What's the best Firefox or Opera browser alternative?

Martin Brinkmann
May 29, 2013
Updated • May 29, 2013

One of Google Chrome's major weaknesses or shortcomings is the browser's lack of user interface customization options. It is a take it or leave it interface that is giving users no options whatsoever to customize it.

You cannot move toolbar icons around, add a second toolbar (other than the bookmarks bar), or place new icons in locations in the browser to speed things up (other than with add-ons).

Opera Software released a preview of Opera 15 yesterday. It is the first desktop version of Opera based on Chromium, which Google Chrome is also based on.

While it is too early to tell if the final version will provide the same feature set, it is fair to say that this version feels like Google Chrome with a couple of Opera features sprinkled on it. The browser is as customizable as Chrome, which means that you cannot really customize it in any way or form. This is a stark contrast to Opera 12.15, the latest version of the browser based on the old rendering engine.

Opera turned from a highly customizable browser into a browser that you cannot customize at all.

But the Norwegian company is not the only that is reducing user choice. Mozilla too started work on a new design and changes in the popular Firefox browser, likely a result of Google Chrome pushing into the market.

There have been smaller changes in recent time, like the removal of the status bar but nothing major. This changes when Firefox 25 gets released as it will ship with the Australis theme enabled by default if nothing gets into the way in the meantime.

While things won't be as bleak as in Opera, some customizing options will get removed from the browser after all. This may include the add-on bar, all custom user created toolbars and less options when it comes to the icons in the navigational toolbar.

Firefox 25 will still be the browser that you can customize the most, at least where the top 5 browsers are concerned.


Firefox 24 is the next ESR (Extended Support Release) of the browser. This release will be supported for a period of eight release cycles so that Firefox users can switch to it temporarily to avoid Australis.

SeaMonkey on the other hand may be it. The Internet application suite combines a browser, mail reader and other tools under its hood. While it is using Firefox for the browsing part, it is not following when it comes to design changes that Mozilla made in the past.

It is for instance still using a status bar and I have not seen any evidence yet that this is going to change when Mozilla releases the Australis theme to the public.

seamonkey firefox alternative

Since it is based on Firefox, it is possible to install most add-ons for the browser in SeaMonkey as well. Opera users on the other hand may like the integrated email client that the suite ships with. While they will certainly have to spend more time adjusting to the new environment, it is certainly closer to Opera 12.15 than Opera 15 is in its current state of development.

SeaMonkey is by no means the perfect solution, but there are not really that many left that you can use.

Windows users can also look at Pale Moon, a version of the browser maintained by a single developer. It is however not clear how Pale Moon will look and feel like when Firefox 25 gets released.

Closing Words

Firefox and Opera do not become unusable when the changes land and there are good arguments for adjusting to change to keep on using them. It may take some time to adjust and find new ways to work with the browser, but that is not really the core issue here, at least not for me. Customizations make Firefox and Opera great, and easily distinguishable from a one-interface for everyone browser like Chrome.

If they take that away from the browser, they are removing one of the main reasons for using Firefox or Opera.


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  1. madeline said on May 31, 2013 at 10:27 am

    From my perspective you leave out the most “authoritarian” aspect of Chrome: it MUST be installed on drive C and will not accept installation to any other drive. This continues even though many people have small SSD drive for drive C. Chrome still believes they’ve no obligation to provide even that much freedom. People have tried creating junctions and all kinds of complicated workarounds all because Chrome refuses to pay attention to their users. Although I also own an Android phone, I use no Google extras – and their attitude toward their users is the reason.

    BTW, I just installed an Opera Mobile Beta to my new (Samsung SG4) phone. It runs very well and adapts itself very well to the needs of Android screen placement – much better than the Android version of Chrome.


  2. Terence said on May 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I’ve been looking for alternative lately and I found Lunascape to be closest to what I had in Opera. It is triple engine browser and all Firefox plugins are available. Testing it for a second day.

  3. Nebulus said on May 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    An interesting fact: I checked the Firefox ESR life cycle and noticed that v24 will be ESR. That means there is a good chance that at least for another year I will still be able to enjoy a normal version of Firefox. After that, it is what I said before: no more updates.

  4. joy said on May 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks beachbouy

  5. Dougle said on May 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Although I have the UX build running, I’ll wait until Australis lands on inbound and then make a decision. If, at that point, the UX team has destroyed the customisation options, to a point where fx is just another Chrome, I’ll switch to Mozilla Suite – aka Seamonkey. I used the suite back in the day and it is, in my opinion, the next best choice.

  6. Orhin said on May 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Palemoon.. Palemoon and Firefox Version 24 – Why not using an outdated Browser when you have enough security around you? Worked in the past and works in the Future.

