Mozilla plans to remove support for heavyweight themes in Firefox
Mozilla announced yesterday that it plans to remove heavyweight theme support from Firefox as part of the organization's great or dead initiative.
Heavyweight themes, sometimes also called full themes or complete themes, can modify all elements of the web browser opposed to so-called lightweight themes which modify basic elements such as the header bar only.
Mozilla launched support for lightweight themes back in 2010 and has been pushing them to the forefront ever since.
Benjamin Smedberg, Sr. Engineering Manager at Mozilla, stated in the bug report that heavyweight themes can do "arbitrary styling and replace chrome packages" but did not list reasons for Mozilla's decision on the bug tracking site.
One likely reason for the change is Mozilla's plan to move away from giving extensions -- and themes -- full control over the browser. Another that complete themes are not overly popular. Only three complete themes have more than 100,000 users each.
This can be explained easily by neglecting full themes as they are hard to find on Mozilla's website and because Mozilla put the focus on lightweight themes ever since support was added for them to Firefox.
A deadline has not been announced yet, only that Mozilla plans to have a "specific product plan for themes" ready by December 1.
It is possible that full themes will be removed entirely, or that some features, such as changing icons and colors, find their way into lightweight themes.
The removal of full theme support in Firefox is another blow to the browser's customization options. It moves Firefox even closer to Google Chrome in terms of what users can and cannot do with the browser, and will surely irritate all users who run full themes right now in it.
Those users are left with only a handful of options: forget about the theme and install a light theme or no theme in Firefox, stop upgrading Firefox to keep support for the theme, or switch to another browser.
Third-party browsers based on Firefox such as Pale Moon will -- likely -- continue supporting themes.
The move may look good on paper, considering that it affects only a tiny fraction of Firefox users who have installed full themes but it is another blow against the browser's massive customization framework.
It is disheartening to see customization options removed left and right as it is one of Firefox's few features that Chrome and the majority of browsers out there cannot compete with.
Now You: Is the change affecting you?
Firefox is totally crap, beacuse Gecko Engine is crap
Funny as the Gecko Engine is one of the main reasons I like to use Firefox. It’s the last true main thing that keeps it an individual browser compared to Chrome and all the Chrome Blink Engine clones. I used to like Opera when it used Presto, but when they switched to Blink also, I uninstalled it, and moved on. Al long as Firefox always uses Gecko (or a form of their own engine) I’ll keep using Firefox no matter how similar it looks to Chrome.
Just a FYI to everyone who is concerned about Mozilla’s direction. Pale Moon is working on their beta of a forked Gecko engine (called Goanna) and will continue to include heavyweight theme support and XUL/XML extensions, all features that Firefox is depreciating.
“as part of the organization’s great or dead initiative.”
So they settled for dead?
Well, just install an addon made by volunteers after months of work done for free to fix #4,194 in the list of removed unique features of Firefox.
Oh right, addons are going to be killed next year. C’est la vie.
Typical Mozilla stupidity. Nothing new, really.
“Is the change affecting you?”
YES, FTDeepDark is one of the big reason why i love Firefox.
Mozilla surely took the suicide route.
FTDeepDark here as well–both in Cyberfox x64 (my default browser as of late) and Pale Moon. I’m hoping that Cyberfox can manage to retain full theme support, but if it doesn’t, I may have to switch back to Pale Moon as my default. I can’t imagine going back to another theme now.
Cyberfox all the way. Been using it for the last 6-7 version and it quite superior to the original Firefox, Super stable and fast, plus the team behind it really good. They have many built in tools for customization and often release before the Firefox. I think they are really understanding the loyal community of users, something Firefox team is still struggling with.
Same thing. Unfortunately, we should move to PaleMoon.
Well palemoon has a version of that in the complete themes.
Even more reasons to switch over to/use fulltime Vivaldi, Pale Moon or Otter Browser!
Mozilla really makes other browsers look more and more good for the rest of the remaining Firefox Power Users, if there are still some left ;)
I installed vivaldi yesterday, and wow I’m impressed by it! It feels MUCH more responsive and faster than any other Mozilla browser I’ve used. Yes, that includes Pale Moon, which I’ve been using close to a year now.
