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June 23, 2005

moving forward on mac

After some discussion, we've decided that Firefox and Thunderbird 1.1 and later will no longer support Macintosh OS X 10.1.

We value all of our Macintosh users and this decision wasn't taken lightly but the advantages unsupporting this older version is that we can start to take better advantage of the capabilities of newer versions and drastically improve the Firefox and Thunderbird experience for more contemporary Mac users.

Posted by asa at June 23, 2005 09:44 AM

Is there any way to support the newer features while still making Firefox and Thunderbird available to Mac OS X 10.1 users? Even if that means having a couple features disabled for 10.1 that popup a dialog that says so, perhaps? I think that would be preferable to abandoning 10.1 as Apple has browser-wise. As an example, Firefox actually works well in Windows 95, but requires certain patches and a few specific items don't work (like Import). It could be made available for Win95 by checking for the existance of certain patches... or showing a list of required patches before download... and then disabling the unavailable features.

Posted by: John T. Haller on June 23, 2005 10:23 AM

As I understand it, Mozilla is dropping official support for 10.1. Nothing will stop you from trying to run Firefox on 10.1 anyway, but to officially support the product, even if they were willing to put out a crippled release on that platform (which I'd doubt), would require QAing the releases on 10.1, and doing the engineering work to disable features or pop up dialogs as necessary. And that assumes that the API changes they're trying to make are localized enough that it would even be possible to just "disable some features". With very few Mac developers in its stable, this is all a luxury the Mozilla team can't afford.

I'm sure they'd welcome contributors who can find a way to make Mozilla continue to work, or mostly work, on 10.1, as long as the necessary engineering doesn't hinder forward progress in making use of some of the newer OSes and keeping the codebase clean and tidy. That may be difficult, as it is my understanding that some of the changes are significant.

Ultimately, with infinite resources you can do anything. Mozilla does not have infinite resources, and the base of users who are both stuck on 10.1 and wish to use Firefox et. al are small enough that it's not worth the effort it would take to support them versus doing cool new things with the product.

Posted by: Peter Kasting on June 23, 2005 11:15 AM

For how long does Apple support older versions of OS X? And are there any statistic on how many are still on 10.1?

Posted by: Rick on June 23, 2005 11:28 AM

Peter: the apps now depend upon API calls that were only introduced in 10.2, so it's a bit more final than you're suggesting.

Posted by: Malcolm on June 23, 2005 11:49 AM

Sounds Kind of like a Microsoft approach in a way. But Mozilla doesn't own Macs so it's not as bad, and plus Mozilla is leaps and bound ahead of Microsoft as of User support.

Posted by: Ghore on June 23, 2005 11:57 AM

If only Mac wasn't so darn high tech, they wouldn't change so much technology within a single major release (10) of their OS!!!

Just kidding. Macs are great because they stay so high tech.


Posted by: MarbleheadMan on June 23, 2005 11:57 AM

Remember that current and previous releases will still work. And Mozila products are open source - there's nothing to stop someone from taking the code for Firefox 1.1 when it comes out and creating their own version that will run on 10.1.x. The problem is that by trying to support 10.1 users, 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4 users are losing out on better features and performance. As fewer and fewer people are using 10.1 now it's probably better for Firefox if users of newer systems are better supported.

All in all, it's a good decision.

Posted by: Neil T. on June 23, 2005 12:02 PM

According to, Safari 1.2 requires 10.3 or later.

Posted by: tveidt on June 23, 2005 12:10 PM

Oops, meant to quote Rick in the previous comment. ;-)

Posted by: tveidt on June 23, 2005 12:12 PM

I'm still a little sore that there are no more Mozilla or Firefox builds for OS8/9 -- there are plenty of older macs out there which are perfectly good for browsing the web and cannot have OSX installed on them BUT don't have an up-to-date web browser.

I'd love to see a special Firefox side project specifically for older hardware.

