Pale Moon to switch from Gecko to Goanna rendering engine

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 22, 2015
Updated • Aug 28, 2019
Internet, Pale Moon

The Pale Moon team announced yesterday on the official project forum that the next major version of the browser, Pale Moon 26, will use the new layout and rendering engine Goanna instead of Mozilla's Gecko.

The Pale Moon web browser used Mozilla's Gecko engine up until now thanks to its close ties to the Firefox project.

One major issue that the team ran into is that Mozilla linked Gecko's version to that of the Firefox web browser which caused compatibility issues for Pale Moon users on websites that detected the "wrong" version of Gecko thanks to Pale Moon's different version.

Apart from the technical issue described above, using Gecko was also identified as a legal issue by the Pale Moon team as it is a registered trademark licensed to the Mozilla Foundation by Netscape/AOL.

The solution the team came up with was to create its own rendering and layout engine Goanna and use it instead of Gecko in the Pale Moon browser. As is the case with Pale Moon and Firefox, it has close ties to the Gecko rendering engine.

Goanna Logo-a2 The change affects the name and version of the engine more than anything else. The team will use Goanna as the identifying engine and use a version scheme starting with version 1.0 that is independent of Pale Moon, Firefox or Gecko versions.

Goanna's version will increase as it is being worked on by the team independent of Pale Moon's development.

The team plans to release version 1.0 of Goanna with Pale Moon 26, the next major version of the web browser.

It notes that the impact should be minimal at first, but that there may be some compatibility issues with extensions that use "code paths based on platform versions". Since this is an issue, it is planing on returning a "compatibility version for historical reasons" to make sure these extensions remain compatible with Pale Moon 26.

Pale Moon 26.0 was released in 2016; it was the first stable version of the web browser that featured the Goanna engine.

A public preview version is not available currently but if it gets released, you will find it posted on the WIP page on the Pale Moon website.

If the Pale Moon team's predictions are correct, users of the browser should not notice the change at all or only in a minimal way when they upgrade the browser to version 26. Since there is no way of knowing for sure at this point, it is recommended to either wait with the upgrade to read reviews and comments of users who upgraded immediately to the new version, or use a test version of the browser to test it directly.

This should not be too hard considering that Pale Moon is offered as a portable version which you can use for that purpose (you may need to import your profile though).

Now You: What's your opinion and prediction in regards to the change?

Pale Moon to switch from Gecko to Goanna rendering engine
Article Name
Pale Moon to switch from Gecko to Goanna rendering engine
The Pale Moon team announced that it will switch from the Gecko rendering engine to its own Goanna engine in the upcoming Pale Moon 26.
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  1. RADHA said on May 13, 2023 at 3:03 pm

    I think it is more an issue of moderation. I’m not sure if you get an email for comments held in moderation, but if this is the case, you may have to wait up to eight hours or so. Reason: I need to sleep and Ghacks is a one man show. I understand that this can be frustrating, but rest assured that comments will get published eventually.

  2. JD Straw said on December 13, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Good Night….God bless, and a great big THANKS to your entire team of hard-working technicians and all your technical support staff :-)

  3. A different Martin said on December 13, 2016 at 12:00 am

    @ Martin Brinkmann:

    Hi, Martin. Is there any way to prevent email notifications of new comments from going out until the comments have actually been posted to the article? I wanted to respond to a new comment to this article, but it’s been two hours since I got the email notification and it still hasn’t been posted.

    @ JD Shaw (whose comment hasn’t been posted yet):

    You might get more useful feedback if you included which version of Pale Moon you are currently using, as well as what extensions you have installed. Pale Moon was recently upgraded to version 27, followed by two minor point updates, 27.0.1 and 27.0.2. Version 27 was kind of a major jump and it disabled an entire class of extensions. I think 27.0.1 fixed some bugs, and I’m pretty sure that 27.0.2 re-enabled Firefox Compatibility mode by default. I don’t know the first thing about AOL webmail, but you’re not currently running 27.0.2 and don’t want to, you might try going into Pale Moon, Tools, Options, Advanced, General, and changing the Firefox Compatibility setting at the bottom to see if that helps.

    Also, Pale Moon’s own support forums would be a much better venue than Ghacks for this kind of question.

    Anyway, good luck. I’ve had Gmail stop working entirely well in Pale Moon, but because the problem went away in relatively short order with no intervention from me, I never figured out where the problem lay. (My guess is that it was Google dicking around with Gmail’s code, as they like to do from time to time.)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 13, 2016 at 6:48 am

      This is unfortunately not possible as there are not options to do that (this is powered by a plugin, not WordPress itself). Does this happen often?

      1. A different Martin said on December 13, 2016 at 7:48 am

        Thanks for getting back to me, Martin.

