Browser Choice Thins For Power PC Mac Users

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?

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