Mozilla Cancels Metro Firefox Project; Cites Low Usage & Limited Resources

In a lengthy blog post today, released on a Friday evening in an effort to bury the story, Mozilla announced it was cancelling the Metro Firefox Project.  The company cited “low usage” and “limited resources.”  Having tried out the Metro browser a couple times it was a terrible & buggy piece of software.  Also not mentioned in the blog post was that the project was wildly off schedule, like clockwork every few months I would write about how the project had been delayed again and again.  I used the first beta of Windows 8 in 2011 we’re now almost quarter way through 2014.  Mozilla is clearly struggling to find its identity.  With their “limited resources” they seemed to manage to write an entire mobile operating system which has gained little traction as well.  Firefox is being overtaken by the popularity of Google Chrome, the very company the are dependent on their funding for.  In the mobile space third-party browsers are not hugely popular among mainstream consumers.  Which begs the question will Mozilla be relevant 10 years from now.

The blog post from Mozilla:

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.

Mozilla builds software to make the world better, but we have to pick our battles. We’re not as tiny as we were when we shipped Firefox 1.0, but we still need to focus on the projects with the most impact for our mission; the massive scale of our competitors and of the work to be done requires us to marshal our forces appropriately.

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. At first, it looked like we would be locked out completely. We eventually broke open Metro (though never the RT line of ARM-based products) and we got to work.

In the months since, as 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.

This leaves us with a hard choice. We could ship it, but it means doing so without much real-world testing. That’s going to mean lots of bugs discovered in the field, requiring a lot of follow up engineering, design, and QA effort. To ship it without doing that follow up work is not an option. If we release a product, we maintain it through end of life. When I talk about the need to pick our battles, this feels like a bad one to pick: significant investment and low impact.

Source: Mozilla

About the author  ⁄ Suril Amin

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

  • WinMetro

    Chrome fucks Windows tablet users by putting a Chrome OS UI on the Metro app and Firefox calls it a day and fucking gives up on the Metro app, What’s left? Have you heard of a browser called IE? Well if you haven’t than I ask that you get your ass off Chrome/Firefox and into Metro IE for a change, it’s a sexy browser for phones and tablets (can’t be said for the desktop version however.)

    • http://twitter.com/surilamin surilamin

      I suspect this is why Metro Firefox never got much use. Metro IE11 is fantastic on Windows 8.

      • hushv

        Microsoft is to blame for the low usage of Metro firefox. In windows 8, you can only have one metro browser active at a time. i.e. your default browser is the only one permitted to show in metro mode. If you switch on Chrome metro, IE chrome disappears….

        Why would someone leave stable IE metro for buggy Mozilla?

        Until Microsoft repeals the stupid anti-browser competition rule, no other metro browser except for chrome would be available. If you are wondering “why chrome?”
        1. Google has the resources
        2. Chrome is my default browser and for a lot of other people

        • http://www.rwalrond.com RWalrond

          Yep, I agree.
          Metro browsers should be downloadable from the Store and run separately like any other Metro app.

          • hushv

            Exactly. I don’t know the details though. I don’t know if metro IE would disappear if a metro browser is installed from the store. IF that happens, then might end up in a future where IE is the only browser available for windows.

        • Emi the Strange

          really?
          do you think you know what you are talking about?

          1. the reason you cant run win8 IE is because Microsoft doesnt want to… simple as that. they dont want to give you a browser if you are going to use something else.

          2. these browsers… Firefox and Chrome, arent even built with WinRT so how are they going to be in store? simple, they cant, if they were built like they should, giving RT users an alternative browser, well… they would run like another app in Win8.
          thats why these apps only run in x86 and 64 computers, which of course it is pretty much stupid since most x86 and 64 computers have a MOUSE and KEYBOARD.
          so why would you go to a limited and fullscreen version of a browser, if you can use the desktop version which will have all the features you expect?

          understand? or too hard for you?

          blame Microsoft all you want, but why Firefox didnt port firefox to WinRT? simple, they didnt want to… they could have done it and they chose to make a stupid modern “skin” to seem like it was a Win8 app never doing a browser for the real touch and tablet users like its Windows RT.
          why dont you ask Firefox that instead of blaming Microsoft for something you dont even understand?

          also, this browser was never officially released, it was alpha and then “beta” becuase they never labeled as that or told users to use it… so how can you expect people to use it if they dont even know it exist? lol please… yeah Microsoft fault…

          please next time, try to research a little, and try to understand it wasnt a Microsoft fault… Firefox took a cheap way of making a “touch” buggy version of their browser that never worked fine and never worked in ARM. but im sure it would be crap even if they took the time to make a proper WinRT browser app, you know, if their Android version is terrible… I dont expect they making a good job with WinRT.

          • hushv

            Look boy or gal, which ever is applicable. I’m not here to battle. When you’ve calmed down a bit. Look up the ONE METRO browser rule…

            BTW. i agree with you about the alpha ish with firefox. They didn’t make the stuff discoverable. And I installed it multiple times, the firefox metro did not work.

