We’re just about ready for an era of 64-bit browsers

Adobe released a new Flash player this week. As almost an afterthought, they mentioned there’s a 64-bit version included.

That means Windows users can finally have mainstream 64-bit web browsers without using any beta software. I can put one on my main machine, and Gmail and Youtube and anything else that relies on Flash works the way it’s supposed to work.

What about Firefox? Read on.

IE9, of course, is both 64- and 32-bit. But since 64-bit IE9 lacks the JIT Javascript compiler, it’s much slower than its 32-bit counterpart. And many modern sites rely heavily on Javascript. So while 64-bit IE9 exists, it’s hard to regard it as a fully capable modern web browser. Frequently you’re better off using the 32-bit version.

There is no official 64-bit Firefox 7.01 on Windows. But there is a 64-bit build of Pale Moon 7 (which is based on Firefox 7.01–I told you about Pale Moon last July.). The 64-bit build works well. It’s fast, and compatible. I’ve been messing with the pair this week, and I’m impressed with 64-bit Pale Moon, and as impressed as I’ll ever be with Flash. I’m not a fan and think it’s overused, but there are some sites that, for the time being, still depend on it. It’s 64 bits, it works, and claims to be faster than its predecessor but for what I use it for, it’s hard to tell.

To get modern, just download the 64-bit Windows 7 version of Flash, close all of your browsers, run the installer, and then launch 64-bit Pale Moon afterward and visit http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/ to verify the correct version installed. When Flash installs, the installer doesn’t acknowledge 64-bit Pale Moon, but on my system at least, it found it just fine.

I don’t use Java anymore, don’t miss it, and highly recommend you do the same–it eliminates one more avenue for malware to get into your system and gives you one less thing to worry about keeping up to date–but if there are web sites you use that need Java, you can get an official 64-bit Windows build from Oracle.

Firefox version 8, currently in beta and scheduled for release on 8 November 2011, should be the first version to have an official 64-bit build. If you can’t wait, and don’t want to run beta software, Pale Moon works fine. If you want to use official channels, waiting a month and a day for Firefox 8’s official release date is no big deal anyway.

And all of this means Windows isn’t locked out of the 64-bit party anymore. Linux and Mac users can quit snickering–but, of course, Linux users had to rely on a beta version of Flash too.

If you’ve been waiting for viable 64-bit web browsers before upgrading to 64-bit Windows, this could be a good time to start getting ready. I already told you how to slipstream all the hotfixes and service packs. Patch Tuesday will be October 11 and–look at that!–November 8, if that matters in your planning.

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