        It’s happened to me moderately often in the past, but the delay between email notification and website posting was rarely longer than two or three minutes and I don’t remember it ever being longer than five. Today was the longest delay by far. I guess the problem is either that WordPress sends out notification emails before the webpages actually get updated with new comments, and they took a particularly long time to update the pages today, or the updated webpages are not available to me for some time after the updates have been committed (e.g., because of updating delays in local WordPress mirrors). I don’t think it was a local cache issue, since I reloaded the page from scratch (shift-control-R or shift-RefreshButton in Pale Moon), bypassing the cache, instead of just refreshing it.

        At any rate, it looks like it’s beyond your control. Delays of a few minutes I can live with. If two-hour-plus delays became routine, however, it would probably cut way back on the number of times I bothered to respond to new comments. (What’s that I hear? “Win-win for everyone”? ;-) Again, thanks for responding … and for your great articles.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on December 13, 2016 at 7:59 am

        I think it is more an issue of moderation. I’m not sure if you get an email for comments held in moderation, but if this is the case, you may have to wait up to eight hours or so. Reason: I need to sleep and Ghacks is a one man show. I understand that this can be frustrating, but rest assured that comments will get published eventually.

    2. JD Straw said on December 13, 2016 at 3:48 am

      Pale Moon’s support forum is a non-funny, pitiful inadequate, pitiful joke…and just to clarify, I do have the very latest update version for each browser and software that I use. Pale Moon is just LAZY, FEELS PRIVILEGED, AND they’re just DOWNRIGHT SORRY!

      1. clas said on December 13, 2016 at 12:18 pm

        my experience with the pale moon forum has been a breath of fresh air. knowlegable people willing to help solve problems with their excellent browser. i have been using pale moon for about two years now and am just holding off on the new version until they work out a few bugs. the 26.5 version i use is perfect. all extensions work, its quick and i have it tweaked to my satisfaction. i dont even think about other browsers anymore and i have tried seven of them and given each a good ride. I always come back to pale moon. I just got tired of firefox changing stuff to suit their “kiddy” developers. and JD Straw…like pale moon says: if you dont like our browser, then there are plenty others to use.

      2. George said on December 13, 2016 at 11:43 am

        With this kind of attitude, I’d be surprised if you’d get any kind of attention anywhere, not just that forum.

  4. JD Straw said on December 12, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    A GOOD day to ALL!!! I have a new exasperating problem. My Pale Moon no longer allows me (all of a sudden–less than a week ago) to open my e-mail on the AOL web site. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem or if anyone has a solution, if you won’t mind sharing with me, PLEASE/THANKS.

    When I now click on the link to open my mail a small blank window pops up, then it almost immediately disappears, in less than 2 or 3 seconds, no matter how many times I go back and try to open it. But, for some reason, I have always been successful (thus far) in opening my e-mail box on my FireFox browser each and every time I try. Thanks for reading and if you send a solution to the problem, then I will be so very grateful.
    Again…Thanks for reading this.

  5. El Goopo said on June 24, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    So basically, MoonChild et al forked an old ESR to make Pale Moon, and now they can’t find the resources to sync back up to Gecko’s latest version. So instead they’re cherry-picking Mozilla’s newer patches and applying them to their old fork and claiming it’s their own substantially different engine in order to garner praise. Just like with breaking addon compatibility: when Mozilla does it, it’s the of the universe, but when you do it you’re heroes. All because you were stubborn and fell behind, and it’s easier to blame it on Mozilla. In the meantime Seamonkey and TenFourFox are keeping up and doing actual work to justify the praise they get.

    1. TrollHunter said on May 31, 2016 at 2:44 am

      Pale Moon starting Goanna (based on Gecko) project is the same situation when Google started Blink (based on WebKit) project. But I didn’t see anyone crying “outdated!” back then.

    2. Lestat said on June 24, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      That’s what a fork is. You split off at some point in time and do your own business.

      If you are following still the original product with just adding once a month their recent engine update, it is a re-brand or re-base.

      Get your facts straight boy!

      Seen from that point of view, even Seamonkey is no true fork – as they are still dependent on Mozilla’s engine.

      And also this TenFourFox is no real fork.

      Granted, i CAN see the reasoning why these guys are not really splitting off from Mozilla – it is much more easier to handle that way.

      Anyway, point is this. Calling Pale Moon outdated because they are no longer follow Mozilla’s release train is wrong. As long as features and security fixes are added to the browser, it is far from outdated.

      It is what it is… a fork.

