Mozilla reveals plan for themes in Firefox
Last year, Mozilla announced major changes that it planned to implement that would change Firefox in several fundamental ways.
The deprecation of Firefox's long-standing add-on system in favor of WebExtensions is probably the change that will have the largest impact on the Firefox browser and users.
The main reason for this is that Mozilla plans to remove support for classic add-ons in Firefox by the end of 2017. Any add-on that is not recreated using WebExtensions APIs won't work in Firefox anymore when the change hits the browser.
Legacy add-ons are on their way out, and this includes full or complete themes as well as any add-on created using development technologies other than WebExtensions.
Some developers announced already that they will quit developing add-ons for Firefox, others criticized Mozilla for making the cut early as some APIs are still in development, and others might never make the cut.
Firefox users will gain access to the majority of Chrome extensions in return however.
Mozilla's plan for themes in Firefox
In, Improving Themes in Firefox, Mozilla's Justin Dolske, reveals Mozilla's plan to go forward with themes in the Firefox web browser.
It should not come as a surprise that full themes are still on their way out. Mozilla's main idea is to improve lightweight themes so that theme creators have more options in regards to capabilities and changes that these themes can make to the Firefox interface.
This won't reach full theme levels, but it will be more powerful than the light changes that lightweight themes may make right now.
Dolske reiterates that complete themes have to go because of compatibility issues. He notes that only 60 complete themes are currently compatible with the current Firefox release, while the remaining 440 complete themes are not. Another point that he makes is that complete themes are not as popular as lightweight themes.
While compatibility or sheer numbers is certainly one reason for that, one should note that Mozilla put the focus on lightweight themes on AMO and when it talked about themes. This meant that lightweight themes got the bulk of exposure which in turn meant more installs by users.
Mozilla's plan is to extend the capabilities of lightweight themes in the browser. Mozilla plans to implement popular full theme capabilities so that they become available to lightweight theme designers.
At its core is a JSON manifest, mapping defined property names to the underlying UI elements. Theme developers will be able to control a variety of styles on these properties (such as colors, icons, and background images), and Firefox will ensure the manifests are supported in a stable and well-documented way across future releases and UI updates. These themes will be layered on top of the default Firefox appearance, so you can create a trivial theme that just changes one property, or a complex theme that changes all of them.
Mozilla set a number of goals besides that. It wants feature parity with google Chrome themes, make sure that lightweight themes don't regress startup and browser window opening times, and that themes may also manipulate Firefox about pages.
You can check out the engineering plan for the future of Firefox theming here.
Now You: What's your take on the development?
> Some developers announced already that they will quit developing add-ons for Firefox, others criticized Mozilla for making the cut early as some APIs are still in development, and others might never make the cut.
Is this statement not a bit biased? Yes, some developers announced that but:
1) That’s not new at all, every year some developers stop developing extensions for Firefox and every year new developers starts developing extensions for Firefox. There are still many great add-ons and there still will be a lot of great add-ons in the future. See Australis. Some developers stopped their activity. But Australis also brought new great extensions and new developers. And: one plus pro of WebExtensions is the big API compatibilty with extension for other browsers. That will bring a lot of new add-on developers to Firefox.
2) There are other developers which will develop *more* extensions *because* of WebExtensions. I know that because there was at least on add-on developer who commented here on ghacks and said he will publish *more* add-ons in this year and not less.
I wonder why you only mention the negative side.
In the same spririt, you only mention that Mozilla wants parity with Chrome. Mozillas announcement says that parity with Chrome is a goal for the first version but Mozilla says explicitly that Firefox will support *more* than Chrome in the future. That’s an important information because it’s a complete other statement to say Firefox wants what’s possible in Chrome or Firefox will support more than Chrome.
I recommend everyone to read Mozilla’s announcement because there are lot of interesting information not mentioned here, like dynamic part of themes or the experimental section for css customizations and of course (relative) user numbers! I didn’t know that only 0.089% of Firefox users use a complete theme! If that’s true then that’s great news that complete themes will disappear and a new themes api will pe part of Firefox. Because the new api have good chances to be relevant to more users of Firefox if there are no compatibility problems like in todays complete themes.