I recommend you give it a try at least.
I became tired of the same old, same old that is Pale Moon (and firefox). I wanted something new and exciting, and so I settled on vivaldi.
I really, really don’t like the UI of Vivaldi.
Remember that only that non native UI makes the features possible which Vivaldi does have. They have also a dark skin inside.
And you are free to rewrite the UI with CSS code to make it more pleasing for your liking.
“I installed vivaldi yesterday, and wow I’m impressed by it! It feels MUCH more responsive and faster than any other Mozilla browser I’ve used. ”
Really? I’ve been using Vivaldi since Technical Preview 1 and while the Beta is a big improvement (its become my Opera replacement after Opera killed their Speed Dial page) it is a dog compared to Firefox when it comes to performance / responsiveness (I use both every day). And since they haven’t had a general release yet, it shouldn’t be that great in those areas.
For those looking for an alternative browser, Vivaldi is looking very good, but its only beta at this point – and I’d like to know more of how it gets funded.
the only difference between Vivaldi and Pale Moon/Firefox 22 and earlier is that it has no advanced add-ons. But thanks to that 100% non native UI you can do whatever you want!
-create full themes with different buttons, yes!
-add some css lines to have multirow tabs, yes!
-fully customizable browser UI, yes!
All which is impossible when Mozilla rips out XUL and adds only chosen API for some add-on developers!
All that being said, Vivaldi is the best choice of browser for the future in my mind. It realizes an attempt to get back what was present in the old Opera 12 series, but the developers don’t let themselves be bogged down by maintaining their own all too often incompatible browser engine. Webkit/Blink is a fine engine, different from Gecko or Trident/EdgeHTML certainly, but it works well and is also fast enough that it can be used to draw the browser interface as well. For some reason Firefox’ interface feels slow and lethargic in comparison, but I don’t know if that’s Gecko’s fault or if it comes from the XUL interface code.
Now if only somebody would start improving the Chrome developer tools, they get beat hands down by Mozilla and their alternative.
@Lestat: Pale Moon is forked off Firefox ESR v24.0, not Firefox v22.0. :)
You have made a mistake in reading! What i wanted to say that Vivaldi can be compared with Firefox 22 AND Pale Moon – both have still full customization options inside. Well, most of them!
@Lestat: the word “than” should’ve been use between Vivaldi and Pale Moon/Firefox 22 so I knew your were comparing. When you say “and” in the sentence your basically grouping them together.
It feels as if Mozilla and Microsoft are doing all they can to push users away.
Honestly, at this point I think Firefox should just become a Chromium fork.
Well, fortunately I use a Stylish theme, which will be not really affected by this Mozilla choice. It is a plain css which modifies the browser look.. The only issue will come out when the Stylish extension will be cut off from Mozilla idea to remove all the old extensions.
Sigh, all the good stuff in Firefox is being removed, I love FT Deepdark, and I customize the entire browser for my needs with:
– Classic Theme Restorer
– Roomy Bookmarks toolbar
– Tab Utilities (whichever of the 4 different “current’ version works with the latest browser).
I re-arrange the entire interface where I have in order:
Top toolbar: Firefox menu, default buttons, URL bar, addons buttons, search bar.
Middle toolbar: Multi-row (3) Bookmarks.
Bottom toolbar: The Tabs
And adjust how new tabs are opened, a new tab is opened:
– when typing a search
– when typing a url
– when clicking a bookmark
– when clicking a external link
This way, the toolbars don’t have much relation with the tabs themselves. And this is saving me a lot of time because I have near always like 20-50 tabs open when I’m working my way thru everything I read and work on.
Mozilla is really “merging” with chrome… what difference is there between the browsers in this path they take, and why would we choose Mozilla over Chrome if its exactly the same? I use Firefox because it was customization friendly… no more I guess.
I’ll be looking into Pale Moon and Vivaldi. I’m pretty much done with Mozilla.
