Linux and Mac users have enjoyed having a 64-bit versions of Firefox available to them for nearly the past two years. However, for us Windows users, Mozilla has been teasing us and/or dragging their feet with 64-Bit Firefox. As a point of clarification I should say that there has been since Firefox 4 (may be even further back) 64-bit Windows builds on the Nightly Developmental channel. These are not official releases and have never made into the Aurora or Beta stage, much less release. There has been some progress moving towards a Win 64-bit Firefox in that most (if not all) the popular Windows based Plugins (Flash, Java, Silverlight, etc.) are now available in 64-bit versions. Also, Mozilla has moved over recently to Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 compiler, still there is a lot of work that needs to be done before there will be an official Windows 64-Bit Firefox release.
Now, there are some 3rd party Windows 64-Bit browsers built off of the open Mozilla Firefox source code. A couple of these include Waterfox and Pale Moon. I had seen references to Pale Moon in the mozillaZine Firefox Builds forum but have yet to try it out. In the last couple weeks Ryan over at CyberNet News posted an article about Waterfox. Earlier this week I downloaded and installed Waterfox. Using the MDN ProfileManager, I made a duplicate of my main Firefox profile to run exclusively with Waterfox. Note: Waterfox will use your existing/current Firefox profile, which should (as long as Firefox and Waterfox are on the same base version such as 13.0.x) work fine. If you want to go back to Firefox, just close Waterfox (you can not run both at the same time with the same profile) and open Firefox. Also note sites which read your user agent will show you are using Firefox 13. Here is the actual user agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; Win64; x64; rv:13.0) Gecko/20120606 Firefox/13.0 ID:20120606130836.
So for the past week, I did some mixed testing from just using it on Delphi Forums and mozillaZine forums to seeing how it would handle Flash intensive sites such as YouTube and to trying very hard to crash the browser by running Facebook Flash based games. First off, all my add-ons and Greasemonkey and Stylish Scripts carried over and operated just as they did in Firefox. The browser does seem a little faster and is a lot more stable than Firefox Beta or Release versions. YouTube videos played just as well as did in Chrome (which is only 32-bit, but handles plugins a bit better than Firefox). So then the ultimate test, Facebook games. I do play Zynga Poker quite a bit and the game moves smoothly. I do get to a point after a couple hours that I have to close and restart the browser, but that is something I would have to do with any other browser as well.
Impressed with the way it handle Zynga Poker, I decided to give it the ultimate test…CityVille. I stopped playing CityVille a while back, because I could not find a browser that could handle this very Flash intensive game without freezing or crashing after a few minutes (if even that) of game play. The only browser that was somewhat stable enough to play the game on was IE9. I wasn’t even sure if Cityville was still around given the ‘issues’, but a quick check on Facebook and sure enough there it was. Loaded up the game into Waterfox, which was going fairly well. I could hear the fan on my PC speeding up and noticed the core temperature was increasing as the Process Explorer icon in my task bar had was starting to go from green to yellow to red as the demand for memory and CPU increased. I was able to play the game for a bit, while it never froze or crashed, there was a lot of lag with the Flash. I do have to admit Waterfox handled this better than IE9 did, but not by much. With that said though, I don’t think there is really any browser (I’ve tried IE, Chrome, Firefox 32-Bit and unofficial 64-Bit Firefox nightly builds) that can handle this extremely unstable and resource intensive game.
Other than its poor handling of Cityville (which I can’t really hold against Waterfox as the game engine itself is crap), I have had no issues. Haven’t even been able to crash the browser. There are times Firefox when left in the background for a while will crash for no apparent reason. This has been a reoccurring problem with the Nightly 32-bit builds, which usually borkes the updater resulting in having to manually download and install the latest nightly build. I thought I might had crashed it the other day when I was clicking on the title bar, but I thinking I must have right-clicked and somehow selected ‘Close’. At least that is my theory as there was no crash report screen (but then again this isn’t a Mozilla product) and when I reopened the browser it opened normally instead of to the session restore screen. I’ll have to test later with the Crash Me! option in Nightly Tester Tools and see what happens.
The only ‘areas of concern’ I have is being unofficial builds, is your support options are bit limited as you can not use Bugzilla, Mozilla Support or the mozillaZine forums. The project site does have a Support page with a link to a couple forums where you can seek support. Also, Waterfox is not updated as often as Firefox. I know there is a lot of criticism about the frequency of Firefox updates. As I have mentioned before, I support Firefox’s release schedule and the new amount of releases are about the same as they have been, just with a different version numbering system. There is a need for constant updates especially incremental updates (releases between major version such as Firefox 12.0.1, 13.0.1, etc.). These include fixing major exploits in the browser (or those caused by 3rd party plugins such as Flash) as well as fixing regressions caused by Microsoft with a Windows update. Plus, the Internet is constantly evolving and the technology changes so quickly as new standards are adopted (HTML5) and deprecated (Flash on Android). The latest version of Waterfox is 13 PL1 release on June 6th. The first release of Waterfox 13 was on June 4th, which was the day before Mozilla release Firefox 13.0.
Before you download and install Waterfox, you need to make sure you are running a 64-bit version of Windows. Just because you have a 64-bit processor does not necessarily mean that you are running a 64-bit version of Windows Vista or 7. To check go to the ‘start menu’ and right-click on My Computer or Computer and select ‘properties’.
In the System section under System type be sure it shows 64-bit Operating System. If it shows 32-bit Operating System then you will not be able to run Waterfox. Next go to the Waterfox Download page where you can download the application as well as get the latest Flash, Java and Silverlight plugins.
In regards to Pale Moon, I have yet to take a thorough look at this browser or even install it. May be in the coming weeks…