            Mozilla has their own blame as well :)

          • Joe_HTH

            Everyone knows about restrictions in Windows RT. That has nothing to do with why nobody used metro Firefox. It was crap. That’s why nobody used it.

          • hushv

            Apparently, not everyone’s got the memo. Read “Emi the strange” comment above

          • Asgard

            Yeah just like its Apple’s fault that IE cannot run in iPhone, because those bastards created a platform which isn’t Windows ;) Or just like MS created a platform which isn’t Java fork on top of Linux kernel.
            Some people are just plain stupid.

          • neonspark

            1) so how come you can run FF and chrome in windows and they still give IE away. OMG you’re so funny.

            2) LOL. OMG. where to start.

            a) IE calls special APIs not available to Mozilla and google. Basically IE wouldn’t be a store app if it had to pass MSFT own test against forbidden APIs. but off course as you have NO CLUE about development, you wouldn’t know this.

            http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/mozilla-and-google-accuse-microsoft-of-unfair-browser-competition/4995

            b) android works on the x86 architecture. It has nothing to do with mouse or keyboards or capacitive touch screens. X86 is just an instruction set. it isn’t any more or less touch friendly than ARM. The reason chrome doesn’t work with RT has to do with compiler issues as VS support for ARM compilation is lacking (VLC admitted to this which basically prevented the app to show up in windows RT yet).
            understand or too hard for you?
            FF wanted to port to winRT but MSFT isn’t given them neither the proper tools nor the proper APIs to do so. Off course MS makes the OS and lets the IE team reach deep into private APIs Mozilla can’t, but Mozilla isn’t lazy. They are just being limited by MSFT. Why don’t you ask MSFT instead of blaming Mozilla for something you don’t even understand?
            Please next time try to research a little. Try to understand the truth rather than spewing nonsense. FF was scroogled by MSFT and was next to impossible to port to ARM given MSFT lack of support even in its own VS suite for windows RT compilation of native code, mostly c++.

        • Joe_HTH

          No, Microsoft is not to blame for the low usage of metro Firefox. The low usage was due to the browser being a colossal pile of sh*t. I downloaded the beta and tried to use it, but it was laughable compared to IE11.

          The truth is Mozilla is incapable of building a decent mobile browser. Their Android browser is garbage too. Then again, Chrome isn’t worth a crap on Windows 8 either.

          • hushv

            I agree Mozilla has always been awful. The performance of IE11 is awesome but i’m stuck with Chrome. The extensions i rely on are all there.

  • ROLO_ONFIRE

    Too bad, Firefox is my favorite browser.

    • kain0m

      It used to be my favorite as well, but they keep on making it worse and worse. The UI gets more stupid with each release, and when they introduce their Aurora UI I’ll be gone for good. Firefox has grown out of control…
      BTW, one of the reason why they aren’t seeing a lot of Metro users is because they refuse to bring Firefox to Metro RT. I know it isn’t easy, but it certainly is possible. But they set off with a “we’re not going to fight for Metro” attitude even before Win8 was out there….

      • hushv

        Like in IOS, due to Win 8 restrictions, other Metro browsers would at least 2X slower (and probably less capable) than IE.

        Therefore, a RT browser from a company with a reputation to maintain (Google, Mozilla, opera) is a pipe dream for now. A browser for RT would be much more likely from a no-name developer.

  • http://yourig.livejournal.com/ ZloiYuri

    “we’ve never seen more than 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment.” maybe just because FF cannot compete IE? Even FF for classic desktop too slow and unsafe and glitchy, what’s to say about Meto mode with it’s limitations.

    • hushv

      IE has become a whole lot cool. The popup blocker in IE 11 is the best in all browsers. It’s a pity you’d have to go on a treasure hunt to find it.

      Unfortunately i wont be able to switch fully – extensions.

      i’ll leave the extension debate for another day.

  • Tips_y

    Toot bad. But then, I’ve completely shifted to IE11 for about 3 months already. I wish I could say “you’d be missed” but I can’t, not anymore.

  • tom

    FX – We made a car without wheels and nobody want use it – so we abandon the project.

  • NegLewis

    What the…
    The investment it’s done.

    Let’s see.. we have 1000 users on an unreleased product… hmm…

    Strange…

  • NGM123

    Been using Netscape then Firefox for an age. Was disappointed when I initially realised I couldn’t down load Firefox for my Surface, then I found IE11 and have never looked back. IE11 on a touch UI is nothing short of amazing.

  • GetEdumated

    I’ll tell you one explanation: I installed it but it still launches the desktop version. I tried finding the metro version in the all apps list but it wasn’t there. Three times I tried installing and had to give up. Make a product that works and you’ll get your usage, dumb-asses.

  • Jamie Lievesley

    The reason I don’t use Metro Firefox is because it sucks. Windows 8 isn’t the issue, Metro Firefox is. I understand “making it simpler” for Modern UI, but its literally stripped of most of the features, including most importantly to me – tab groups, if it at least had these I’d use it on my touchscreen laptop.