How do I tell a lightweight theme from a heavyweight theme on addons.mozilla.org?
lightweight themes are just your usual themes under https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/themes/. Where as heavyweight themes are called Complete Themes and are found under a heading in the themes section. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/complete-themes/, I hope that helps.
Well, if they expand the abilities of lightweight themes a bit, that’ll be a good thing.
never used it, i am ok to let it die in peace. stats also say its a 1% feature by the user count. who cares
Guess we saw it coming.
At least if Mozilla could do something “positive” once in a while…
like improving browser start up and browsing speed.
I agree. This constant tinkering with “minor” issues (I call them minor but they affect us all) when they should be focusing on the major things such as e10s, speed, stability, security .. and god only knows why they don’t do something about timing attacks (yeah, it’s complex) Why the heck don’t they announce fixes to window.name leaks, and dozens of other things which TBB tackle.
As for the full theme removal … annoying as hell. What possible harm does it do by leaving it in. I use FTDeepDark as well – for those of us who spend mega hours in front a screen, it’s good to get away from as much glaring white/light colors as possible (most of my regular sites use custom stylish scripts for a darker theme). Everything that was a FEATURE of Firefox is being removed.
Couldn’t they just start redirecting people to https://www.google.com/chrome/ and get it over with?
I think Mozilla should leave the Fox as it is (was) and do as Microsoft did –introduce a new radically different browser that reflects their vision like the Edge.
Actually, this is an interesting idea! But somehow I don’t think Mozilla will turn it into reality…
mma173 you are right – this is what Mozilla should do…this gives the users the choice…let Firefox go on and create this new browser they want without XUL and heavy duty plugins and see who jumps to it.
Instead they are going to literally kill off Firefox from the inside. My guess is that the execs thought of this option, creating a new browser – its what Microsoft did – and figured nobody would go to the new browser (which should be the red flag to tell them no, do not do this). JMHO….
http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?f=18&p=14393843 – Btw. that is an interesting read, the last comment from Frank Lion.
Mozillazine guys are really bigtime supporters of Mozilla, but they are still aware that in the past have been some really shady actions going on, to lower the numbers of Theme users for getting a higher ground for finally removing them!
Yet another rather unique feature, and one of the better ones, being stripped out of Firefox.
Having said that, like the article says, there was a point a few years ago when full Themes went from very easy to find, to incredibly hard to find on their site. So the writing was on the wall already.
This news made me a bit sad. I never really used the themes except maybe to make Firefox look like the old Mozilla suite or Netscape 4.X for fun. However, it does signal a change in the philosophy of Firefox that has continued to change for the worse since Mozilla decided to copy Chrome for everything.
The only reason I still keep Firefox around is for some of the extensions that are not available for Chrome/Safari. There are not many, but every once in a while I have to dust off my Firefox installation and use it.
It’s really a shame because I used to be such a big Firefox supporter.
Yeah no longer “Different by Design,” huh.
“Only three complete themes have more than 100,000 users each.”
So they’re removing a feature that at least 300,000 people use? Isn’t that number evidence enough to keep the feature?!
Not when you have a predetermined personal agenda. When they began calling a background image a theme and buried the actual themes, it was not hard to see where we were headed. It’s probably just laziness at its core, to get rid of a feature rather than keeping it up to date and secure. Remember, you don’t need a theme when the default is your own code.
Well back in the old days, themes were highly popular but that changed when Mozilla moved them to the backpages on AMO, started to ignore them and promote light themes instead exclusively.
One wonders why there is so much fear of customization in the software biz these days. Do these people have trouble sleeping at night knowing that not everyone’s UI has the same look as theirs? They need therapy for their control issues and in the meantime, ugliness reigns supreme with Vivaldi and Pale Moon being the only refuge. I did love Firefox and Opera but we all know nothing lasts forever. Luckily, nature abhors a vacuum and someone always steps in when there is a need being left unfulfilled.
For the life of me I cannot understand what has happened at Mozilla in recent years. Some decisions make sense security-wise and overall efficiency but why they are racing toward being a clone of chrome is perplexing. It’s as if someone whispered in their ear: “generic strip malls are awesome!”.
