Firefox is pulling the plug on its Windows 8 Metro app because its Metro beta uptake is so minuscule it's barely measurable. Will other developers follow Firefox and abandon Metro?
On the Firefox blog, Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox, announced that Firefox was immediately abandoning work on a Metro version of Firefox. That's a bigger deal than it sounds, given that two years of work had gone into the project, and the Metro version was supposed to be released tomorrow.
He wrote that "Shipping a 1.0 version, given the broader context we see for the Metro platform, would be a mistake." Why a mistake? Two reason. One is that few people use Metro, and it's not worth Firefox's effort to release and support an app for it. And second is that because so few people use Metro, Firefox hasn't had enough users try out its beta, so a final release could be buggy. He wrote
"As the team built and tested and refined the product, we’ve been watching Metro’s adoption. From what we can see, it’s pretty flat. On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment."
Those numbers are astounding. They mean that the number of users of the desktop version of Firefox outnumber Metro users by a factor of at least several thousand -- for every user of the Metro version, there are thousands of users of the desktop version. As a result, he wrote,developing a Metro version of Firefox offer "significant investment and low impact."
This should be a surprise to no one. The Windows Store is a lonely place, with thin shelves and poor inventory. I don't bother to use Metro apps because they're so underpowered compared to desktop versions. Even Microsoft itself doesn't seem overly committed to Metro, because there still isn't a Metro version of its most important application -- Office.
Firefox isn't the first to make this decision, and it won't be the last. Developing for Metro, as a general rule, is a time-waster. It's one more example of why Microsoft's gamble on creating a dual-interface operating system for both tablets and traditional PCs has failed.