    I just see no reason why i should surrender to the opinion of Devs that era of Customization is coming to an end? If i want Customization, i get customization. And Hell is freezing before i completly abandon Firefox Below V25 – Nightly is already good and i have no fear that V24 will run quite well the next few years even without updating to an Australis invaded Version :D

  7. Karl J. Gephart said on May 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Well, coming from a guy who uses AIO Sidebar and Custom Buttons for dev tool and other icons, this is not good news for me. Gecko’s days are probably limited. I do agree with you about SeaMonkey. Rather than use Firefox profiles for clients, I use various browsers, including Pale Moon. Opera was always my #2 choice because of dev tools. Flexibility and support are obviously high priorities. The industry has been going Webkit. I kind of like Maxthon, but it’s based on Webkit and Trident (Ugh! IE-based! LOL!). And support and increased latency have been problematic with 64-bit Waterfox and Cyberfox. With recent news of Chrome OS, things are not encouraging, but not all that surprising, either. I’ve been seeing the day coming soon when browsers will take a back seat to apps running off OS’s. All in all, Martin, I see it like you do, I’ll either continue with the increasing restrictiveness of Firefox or ride the SeaMonkey wave for as long as I can, because of flexibility of add-ons.

  8. Walter Rountree said on May 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

    What on earth is the STATUS bar? It is enough to make me want to go to the bar and order a double drink. I still cannot keep straight what Microsoft is talking about when they mention taskbar vs. toolbar. On my Firefox when I click on VIEW, I can select sidebar or toolbars. If I select TOOLBARS, the options are menu-bar, navigation-toolbar, bookmarks-toolbar, LastPass toolbar, and add-on bar.

  9. beachbouy said on May 29, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Also, if you use a 64-bit browser, then you will need both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Flash and Java. It’s just not worth it, unless you have a specific need to use a 64-bit browser.

  10. beachbouy said on May 29, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Waterfox is a 64-bit compilation of Firefox code. It is done by a college student who decided he wanted a 64-bit Firefox. In the past, updates often lagged behind the official Firefox updates, because the compilation takes time and he uses his computer for school. There is very little advantage in going with a 64-bit browser, or that’s what Mozilla (and other browsers) would focus on. I think video is the main strength of a 64-bit browser.

  11. joy said on May 29, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Is waterfox a good firefox alternative? Does it get the same updates frequently, faster anything like that?

    1. Casper said on July 8, 2013 at 3:02 am

      Waterfox is dead there hasen’t been a update since earlier this year another alternative is Cyberfox:


  12. Daniel said on May 29, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Firefox can have whatever theme, as long as i can still use Compact!
    No more addons bar? Make up my mind!!

    Opera isn’t a browser anymore.
    Separate mail client, RSS?
    No more customizations?
    If i want Chrome, i’ll use Google Chrome.

  13. Ahmad said on May 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

    I think it will be really great time for Apple to rerelease their Safari 6.1 again for Windows and now Blink is separate fork from Webkit, Apple need more contributors for Webkit, being a little part of Firefox in filing bugs, I love to help file bugs for Webkit and dig in it more. Safari will be great incoming.
    No only me but several pro Firefox user hated Australis on mozillazine..
    I hate say but Stephen Horlander designed a disgusted UI..

  14. Nebulus said on May 29, 2013 at 5:21 am

    I was curious about the FF version that Seamonkey is based on, because I didn’t find that information on their site.
    Regarding Maxthon, I heard good things about them in the past, but a visit to their site that revealed their new name “Maxthon Cloud browser” put me off instantly, so there is no chance I will use it.
    As for the future, I will continue to use old Firfox and Opera versions, and try to mitigate their security flaws by using other means/software.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 29, 2013 at 5:30 am

      Nebulus, the latest release version is based on Firefox 20.

      1. Nebulus said on May 29, 2013 at 11:55 am

        Thanks, Martin!

  15. anon said on May 29, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Rather than letting it die why don’t Opera just release the presto based browser source code? They can have the trademark for the brand and let community improve the browser for them to reap the benefit.

    I wonder how long I can cling to 12.15 :(

  16. Mountainking said on May 29, 2013 at 5:22 am
  17. Mountainking said on May 29, 2013 at 5:05 am

    Your options are only limited to FF24, seamonkey and palemoon Martin??

    Any other browsers like maxthon (for example)?
    What exactly in seamonkey/FF24 and palemoon offer customisation?
    What are the limitations?

    Based on the above, a RECOMMENDATION or comparison on the “best” as the article title would imply.
    Thanks Martin.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 29, 2013 at 5:23 am

      I only looked at the “closest thing” and that is SeaMonkey in my opinion. SeaMonkey offers all customizations that Firefox offers right now as far as I can tell, and it is likely that this is not changing when Firefox 25 comes along.

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