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Browser Choice Thins For Power PC Mac Users

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It’s looking like Firefox version 3.6 may well be the end of the road for Power PC holdout fans of’s flagship web browser.

In a mailing list posting on Tuesday, Mozilla’s Firefox honcho Mike Beltzner affirmed: “I am gathering data on the number of PPC users we have, but the likely outcome is that we will not be supporting PPC [PowerPC] for Firefox 4.”

Mozilla has already cut off Firefox support for Mac OS X 10.4 after version 3.6, and the new SeaMonkey 2.1 Alpha released yesterday (SeaMonkey is based on the Firefox browser engine) also dumped support for OS 10.4.

Feeling The Pain

These developments were inevitable, and the proverbial writing has been on the wall for some time for Tiger support especially, but looming termination of all PPC support is a splash of cold water for legions of holdout users. With two old 550 MHz G4 Pismo PowerBooks running OS 10.4 Tiger still in daily service, I’m definitely feeling the pain of constricting browser support. At present, I’m using SeaMonkey 2.0.6 (current stable release), Opera 10.01, and iCab 4.8 on the Pismos along with old Netscape Navigator 9.

Indeed, in many respects, Navigator 9 remains the most satisfactory all-round browser on low-powered Power PC machines, although its security profile is woefully out of date, so I wouldn’t recommend it for visiting your online banking site, or anywhere else that security is a particular concern. You can still download Navigator 9 here.

SeaMonkey: The Best Compromise?

SeaMonkey 2.0.6 is probably the best compromise at this point between performance, reliability, and security, and I was disappointed when I downloaded the version 2.1 Alpha 3 build, which features some interesting interface upgrades, only to discover that the system requirements cited on MacUpdate were in error, and it doesn’t support OS 10.4.

iCab 4.8 still fully supports Tiger, and I don’t anticipate that it will be dropping it anytime soon, since they still offer a browser on their download page that supports 68k Macs running System 7.1, but the latest 64-bit version of iCab 4.8, of course, requires Snow Leopard, and it’s doubtful that legacy versions get much security updating, if any.

The latest version 10.6 of Opera nominally supports Power PC Macs running Tiger as well, but in practice, I’ve found that it’s slow and unstable on the old Pismos, with lots of spinning beachball time. The last build that works well on those machines is version 10.01 (c. October 2009).

Curtain Dropping On Power PC

Consequently, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the curtain is dropping on Power PC Macs. I’ll not be giving up on my beloved Pismo PowerBooks any time soon, and hope to continue using them for years to come, but I’ll do any security-sensitive web stuff on my MacBook and whatever supersedes it. Opera 10.6, Google (s goog) Chrome, Firefox 4, and Safari 5 all offer a superb browsing experience for Intel Mac users.

It’s interesting that Web browsers seem to have emerged as the tipping point of practical computer obsolescence. Are you feeling the pinch?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: What Does The Future Hold For Browsers?

9 Responses to “Browser Choice Thins For Power PC Mac Users”

  1. steviant

    @Stephane: Firefox 4 wont support PPC, Opera 11.6 won’t support PPC, Chrome has never supported PPC, and even Safari 5 on PPC doesn’t benefit from the JIT compiler or process isolation for plugins in the PPC version. Combine that with the abandonment of Flash on PPC and you have a fairly gloomy outlook for PPC browsing from here on out…

    PPC users face a pretty gloomy future – with only one actively developed browser of note, 2nd class javascript and rendering performance, crashing plugins, irreparable flash bugs and increasing marginalization of the platform.

    I think you should be worrying…

  2. I have two PPC Macs (and one Intel iMac). One of them is a Pismo running 9.0.4. It has Classilla for the browser, which is the only currently developed browser for Mac OS 9, and thus my number one choice. My other PPC Mac is a 2003 PowerBook G4 (12″, 1.33 GHz, 512 MB). It’s my main computer, because I don’t have to share it with anybody in my household, and it’s pretty capable (latest iWork and iTunes, some older iLife and Photoshop CS run fine) and portable. I run Tiger on it, and my browser is Safari 4.1, which is generally a stripped-down version of Safari 5, lacking only the Reader and extension support. Safari is my favorite browser, as it is standards compliant and very fast (unlike Firefox, which isn’t bad either though), respects my privacy (unlike Chrome) and isn’t bloated with loads of features nobody ever needs (unlike Opera). For the coming years, I suppose my G4 with Tiger and Safari 4.1 will serve me well. And the Pismo is great for running JewelBox and MatchMe natively. :-) I don’t use it for web browsing very often, because modern sites don’t always work well on it. By the way, here’s a tip: mobile versions of sites work better in Classilla. For example, didn’t work for me, but works fine.

    • I have around $3K invested in a quad core G5 and I expect it to last more than 4 years. It is still a very capable machine. And it was totally Apple’s (and others’) choice to orphan PPC just to make their life easier.

  3. What Stephane said. Safari 5 still has the best RSS implementation out there. Until Firefox decides to come up with a decent alternative, I’m sticking with the silver surfer.

  4. Charles W. Moore

    Hi Guys;

    I do keep an eye on Camino, but my experience with two 550 MHz G4 upgraded Pismo PowerBooks running OS 10.4.11 has been that SeaMonkey is more stable and its simple user interface, while not as attractive as Camino’s, seems to impose fewer damands on the old Pismos’ RAGE Mobility 128 GPUs and paltry 8 MB of non-upgradable video RAM. Not a whole lot in the difference, but ever bit counts on slower machines. Users with faster Macs may well prefer Camino.

    Camino 2.0.4 just out today still supports OS 10.4, but not likely for much longer if they as is likely continue using incrementally later Firefox browser engines.

    I actually did amend the paragraph and subhead pertaining to read as follows in a revised draft, but the previously submitted draft got posted for some reason.

    “SeaMonkey Or Camino The Best Compromise?

    Either SeaMonkey 2.0.6 or Camino 2.0.4 are probably the best compromises at this point between performance, reliability, and security,….”