Posted by: Block Sheep on June 23, 2005 12:23 PM

Block Sheep: What I've seen of the new iCab beta looks very promising, and it's still developed for OS 8/9. It's not Mozilla-based or open source, but it is a modern browser, and the current 3.0 beta is light years ahead of the last 2.9.8 beta I used. iCab was the surprise second-place winner in the race to pass the Acid2 test, beating out Konqueror by (IIRC) a matter of hours.

I've only played around with it a little (I do most of my Mac browsing in Safari), and that was admittedly using the OS X version, but from what I've seen of 3.0 I would recommend giving it a try.

Posted by: Kelson on June 23, 2005 01:13 PM

"Is there any way to support the newer features while still making Firefox and Thunderbird available to Mac OS X 10.1 users? Even if that means having a couple features disabled for 10.1 that popup a dialog that says so, perhaps?"

From what I understand of reading the discussion, it's not that kind of feature that's the problem, it's the back-end architecture, so not the sort of thing you could do with a popup. They could produce separate builds for 10.1 and 10.2+ (that has actually been possible on the trunk for a while, and they've just switched the normal build config), but that means doing QA on an extra set of builds, and maintaining the two different bits of code. As previous comments said, that shouldn't be too hard (although it will get harder as the code continues to move on), if someone else wanted to do it. Based on previous experience, there's a lack of geeks with the necessary skills who are using the older platforms.

Posted by: michaell on June 23, 2005 01:22 PM

"Is there any way to support the newer features while still making Firefox and Thunderbird available to Mac OS X 10.1 users?"

just get the current Mac OS X version, dufus, you are 3 versions behind!

it is only like $99 bucks to jump up to current software

this is like people whining for ongoing Windows 98 support, PUHLEEEEZE!

Posted by: cowboy on June 23, 2005 01:29 PM

> this is like people whining for ongoing Windows 98 support, PUHLEEEEZE!

A fairer comparison would be whining for Windows 2000 support, you can go see that happening on the IE7 devs' blog. :)
The flaw in that statement is that there's no reason to drop Windows 98, since it's not holding development back right now.

Oh and in my experience, upgrading any version of Windows is quite a lot more than $99, and that's not counting the neccessary hardware upgrades.

Dumping the quickdraw graphics interface for quartz makes sense, since qd has been around since at least the System 7 days. No sense in carrying all that old baggage around just to support a single version of an OS.

Posted by: ant on June 23, 2005 02:47 PM

And you guys complain when Microsoft doesn't support Windows 98?

Posted by: A Nony Mous on June 23, 2005 03:08 PM

I'm pissed that Firefox won't run on my abicus. There's a lot of us abicus users out there and we aren't impressed with with Firefox.

Posted by: Paul Gaskin on June 23, 2005 03:32 PM

What is abicus? ?__?

Posted by: minghong on June 23, 2005 06:28 PM

Try "abacus."

Posted by: Kelson on June 23, 2005 07:05 PM

I thought Camino was supposed to be the "cutting edge" Mac-specific browser? Though it's still in beta it's never been promised as a technology for the masses but rather as the showcase of Apple-specific enhancement.

When Firefox released 1.0 on Mac OS X v 10.1 and later it set the the expectation of being the best browser for the Mac OS X masses. If you had X you would have at least v 10.1 so there was no reason not to use Firefox.

The number of people I know who still use 10.1 (Puma) is pretty small but it's definitely a non-zero number. All of the peopleI know who still use 10.1 do so because their department, boss, or supervisor won't pay for the upgrade to a more recent version of Mac OS X. Apple aggressively gave away copies of 10.0 and 10.1 (if you knew the right people or bought the hardware), but 10.2 (Jaguar) was available only by purchasing new hardware or a pretty steep software price.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 23, 2005 07:20 PM

The Ars Technica report on the WWDC keynote at the beginning of the month notes ths Jobs gave stats of
10.4: 16%
10.3: 49%
10.2: 25%

That leaves 10% to be divided among 10.1, 10.0, and 9.x/8.x, etc., depending on how the stats were gathered. And that 10.4 percentage is only going to go up in the future. See also John Gruber's Tiger Adoption Rate and the Omni Group's Omni Software Update Statistics (both sites skew towards the geekier Mac user more likely to adopt new technology/releases).