So…they WANT everything to eventually look the same and have no unique flavor that sets it apart, or…..? I can’t wrap my brain around it. Hey Firefox, being different is what made you freakin rock stars and successful, wake the hell up.
Anyway, I use Stylish, ClassicThemeRestorer, and NoSquint to get the browser how I want/need it. At damn near every update I have to go back and tweak it once again. That’s all good, I’m used to the task now and I put in the time. However, if they end up making those three items unusable or block them, I am done.
This makes me feel unconfortable. Yet another feature I use is axed out in favor of this abstract “great or dead” policy. Firefox, I want to understand you, but I’m not managing to.
Why don’t they just copy the chrome source code and be done with it. Is faster that way…
Great or dead…. lol
I needed to correct some bad spelling, but could not find a way except to leave a new reply..
I have installed Pale Moon.
I used “pm-migrate.exe” to copy Firefox to Pale Moon.
Looks like Pale Moon is the answer for a long gone Firefox.
Will deleting Firefox from the computer have any issues with Pale Moon?
Now you’re pushing Pale Moon when they haven’t even announced anything on the topic. By far the biggest failing of gHacks is the constant pushing of Pale Moon. The thing is a mess.
I had figured that full theme support would be dropped when XUL support is dropped, and when they stop allowing extensions to change the UI. It was kinda predictable.
And Mozilla Firefox turns into a wanna be like Chrome clone! So what!
Point is “mess” does vary – Perhaps people like you love the new minimalist Chrome style, but majority of Firefox user base want Firefox to be customizable and feature rich.
No one forces you to use Pale Moon, but allow others to make suggestions to other browsers! For example you could also be angry that there was a recommendation of Vivaldi or Otter Browser!
If you dislike some software, make not the mistake that others are seeing it the same way as useless as you do for yourself!
How about some proper manners and a bit respect? If that is too much for you to give away, then just ignore it. We are all adults or aren’t we?
To be honest, I would be fine with Firefox new UI (Australis), but the lack flexibility, customization and user choice above all will not fly with me and other for sure!!
“By far the biggest failing of gHacks is the constant pushing of Pale Moon”
That’s not accurate or fair to say. An article or a mention here and there per month isn’t constant pushing.
Readers mention Pale Moon quite often, not Martin.
As far as I know, well, because he’s said so publicly, his default browser is Firefox (that’s why you see some passion in his words when it comes to certain Firefox topics). Mentioning other browsers in a browser related article and making a statement on what may or is likely to happen based on the developer’s past and present actions not to mention his own 10+ years of tech reporting is all fine in my opinion.
To me the biggest failing of Ghacks is its failure to supply us with enough boneless chicken wings during Happy Hour. And that German Ale? Holy frik! I still have nightmares about the women that I’ve woken up next to after drinking it.
Although for a time I drank LÃ¶wenbrÃ¤u and it was pretty decent.
By the way, Pale Moon sounds like a brand of beer. Perhaps an APA.
Thanks Ken. Yes, I do use Firefox as my main browser. Hey, I’m from Germany and Firefox is the dominating force here :)
I don’t push anything. I do think however that it is important to mention alternatives and link to them.
Dave: The Pale Moon devs have announced that PM will be retaining full support for heavyweight themes, it’s on their forum.
As for dropping themes, I guess Mozilla have decided on “dead”. I really am amazed at how clueless they are at the moment. They simply have no idea what their user base wants from a browser. If people wanted a locked down and rigid browser, they’d use Chrome. Firefox’s biggest strength for so long was its customisability and flexibility. By steadily chipping away at this, Mozilla’s devs seem intent on making Firefox completely irrelevant. Very sad to see.
I guess Mozilla has opted for dead.
I have been keeping with Mozilla for years, and in the past 2 years i stuck with Mozilla despite the constant buildup of irritation over their dumb decisions that source from the days Google was an influence as a sponsor.
