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OS X 10.5 Leopard may lose Firefox in 2012

Mozilla developers are considering dropping support for OS X 10.5 Leopard with the release of Firefox 13 next year.

In a recent discussion about the support of OS X 10.5 for its popular Firefox Web browser, Mozilla developers have been considering the removal of support for Leopard.

Leopard is now four years old, and the prediction by the Mozilla development team is that by the time Firefox 13 is released in June of 2012, the number of users running the operating system who would install it will have dropped to less than 10 percent of the Firefox Mac install base. In addition, technical challenges would make continued support for OS X 10.5 an unnecessary burden on Mozilla's Mac development team.

According to Mozilla's Josh Aas, Mac systems currently make up around 6.6 percent of all Firefox users, including versions of the browser since Firefox 3. While the majority of these are using OS X 10.5 (53 percent), if you just look at Firefox 7 then only about 20 percent of Mac users are running it on OS X 10.5. The Mozilla team expects that by the time Firefox 13 is released, those installing it who are still using Leopard will be only 9 percent of the Firefox Mac install base.

Beyond low numbers of users, maintaining Firefox on OS X 10.5 Leopard would also be far more difficult than developing it just for OS X 10.6 and 10.7. Leopard does not include support for advanced features like WebGL, and maintaining much of the security of the browser would rest on Mozilla's shoulders since Apple has dropped support for OS X 10.5 and no longer issues updates for it. Additionally, popular plug-ins like Adobe Flash are no longer supported on OS X 10.5.

Given these facts about the support of Firefox on Leopard, there is a strong case for dropping support for Leopard; however, other developers in the discussion have chimed in suggesting that Mozilla has only dropped support for operating systems because of technical challenges. In addition, there are concerns that despite diminishing percentages because of OS X 10.6 and 10.7 sales in the past few years, that the absolute number of OS X 10.5 users may be more stable than expected.

This development is still just under consideration and is by no means a decision of the Mozilla team; however, there appears to be more consensus among the Mozilla team for dropping 10.5 support than maintaining it.

This news is important for Mac users who still run OS X 10.5, which despite Mozilla's predictions for the future is still a significant number who would benefit from having a supported browser for their systems. Having a modern and updated browser is not only needed to be able to use the latest Web developments, but is also key for computer security. Most computers are exposed to threats via the Web, so having a browser that has the latest security updates is a key part of keeping your system safe. Granted Apple's drop of support for OS X 10.5 puts a wedge into the continued security of the platform, but having popular third-party browsers also jump ship just drives the wedge in further.

Currently the browsers that are supported in OS X 10.5 are Opera, Chrome, and Firefox. Apple's latest Safari browser requires Snow Leopard or later.

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