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Mozilla takes Windows 8-friendly Firefox out back ... two shots heard

Alas and alack, all 1,000 users abandoned, just like that

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Mozilla has bad news for Firefox users who are fans of Windows 8 and its new, touch-centric UI – all 1,000 of you, worldwide.

On Friday, Firefox VP Johnathan Nightingale revealed that he had made the decision to "take the Windows Metro version of Firefox off the trains" – Mozilla-speak meaning he's canceled it.

"Mozilla builds software to make the world better, but we have to pick our battles," Nightingale wrote.

Mozilla has been working on a version of its browser that conforms with the UI requirements of Windows 8's Start Screen since 2012, before Microsoft's latest OS had even gone on sale to the public. But the effort has been a fraught one, with development delays causing its ship date to slip repeatedly.

A big part of the problem, it seems, is that there simply wasn't enough demand to justify the effort. As an open source project, Firefox relies on eager volunteers to test the prerelease versions of its code, but not enough were available for the Windows 8 version.

"On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop," Nightingale wrote, "but we've never seen more than 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment."

Got that? To put that figure into perspective, there are nearly six times as many people living on Easter Island (or Rapa Nui, if you prefer) than were actively testing the Windows 8 version of Firefox.

Mozilla didn't have a lot of competition for the Windows 8 browser market, either. Other than Internet Explorer, which ships with the OS, the only other browser that offers a special mode for the Windows 8 Start Screen is Chrome, and its interface now owes more to Chrome OS than to Microsoft's UI guidelines.

Mind you, Redmond hasn't done browser makers any favors with the way Windows 8 is designed. Only one browser at a time is allowed to launch in Metro mode; when you register one, all of the others revert to being regular desktop apps. It's an inexplicable design choice, other than that it makes Windows 8 users less likely to try new browsers.

Given all of these difficulties, Nightingale ultimately decided to pull the plug rather than release an inferior product.

"We could ship it, but it means doing so without much real-world testing," he wrote. "That's going to mean lots of bugs discovered in the field, requiring a lot of follow up engineering, design, and QA effort."

So much for that, then. Of course, since Firefox is open source, anyone with sufficient interest is free to pick up the slack. Any takers? ®

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