I'm truly sympathetic to the plight of those who do not have the ability to acquire a Mac capable of running 10.2 or who can't afford $30 for the OS. (And there's always XPostFacto, too, for many older Macs not supported by 10.2.)

However, I can't fathom why anyone would want to stay on 10.1.x; it was the most painful OS experience I ever had (well, aside from Windows, and admittedly I never used 10.0, but even the notorious System 7.5.x was better than 10.1.5). And remember that every major version of Mac OS X was faster than the previous one on the same hardware, so speed on old Macs is hardly a reason to stay on 10.1.x.

I'm not an advocate of developers dropping support for older OS versions arbitrarily or just because it's cool or easier, but when it's warranted by solid engineering reasons and "impossibilities," it makes sense. Since 10.1 stands in the way of the future and changes required to support the future of Mac OS X (Intel processors), it had to be dropped, and sooner rather than later. I don't know of any major apps that still support 10.1.x, and MoFo made the right decision here in following suit.

Posted by: Smokey Ardisson on June 23, 2005 10:54 PM

Oh, to address the other half of Rick's question, Apple hasn't released a security update for 10.1.x in ages and hasn't released a security update for 10.2.x since 10.4 became available. It's still unclear whether there were no affected components/versions on 10.2.x or Apple simply ended support, since unlike other Unix vendors Apple doesn't publish an official policy or timeline on support lifetimes.

Posted by: Smokey Ardisson on June 23, 2005 11:01 PM

I understand the necessity and i see the advantages of this decision, however one could argue that this is kind of a step in the direction of microsoft.
you often pointed out that they don't support windows 98 anymore with their latest products, although there's quite a number of users...

Posted by: sensemann on June 24, 2005 12:05 AM

There really should be an addendum to Godwin's Law saying that the same thing applies to comparisons to Microsoft.

- Chris

Posted by: Chris C on June 24, 2005 12:19 AM

I have no problem with firefox dropping old mac support, But I do find it hilarious that Asa only a few weeks ago attacked Microsoft for not releasing IE7 on the then 6 year old Windows 2000....

I find it hilarious but I am not surprised..

Posted by: Someone on June 24, 2005 12:41 AM

It used to be easy to just tell people "For the best web browser, run software update and then install Firefox." That won't be the case anymore.

It used to be that people advocated Chimera/Camino/Firefox because of Safari's Jaguar requirement. (see, for example, this O' article that I googled up pretty fast.)

It used to be that developers bumped a major version number of their own software before intentionally introducing incompatabilites. It's a good thing you didn't implement Firefox's software update on a version that runs on 10.1 (Message from Firefox Software Update: Now disabling your browser since your still on Mac OS X 10.1 and we've abandoned you. Loser!)

I definitely sympathize with your coding plight. Some of the Mac OS X API's were like trying to code in Jello until Jaguar firmed things up. Ideally Apple would freely release systems that are abandoned or two+ releases behind current so that developers don't have to support such ancient platform mistakes. But to date, they haven't done so.

Oh well, josh and pink have limited resources and this decision is probably a good way to optimize them, but I really hope this isn't the start of a trend (e.g. "Supporting Intel and PowerPC looks really hard, so we're dropping support for the old crufty PowerPC chip in the next nightly.")

There may not be a much concern about the particular decision you've made as those unspoken implications about the future.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 24, 2005 02:09 AM

Well Ada attacked the non windows 2000 release of IE7 *armed with data* on the pourcentage of people still using windows 2000 which is in one word very significative.

The comments above shows on the non-significant pourcentage of people still using 10.1, the un-usability of 10.1, the fact 10.1 runs slower than 10.2 (what runs faster than Windows 2000 ?), the fact you can find 10.2 update for $30 (I saw an offer at $16).