  6. Birmingham said on June 24, 2015 at 3:33 am

    I appreciate Goanna as it seems to be one more step to split from Mozilla Firefox and I don’t worry much if I lose one more of my low use add-ons. When I switched to Pale Moon I lost 2 of around 20 addons, that’s less than I lost in Firefox history, up to FF28. I’m looking forward that Pale Moon will grow and add-on developers will perhaps improve PM compatibility.
    I was tired of FF update cycles with new, non-browser and default functions that I never use, so I would be glad if PM doesn’t follow that path any further. Also ‘muh speeds’ with cloned FF twins is not a real alternative for me. I don’t hate Firefox, not even much the Australis GUI, I just need a stable work horse browser without Pocket, Hello, DRM, safebrowsing, geo-location, ads, etc., that doesn’t dump my data to numerous services. Summary: I’m fine with Pale Moon and the more they’re getting away from post-FF28, the better.

  7. mikef90000 said on June 24, 2015 at 2:03 am

    So far so good, at least with the 64-bit Linux version. Without the kill-Australis hacks, my smaller list of critical extensions work today. I’ve also discovered that a user agent switcher comes in handy, but I haven’t found a good one for PM yet.

  8. webfork said on June 24, 2015 at 12:47 am

    A few concerns …

    1. Browser engines are complex things that take a lot of time and energy. Javascript performance, support for HTML 5, the Acid test, CSS, cross-platform compatibility, and a VERY long list of other issues all affect how a given engine is received. Nevermind the documentation, community input, and testing that are necessary. Building and maintaining an engine, even from a mature code base like Gecko, seems a monumental effort.

    2. Gecko was at or near the top of a variety of speed tests out there. Why you would fork a browser that already has good performance?

    3. Mozilla’s best features have always been it’s available add-ons and almost every discussion about Pale Moon seems to center around whether it works with X add-on that someone loves. Breaking off from even few plugins doesn’t seem like a strong move.

    What I suspect therefore is that this is a “pseudo fork” as Eric Raymond referred to in The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The practice “is common but [actual] forking almost never happens. Splits in major projects have been rare, and are always accompanied by re-labeling and a large volume of public self-justification.”

    Whatever their strategy here, I wish them luck. User choice is a good thing.

    1. LimboSlam said on July 13, 2015 at 6:03 am

      Yes hi, I’ve been using Pale Moon for 3 years and it handles great with minor bumps here and there occasionally. I’m also an active user on their forum and I’m pretty sure this wonderful browser will survive than any of you are anticipating. We will try to make sure all users are contempt with the browser and ask if any improvements are needed, we will help you out/give you advise on how to solve your certain issue, we will notify you of any changes/updates that may effect you in negatively, and YES we will be keeping compatibility with most ADD-ONS and fork the ones we can’t.

      Really, this browser shouldn’t be considered a “based-off of Firefox” or a “based-off anything” because of our transition from Gecko to the newly Goanna rendering engine (a modified rendering engine to fit our specific needs and is significantly different enough that we can now give it a new name) and resetting the version scheme to 1.0. Not to mention as we move forward to becoming an independent browser. So the correct term/phrase would be a “fork” and “Pale Moon is forked from Firefox” or a “fork of Firefox.”

      Now, if anyone want’s to know more about Pale Moon v26 or Pale Moon in general and the future roadmap of the Project, then please visit these pages and help us out by reporting any bugs you’ve encountered with Pale Moon or gives us your feedback so we can understand and improve our service:

  9. Derpy said on June 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    I’m hoping the transition to Goanna won’t be as bumpy as the GUID change. Though, if Pale Moon’s user agent will no longer identify as Gecko, I’m wondering if Firefox Compatibility mode will be impacted. If it is, some websites (e.g. Google) will load a version of the page with reduced functionality and some (e.g. iCloud) will outright refuse entry.

  10. Giorgos said on June 23, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Palemoon is the best.
    My preferred browser here (at Debian Jessie x64 KDE).
    Windows users, who wants an 100% Firefox compatible (open source) x64 browser, can use Waterfox.
    Be aware though, that it has higher (than Firefox) memory demands.

  11. dan said on June 23, 2015 at 9:38 am

    I’m a big fan of Pale Moon and have been using its 64-bit version for years now without any issues. Mozilla seems to have lost its way over the years, while Pale Moon feels steady and sure.

  12. Johan said on June 23, 2015 at 9:16 am

    A lot of people calling Pale Moon project is going to die, that’s what you guys said 2 years ago; Pale Moon is not going to survive any longer. All of you were wrong, 2 years, Pale Moon is alive, and with even a bigger user base.
    I’ve been running Pale Moon native x64 Build on my win 8.1 and I can say it’s the fastest web browser I have ever used. It actually uses more ram on my machine, having 50+ tabs with no performance issues; fast startup. I mean, FF used to crash often for me, that’s gonne with Pale Moon. FF is more bloated as days go by, it was a great browser; today is just like another chrome.
    I have 15 extensions running and they work with no issues, if in the future they stop working; I will always wait for them or similar to them to appear on the Pale Moon extension website, because that website was pretty much empty and now there are great stuff, even complete themes that looks great.

