Mozilla's open source Firefox Web browser is used today by over 6 million Apple Mac users. To date, Mozilla has supported Mac OS X 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6 for both Firefox 3.5 and for the recently released Firefox 3.6, though not all three Mac OS versions are likely to be supported under Firefox's next major release.
"Mac OS X 10.4 was released in April of 2005 and a lot has changed since then," Mozilla developer Josh Aas wrote in a Mozilla mailing list posting. "We would like to take advantage of more modern technologies on Mac OS X, and 10.4 support has been a hindrance. Where we can work around supporting 10.4, doing so consumes valuable time and effort."
With the decision to stop supporting Mac 10.4 moving forward, Mozilla is giving older Mac users some time before they really need to worry. Currently 24 percent of Firefox 3.5's Mac users are running OS X 10.4, it said. That number drops by half for the newer Firefox 3.6, with only 12 percent of its Mac users running OS X 10.4.
Users of OS X 10.4 -- a release that's also known by as "Tiger" -- will continue to be supported until Firefox 3.6 hits its own end-of-life, which might not be until 2011. Mozilla has recently started a new way to add features to Firefox 3.6, called the "Lorentz" branch, so users don't have to wait until a major release debuts to receive new features.
While Mozilla developers have laid out their case for a transition away from supporting Mac OS X 10.4 in the future, not everyone is thrilled with the decision. Already, more than a hundred message have been posted in Mozilla's mailing list thread on the subject of dropping Mac OS X 10.4 support, with scores of Apple fans giving Mozilla their two cents' worth.
"There is no need to do this; it's a short-sighted plan to avoid supporting well over a million users who are still running 10.4 for various reasons," a commenter going under the alias "mulder" wrote on the Mozilla mailing list thread.
But another commenter, going under the alias "sonic purity," noted that the number of OS X 10.4 users is miniscule compared to the numbers of users of other OS versions or platforms with which Mozilla's developers must also contend. Mozilla has over 200 million users, with the majority of them using Microsoft Windows.
"While it would be nice to see continued support for Tiger and while [I] am a fierce trailing-edge user who champions keeping older systems going as long as possible, I am also well aware that legacy support can be at least a drain and possibly a project killer," the user wrote. "I personally trust those who are active with the Mozilla project to make wise decisions to keep a reasonable balance, so while I vote very strongly for Tiger support and would personally benefit from it, I have no hard facts/numbers to sway the discussion and do understand that it may be in the best interests of the project and majority of users to drop Tiger and move forward. "