From castrating customization, and yet still advertising as a “customizable browser”; to proving they have no more programming skills as they are incapable of creating their own work, but rather opt to copy Chrome, a browser i would be on instead of Mozilla if i actually wanted to use it. At this point, the Mozilla team is just gunning to be an inferior version of Chrome, a browser that’s itself inferior to Mozilla before Mozilla lost all the power user drive and started copying Chrome. The only up-hand Chrome had in the beginnings was performance, yet now both Chrome and Firefox are bad in those regards.
It seems that Mozilla has finally struck the final nail into the coffin. If you could call it the business of “Don’t worry, our browser is like crack cocaine and the addicts will keep to it despite what we do.”, then sorry Mozilla but your crack has lost all its purity and effectiveness.
I guess i will have to pester the PaleMoon or IceCat devs to up their ante, as i will be moving towards those browsers, and i know quite a few people following suit.
That is why I have stopped using Opera … not it is time to stop using Firefox.
The world of the browsers is full with poor decisions these days….
I’d like to bring under consideration another thing that might influence things.
As a power user, and a ICT pro, I maintain the computers of family and good friends. I need certain customization for my day to day browsing needs, for often I have between 50 and 200 webpages open while I work thru my daily needed information around. I need to be able to work fast and efficient with a browser. So far Mozilla’s Firefox served me well in that regards, but removing the customization piece by piece only spurred me to get more and more browser addons to adjust firefox to my needs.
In the past 10 years I promoted Firefox to those family and friends I maintain their computer for. If I switch, I will switch them too, for I’m not going to support/push a different browser. Its in my opinion those “few” power users that actually promote the usage of a browser.
Once I have time to look deeper into those other browsers, I will switch in a few months and they will switch with me.
I started back in early 1996 with the predecessor Netscape, it took almost 20 years…
Mozilla is digging their own grave. Still dreaming of tons of Chrome users getting fed up with Chrome and joining the Firefox train just because it gets so minimalist and with a simple design only like the original.
But there will be for sure the morning where Mozilla has to wake up. And the hangover will be a pain!
There is an (in my opinion) important comment in the bugzilla ticket. I’ll quote the complete comment:
“I would just like to point out that this bug is not just about removing support
for heavyweight themes. It’s also about coming up with a plan what kind of
theming support we want to add to replace them. Constructive comments on that
subject would be *extremely* useful, so I’d really appreciate it if you could
keep the conversation on topic, and take the rants about how Firefox should be
killed with fire to another forum.
The basic fact of the matter is this: heavyweight themes, in their current
form, are not sustainable. They require a complete reimplementation of the
Firefox front-end CSS for every theme. They require significant, painstaking
updates for every release (which happen *much* more often now than they did
when the feature was designed). They require a massive amount of energy by both
Firefox developers and third-party theme developers to keep alive. Most themes
fall by the wayside after a couple of years (and that’s being optimistic).
We simply need to do better. That’s all there is to it. So if you have any
comments on *how* we should do better (again, aside from comments about us
dying by fire), now would be the time to add them.”
Oh, sure, as Mozilla have ever so far listened to user requests.. keep add-on bar in Australis, keep freely movable UI elements in Australis.
Mozilla these days is only interested in as simple minimalistic designed browser, so this announcement is worth zero! There is already a long list of Mozilla falling into the back of power users and suddenly they should change?
If i may point towards one thing: before Australis was introduced, there also have been the user asked, and it was considered to keep the add-on bar – that even was written in one of those groups Google Mozilla lists, and the end result was that power users lost all those features.
No matter how it turns out, the customization options in Firefox are sever crippled these days and more seems to follow with the move towards Servo.
Sure, perhaps those features can not coexist with multiprocess and whatever for mighty new technologies, but those made Firefox to Firefox, so Mozilla’s interest should have been to make all those features compatible with latest technologies. But as usual it is more easy to rip them out, just decide to make a minimalist design browser only and call it a day.
Congratulations, a job not well done!
Your comment has nothing to do with my comment, so why do you post your comment as answer to my comment? And I like the design and customization possibilities of Firefox 29 and higher (there was never before a customizable Firefox menu) so I am not interested in your Australis bashing. My comment was NOT about Australis.
