Mozilla’s Firefox browser today hit version 52, and a lot is changing. This is the last major release of Firefox with support for Windows XP and Vista. Firefox versions published after this will require Windows 7.
Since that marks a significant milestone, Mozilla is making Firefox 52 an Extended Support Release. It means that Firefox 52 will continue to receive security updates – and that’s it. Firefox 52 on Windows XP or Vista will never upgrade to Firefox 53 or receive any new feature updates but will continue to receive security updates for the time being.
This news isn’t a surprise; Microsoft does not support Windows XP anymore – not even security updates – and the extended support period for Windows Vista ends next month.
Google has abandoned Windows XP and Vista as well; the last version of Chrome to support these legacy operating systems was v54.
That also introduced a problem for Gmail, as some of the security features require Chrome v55 or above.
In addition to dropping support for the two legacy operating systems; Firefox 52 is also dropping support for NPAPI plugins. NPAPI was introduced by Netscape all the way back in the 1990s and is the foundation for several popular plugins like Java, Silverlight, Acrobat, and of course, Flash.
Firefox 52 no longer supports NPAPI, but Flash remains an exception due to how ubiquitous it is. However, it will be disabled by default and will require the user to enable it explicitly.
Microsoft Edge never came with support for NPAPI, while Google Chrome dropped support in 2016.
This change essentially kills Java and Silverlight plugins, as there is no longer a single modern and actively maintained browser that supports NPAPI plugins.
As the era of NPAPI plugins ends, something new begins. Firefox 52 is the first browser with support for Web Assembly.
Simply put, Web Assembly is magic. A joint effort of Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, and Google started the development of Web Assembly. That’s a team you don’t want to play against.
Mozilla is the first to support Web Assembly, but Google will soon follow it with Chrome v57. Microsoft is also working on Web Assembly support for Edge and expects something tangible within a couple of months.
In the end, everything ends, and that’s always sad. But, as The Doctor puts it, everything begins again too. And that’s always happy.