What real pourcentage of people are usign 10.1 ? Almost nobody. Out of the 10% quoted above using a version under 10.2, I tell you most were using Classic. There's a bunch of people out there who won't/can't update to Mac OS X, but all hardware that can run 10.1 can run 10.2 and faster. On Sourceforge, 7% of the Mac users are still on Classic (, and Sourceforge is clearly not a site where the mac users would usually still be using classic.

Posted by: jmdesp on June 24, 2005 02:22 AM

It's not like Firefox 1 is suddenly going to stop working on Mac 10.1! Newer versions of software inevitably do, and should, move forward as other technologies progress. This will make Firefox on Mac better for the vast majority of users.

The source code is available, if there is the demand, somebody will provide a custom build.

Microsoft not supporting IE7 on Windows 2000 is very different. Firstly, the code isn't available so you're stuck. Secondly the technical arguments I've heard for it are not convincing and finally their motivation is questionable (since they would love you to go out and buy the expensive Windows upgrade).

Posted by: RandomGeek on June 24, 2005 02:52 AM

>I have no problem with firefox dropping old mac support, But I do find it >hilarious that Asa only a few weeks ago attacked Microsoft for not releasing IE7 >on the then 6 year old Windows 2000....
>I find it hilarious but I am not surprised..

True I was shaking my head at this post as well but then I read Ghore's comment. And yes, To Mozilla's defence one could argue that since Mozilla does not own Mac OS X, unlike Microsoft and Windows, this decision was more likely made because of the development benefits of not having to worry about another old OS as suppose to what Microsoft is most likely doing, which is forcing people to upgrade to their new version of Windows. Now if Apple is paying Mozilla under the table that's a different but that's unlikely ;) ...

Posted by: loconet on June 24, 2005 07:09 AM

I think legacy Mac OS support was dropped due to a shortage of Mac developers and a lack of interest in the platform among those developers.

cowboy: just get the current Mac OS X version, dufus, you are 3 versions behind!

I don't use Mac OS X except for testing, myself. I am arguing the point that maintaining some older versions is in the best interest of Mozilla (increased market share).

cowboy: this is like people whining for ongoing Windows 98 support, PUHLEEEEZE!

Actually, Firefox does support Windows 98 Second Edition. And, they should. About 14% of the online world uses Windows 98 (more than 6 times the number of Mac, Linux and UNIX users combined) so it makes complete sense to support Windows 98. Many of those Windows 98 users are using the original release. There are millions of Windows 95 users, too. That's why I have instructions on installing Firefox on those platforms:

A certain amount of balance comes into play. If, in order to support Mac OS 10.1, the newer version suffers due to low Mac developer interest / participation level and coding complexity due to the huge API changes Apple made between versions, then it makes sense to put more effort into the later versions.

But, like it or not, a large portion of the world doesn't version churn whenever the latest and greatest software is released like we techies do. Especially with Apple doing a "major release" that they are charging for about every year (since 10.0). Most of my non-techie Mac friends (read: normal users) NEVER plan to upgrade their operating system. Most normal users (Mac or Windows) don't upgrade their operating systems.

Posted by: John T. Haller on June 24, 2005 08:52 AM

This comment may spark a riot, but I can't help if ppl r stuck to the past. J/k...

I think eventually Fx will drop official support for MacOS, cuz w. the move to the Intel platform, its days are truly numbered now. There's less and less distinction btwn MacOS and the other two major flavors of OSes, and so less and less developers will be interested in programming for the platform.


Posted by: Tsee on June 24, 2005 09:50 AM

what an BS comment! how does switching processors have anything at all to do with the OS. windows and linux run on the same hardware, so you are saying there is no distiction between those two. please!

Posted by: dando on June 24, 2005 01:04 PM

There is developers out there that will get newer version of firefox to run on older officially unsupported os's, It's flipping open source! All hope is not lost afterall.

Posted by: Jmack on June 24, 2005 03:44 PM

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