Yes, it is clear that a minimalist design lover like you is happy enough with that pseudo replacement customization Mozilla has added but for most real power users that is simply not enough.
You have been able to do much more complicated things during Firefox 20 times, without add-ons!
So, your argument is, let me say it blunt and cold, as many of Mozilla’s promises, worth nothing at all!
OK. I choose “Dead”.
Ah, I *absolutely* want full themes. I use Qute 5 or Qute 6 in three different firefoxes and my thunderbird. I’ve started using Pale Moon too because of the constant changes in Firefox, and yesterday I tried out Vivaldi. The full theme is one of the biggest reasons I love Firefox. If they take it away I’ll probably stay with Pale Moon and abandon Firefox altogether.
This is where the debate is really at:
Really liked Sergios’ comment there (excerpt of last part):
*Themes will be replaced with a more restrictive less powerful less flexible api.
*Permissive addons will be replaced with a more restrictive less powerful less flexible api.
This changes will create a more restricted less powerful less flexible browser, Is like adding to firefox all the cons of chrome without any of the benefits, and everything is done without taking the users into account.
The issue is not so much for me that they replace features with modern versions etc. But they only bring back a smaller subset of features that are in no way a improvement to the old feature.
Instead of sitting around the design table to make a BETTER thing, they make something that is much less. They keep breaking stuff that doesn’t bring any improvement, but are instead a “pale moon” of the original features they had.
Also, if they make it difficult for the modmakers to support firefox with killing features right and left, so they have to maintain their add-on with near every update of the browser, they aren’t going to keep their makers… and killing the addon makers like that is also killing their popularity. They would really not mind a change imo, but they keep killing features that I still have to figure out which version from which maker I have to take a addon to get it to work every time a new Firefox version gets pushed. (there are like 3 makers (if not more) of the “Tab Utilities” addon, and it varies which is updated, working etc)
This is just getting out of hand. Firefox was created to give you the basics and allow you to extend it the way you needed. Now they seem to want to dictate everything much the way Google does. I have seen so many extension and theme makers leave Firefox over the last 5 years because of stuff like this. I have always managed to find what I need to continue working but I am beginning to see a time when I won’t be using a regular version of Firefox. I have been working with PaleMoon for a few months though it has not become my daily browser yet. That said this may be the final push to get me there.
I do use full themes and have since version 1.5 of Firefox. My favorite from throughout the years was Black Stratini which then became Stratini Super which actually works in Pale Moon though the developer pulled it a few years ago. I still have about 5 years of backups. I have used FTDeepDark, PitchDark, FTSleekDark, and FTGraphiteGlow. Lately I have been using the built in developer theme just because of how annoying it has gotten to get a decent dark theme that is still in development.
Is Firefox trying to become a memory of a browser we used to use? Sure seems curious though I suppose they are trying to cut corners since usage is going down. Either way 2016 looks to be a pivotal year and one likely to move me completely away from Firefox. The only reason I have been using the regular version is because memory usage seems better tuned that in PaleMoon. But pulling features is a sure way to move me along…
@leland: Pale Moon also has some dark themes specifically built for it and will not discontinue development. Here: https://addons.palemoon.org/themes/complete/
Wow, there’s alot of nice stuff in there…haven’t played with Pale Moon yet…including more choices of things I use on Firefox (Classic Toolbar Buttons which will be dying as a result of Mozilla Exec decisions – but Mozilla is wanting feedback even though the decision is done with!). Camino, Firefox 3 aero and the modern look as choices…take me there. Been with netscape from the beginning through Firefox v42 here…but they’re going to loose me and my users when they break the UI XUL and drop the plugin library.
I saw someone posit, that Mozilla’s end game is to do what happened to Opera – convert over to a Blink (Chrome) web engine and just be a “brand”…which seems completely unthinkable…but it’d be alot cheaper and nearly all they are doing is going towards making things cheaper or making them money (Pocket etc.) and they’re converting the plug-ins to Chrome compatible, right?