The Case for TenSixFox

Those using G3, G4, or G5 Macs with OS X 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard are no doubt aware of TenFourFox, a port of the latest Extended Release version of Firefox to these old systems. With Chrome and Firefox due to drop OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 support, perhaps it’s time for a similar project – TenSixFox.

TenFourFox IconTenSixFox would do for users of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, and 10.8 Mountain Lion what TenFourFox does for PowerPC Macs running OS X 10.4 and 10.5. It would provide one last up-to-date browser for Macs otherwise left behind by recent browser developments.

How Many Macs Can’t Run OS X 10.9 and Later?

Apple hasn’t released Mac sales figures broken down by model line in a long time, so we have to make a best guess as to how many Macs are out there that can’t run anything later than Snow Leopard. That would be every Core Duo Mac, so all the Intel Macs from January 2006 until September or so. That’s approximately 3.2 million units.

Then there are the Macs that can run OS X 10.7 Lion but nothing since, Core 2 Duo models with Intel integrated graphics. Maybe another 6-7 million, for a total of somewhere around 10 million.

We really don’t need to worry about Mountain Lion users, since any Mac that supports Mountain Lion can also run each later version through OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

Apple has sold in the ballpark of 140 million Intel-based Macs, and some of these older Macs are no longer in use, so it’s definitely a small percentage – but it’s probably a bigger audience than G3, G4, and G5 Mac users.

Site Statistics

Based on traffic to lowendmac.com, which probably skews a bit more toward older Macs than the norm, 11.4% of those visiting the site using Intel-based Macs in February 2016 were using OS X 10.6. Another 6.2% is using 10.7, and just 3.0% are still on 10.8, which is on the way out.

Overall, 17-20% of visitors to Low End Mac would benefit from a modern browser for OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8.

Snow Leopard as a Legacy OS

Certain versions of the Mac OS have important legacy features. System 7.5 was the last to run in 24-bit mode. System 8.1 was the last to support 68040 processors. OS X 10.4 Tiger was the last to include Classic Mode. OS X 10.5 Leopard was the last to support PowerPC G4 and G5 Macs.

Many of us continue to run OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard because it is the last version of OS X to include Rosetta, which allows users to run old PowerPC software that was never ported to Intel processors. AppleWorks is an important app that many of us used for years. It was never ported to Intel. It can’t run beyond Snow Leopard.

Because of this, Snow Leopard is an important legacy version of OS X that will continue to have users long after Mountain Lion is forgotten. I know that I don’t want to buy a newer version of Microsoft Office. I have Office 2004, rarely use it, and have no desire to upgrade.

Firefox for Snow Leopard

Mozilla argues that Firefox is no longer running well on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and that’s probably a good reason for them to abandon it, along with 10.7 and 10.8. Developer tools are dropping support for these versions of OS X, and Google Chrome is also leaving them behind in the very near future (April 2016).

Someone working with tools designed for OS X 10.6-10.8 could take the Firefox source code and optimize it for those platforms, just as TenFourFox is available in optimized versions for G3, G5, and two types of G4.

TenSixFox could have two forks: a 32-bit only version for Core Duo Macs running Snow Leopard and a 64-bit version for Core 2 Duo Macs running 10.6, 10.7, or 10.8. At least that seems reasonable – I am not a developer, so I’m guessing here.

What do you think? Should someone port Firefox to older Intel Macs once Mozilla drops support?

Keywords: #tenfourfox #tensixfox #firefox

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