I had a program I wanted to run on my Mac, but since it’s pretty old (circa 2001) it was designed for Mac OS 9, so I made my first forays into ‘Classic’ mode on Mac OS X. Classic mode allows PowerPC Macs (not Intel ones) to load up Mac OS 9.2 inside what is essentially a virtual machine, although it does have full access to your hard disk. Once running, classic programs will run alongside modern ones almost transparently.
Classic comes with Netscape 4.7 as its web browser, which is hugely lame, so I went to see what else I could find. There really is very little choice in the web browser market for Mac OS classic because almost all of the developers have moved on to OS X – no Firefox, no Safari, and no Opera from what I can tell. There is a version of Netscape 7.02 from 2002, and Mozilla had official releases up until version 1.2.1, from 2003., which is based on Mozilla, is also available and is comparable to Mozilla 1.3.1. But there’s nothing newer than that.
Mac OS classic users are certainly in the minority – I imagine those still using it are either enthusiasts or people who have to run really, really old programs for business – but I was surprised at the lack of newer web browsers. Mozilla 1.3.1 isn’t bad – most web pages should render fine – but the fact that it hasn’t been updated in over 3 and a half years means that it’s likely to be entrenched by security flaws. It also doesn’t offer the vastly improved user experience of Firefox and Thunderbird.
Some operating systems, like OS/2 Warp, still have very active developer communities despite being very obscure, and to use the Firefox example it is possible to get a contributed build of Firefox 220.127.116.11 which will run on it (which was the latest version until last week). Seamonkey, the community version of Mozilla, had a contributed build for Irix as recent as last year. VLC’s latest version from late last year will run on BeOS. So it’s a perhaps a pity that developers have abandoned Mac OS classic so soon.