    Just deal with it haters, Pale Moon is a great browser.

    PD: My english is badddd

  13. Ben said on June 23, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Do they really make a new rendering engine because this would be a waste of ressources and they will not be able to compete anyway since engines are not trivial at all.
    Or is this just a gecko fork?

    1. Q said on June 24, 2015 at 12:28 am

      According to the documentation at , Goanna is a fork of Gecko. The intention seems similar to what happened when Chromium switched to the WebKit layout engine fork, Blink.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on June 23, 2015 at 9:16 am

      It appears to be a fork.

  14. dwarf_t0ssr said on June 23, 2015 at 3:02 am

    As much as I loved Pale Moon in the beginning, when extensions started breaking with no fix in sight I had to let it go. On Cyberfox64 now, and intend to stay with it for the time being. Maybe in a year or two it’ll be worth another look for those of us with high extension demands?

  15. A different Martin said on June 23, 2015 at 1:06 am

    I still like Pale Moon. All ~50 of my Firefox extensions (including one Pale-Moon-specific substitute) work fine. In my view, the development team has been very good at minimizing disruptions resulting from Pale Moon’s increasing divergence from Firefox, and I hope that continues. From some of the earliest versions, it has almost never crashed on me, something I can’t say about Firefox. I only run into the occasional hassle: Lenovo Support complains that Pale Moon isn’t a supported browser; the little icon for Google reverse image searches doesn’t show up next to the Google Images search box — stuff like that. In those cases, it isn’t the end of the world if I have to fire up Firefox. After extensive configuration, Firefox is still a nice browser, but I like Pale Moon better. I’m not going to freak out about Goanna versus Gecko until I have good reason to.

  16. juju said on June 23, 2015 at 12:21 am

    i guess this mooning project is just sideshow project of sugar daddies who run mozilla from the very beginning and it’s given that they want to distance the two from each other as much as possible, but it’s not possible without some window dressing along the way. So my speculation is that they’re transfering something from US to Sweden. What exactly is hard to tell. Run Snowden run.

    1. Runrunrun said on June 23, 2015 at 1:02 am

      Um, no.

  17. david said on June 22, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    who cares? palemoon sucks as a browser anyways

  18. Haha said on June 22, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Haha, Pale Moon needs to disappear now. Also whatever you’ve done to this text box is awful as you can’t edit anymore on IE. It’s a whole nee level of untested. Note the type that I can’t be bothered to go back and fix

  19. Inderjeet said on June 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    They’re not actually changing rendering engines. They’re just changing the name to better reflect the fact that they’ve diverged.

  20. Å ime Vidas said on June 22, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Where is their engine coming from? Is it a Gecko fork?

  21. clas said on June 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    been using palemoon for a few weeks and have been very satisfied. smooth and quick. for sure i will try the new one. i like the direction palemoon is going and dont like the direction firefox is going. but each to his own. thanks for the update news, Martin

  22. IgHive said on June 22, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    What about addons?

    1. iron2000 said on June 23, 2015 at 3:14 am

      Went back to Firefox as some addons just don’t update at all on Pale Moon.

    2. interstellar said on June 22, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      As long as my critical
      FF addons continue to work…

    3. George said on June 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      As explained by the developer, they’ll try to keep impact for users to a minimum ( I’m guessing some extensions will be inevitably affected.

  23. jimbo said on June 22, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Moved back to Firefox as P-M/FF move further apart. Maybe P-M becoming too ambitious.
    P-M can satisfyingly half memory use. And recent FF grumbles (pop apps bloat) seem to ignore Developer Tools etc already eating memory.
    Will we ever get over watching memory as if it were credit card expenditure ?

    1. Doc said on June 25, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Well, since Microsoft started the trend of wasting memory for speed, thus **slowing everything down** when Windows runs out of memory and starts dumping things to the Swap File, I’m all for working on speeding things up by reducing memory usage.
      Not every program needs to use gigs and gigs of RAM; smart programming can reduce memory usage considerably, and also keep the computer fast and responsive.

    2. XXDW said on June 23, 2015 at 11:33 am

      > Moved back to Firefox as P-M/FF move further apart.
      I’m still at Pale Moon 24.7.2 because of extension compatibility issues. Hopefully the compatibility version of Pale Moon 26 supports extensions with Firefox version compatibilities spanning all versions.

      And what is goanna anyway? A monitor lizard from Australia.

    3. YWP said on June 23, 2015 at 4:18 am

      Not all PCs have more than 2GB installed.

    4. George said on June 22, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      This is a very good move, not to mention obligatory. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. Anyway, this move doesn’t have much to do with ambition but mostly with technical issues. Firefox/Mozilla are moving far away from what they once were, and cutting even more ties with them is not just preferable, but mandatory (don’t forget the legal reasons, too).

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