It remains off the new version conveyor belt and is the last version with the traditional user interface (UI) – Firefox 4 introduced major changes to the UI which subsequent versions have built upon. The bad news for 3.6 users is that Mozilla have long had plans to kill it off by ending support.
In the new era of rapid releases (a new version every 6 weeks), Firefox 3.6 stands alone as a glaring anachronism. The latest proposal from Mozilla is that 3.6 is ‘end of lifed’ on Apr 24th 2012 – the date pencilled in for release of Firefox 12. End of life means no more support so no bug fixes and, crucially, no more security updates – so anyone who cared at all about security would be forced to finally give up on 3.6
Why Kill It Off? We believe the reasoning behind this is that nobody wants to support different versions of software for too long because it draws resources away from research, development and testing of new versions. Just as Microsoft are chomping at the bit to finally be rid of supporting the ancient XP, so Mozilla must be keen to focus solely on new versions.
The worrying difference for Mozilla is that the upgrade path for XP users is obvious (most will upgrade to W7+ because Mac/Linux options are just too big a change for them) but it is far less clear cut for Firefox 3.6 users – they might finally upgrade to Firefox 12 but could just as easily switch to an alternative like Google Chrome, Opera or IE9. Web browsers may have loyal followings but, unlike operating systems, it is not a huge change to move to a different one.
The fact that they haven’t switched already is a good sign, but the fact that they have still not been persuaded to adopt the new FF4+ UI and rapid release schedule should really worry Mozilla – if they haven’t been persuaded by now, perhaps they never will be…
How Many Users Are Affected?
According to the latest StatCounter data for November, Firefox 3.6 still enjoys a 22% share of all Firefox users. The impact of ending support could therefore be really serious for Firefox’s global market share if a sizable proportion of those users abandoned ship – in our opinion that very real fear is why the end of life date seems to keep being postponed…
The market share of Firefox must currently be of particular concern to Mozilla because it is flatlining – even though IE’s market share continues to bleed about 1% a month. Instead of transferring to Firefox as in years gone by, that share now appears to be going straight to Chrome.
So the big question for the future of Firefox is where will those 3.6 users go? If you’re still using Firefox 3.6 do let us know in the comments which way you’ll jump when support finally ends – and why.