chrome for a while and using firefox in some ways is like stepping back in time — it’s slow, clunky, often becomes non responsive, etc. . . things that don’t take place with Chrome on this machine. If it weren’t for all the great add-ons I wouldn’t even bother with it.

    I also stopped using it on my Android device. To make it useful I needed some add-ons which resulted in a 30 second cold start, and again it wasn’t very responsive compared to. . . well, every other browser I tried.

    Seems Mozilla has its hands in lots of pies, but the main product, firefox, seems to have fallen.

    • Nathan Hubbard

      This has been my experience on android as well. Firefox seems like a nice browser but it just doesn’t work very well there.

  • Sopots

    With the whole security thing, I wouldn’t use a browser of the devs consider it beta. Too bad. I’ve been waiting for it’s official release to use on an 8″ Windows 8 tablet.

  • Tony Casagrande

    Dear Microsoft,

    Metro is bad and you should feel bad.

    Sincerely,
    Damn Near Everyone

  • bob

    I have a Windows hybrid, with laptop and tabled modes. I use regular Firefox even in tablet mode. Because: all add-ons work and there is more control over the UI using Stylish. You can already get most of the advertised features for Metro Firefox, like gestures, if you use the Firegestures add-on. Lower the hold-and-press time needed for a right click action in order to speed up the gestures. Hopefully Firefox just ports some touch friendly stuff from the special Metro version back into the main version. I most of all miss a customizable software keyboard, like what we have with Swype and Swiftkey in android.

    • name

      Do you have smooth pinch zoom? Also can you have a more touch friendly up/down/left/right scrolling? I have used a grab and drag addon but it’s inconvenient to switch between dragging and text selection.

      • bob

        no smooth zoom yet. I hope they bring better smoothness over from Metro into the main version. I find the scrolling ok as is. The soft keyboard problem is the biggest. Microsoft has, uncomprehensibly, no option to set the keyboard to pop up in Desktop mode when an input field is activated. We have to touch all the way down in the right corner EVERY SINGLE TIME. Even a shortcut to the soft keyboard higher up or in the charms bar would be a big step forward ergonomically. Or an edge gesture to show the keyboard. If firefox solves that they can win users with devices that are used in tablet hardware mode but in windows desktop software mode.

  • name

    If they kill something off, I’d rather them kill off Firefox OS and go forward with the Modern UI version of Firefox.

    So how’s Chrome on Windows 8? Are just the UIs different? Is it the same core app for both the Modern and Desktop UI? Any rendering issues? Both Chrome and Firefox on Android have rendering, form input and other problems. All the other Android browsers are worse (I guess it’s make them “fast”).

    • Charles222

      Chrome on Modern looks and acts like ChromeOS. It’s actually pretty spectacularly useful-kind of like having a sub-OS.

  • tk76

    Firefox has always been superior in rendering larger fonts. This is particularly useful for those of us with poor vision- especially with the newer high res screens. Firefox also has the best plugins. Unfortunately, Firefox has failed to keep up in other areas that are just as important, such as speed and ease of use.

  • Andrew Sands

    Not needed IE is fine. No loss. Chrome is good to.

  • David

    WHAT???? Stupid fuckwits. No wonder I couldn’t get it back into Metro mode… was Googling to find out why and came across this. Thanks, assholes!