I must have missed the comment of that theme author. I don’t doubt it that some authors will intensify development, and that the move will have Chrome author’s port extensions they develop for the browser to Firefox as well. I don’t know whether those will be able to fill the gaps left behind by popular Firefox authors.
I mentioned Chrome feature parity as one of the goals, not the only goals. I thought I made it clear that Mozilla wants feature parity, but also capabilities that go beyond what Chrome offers.
I dropped Firefox when Scrapbook was no longer supported. My work-a-round was to use Pale Moon or even better, Waterfox. I installed Scrapbook and pointed it to a Scrapbook file I kept in my backup folder and it works. Waterfox is very fast.
Do mozilla’s staff pays you for defending their shitty decisions or you’re doing this for free?
Only shitty here is your English.
> 2) There are other developers which will develop *more* extensions *because* of WebExtensions. I know that
> because there was at least on add-on developer who commented here on ghacks and said he will publish *more*
> add-ons in this year and not less.
well, it depends on what kind of addons those new webextensions will be. personally i want addons like the ones from quicksaver (who stopped developing) or also treestyletab, i do NOT need browser unrelated stuff like Forecastfox or FootieFox. or some very lightweight addons that really don’t do much (i have a feeling we will see a lot of those).
WebExtensions is much too weak to allow the kind of functionality that the current environment allows.
WebExtensions will require massive improvements to allow the kind of extensions that have made Firefox great. From what I have read, Mozilla is not planning on making the necessary improvements to WebExtensions that will make it equal to the current environment.
“Australis also brought new great extensions ….”
What are some examples of those great Australis-spawned extensions? I’m asking sincerely, not sarcastically, as I switched to Pale Moon as my primary browser when Australis came out. I maintain Firefox with Classic Theme Restorer as a backup browser with more or less the same set of extensions I have in Pale Moon (or as close as I can still get), but I no longer use it much and I definitely don’t go out hunting for new extensions for it.
Also, not being sarcastic here, but I think Fx0 means Australis spawned a fat of add-ons that brought back the lost functionality/look
Classic Theme Restorer doesn’t make me laugh my ass off. I don’t like the way Australis puts all of your buttons on the main navigation bar, stealing space from the address bar, or deprives you of the ability to order your buttons the way you want (is this still the case?), or forces “excess” buttons into a dropdown listing. I like to arrange my browser chrome the way that works best for me, and that’s why I switched to Pale Moon as my primary browser and installed Classic Theme Restorer in Firefox.
The soul of Firefox withered away long ago with XUL deprecation, and now it’s expressive personality is dying too. Full themes allowed you to change literally everything about the browser’s appearance. Menus (including menu layouts, add/remove subcategories etc), buttons, backgrounds, scrollbars, colors, everything! It was YOUR browser, the limit was only your skill and imagination. You want your browser to look like Chrome, or Opera, or old-skool Netscape? Easy with full theming. Now no more.
Only Pale Moon preserves the true ethos of YOUR browser, YOUR way.
Pale Moon OOTB is also at the very least more secure than Firefox OOTB, so true power users and the security-minded have little to no reason to use Firefox anymore.
Sorry, but Pale Moon is a very bad example. Pale Moon not even supports SDK based add-on and it probably won’t support WebExtensions. So there is not more add-ons support than in Firefox, today it’s even less (!) add-on support.
By the way. I know a few theme developers. And not one of these like the current architecture for themes because it’s not possible for most of them to update the theme every six weeks. It’s different to add-ons, because (most) add-ons don’t need an update with every new version of Firefox. Theme developers have to do much more to stay compatible. There is a reason why most themes for Firefox are broken. The whole theme system is broken.
And sorry, Pale Moon with this old architecture should be more secure than Firefox? Are you kidding us?
Starting with Pale Moon 27.1 Jetpack/SDK extension support has largely returned. Most extensions will work right away but some require some easy modifications. WebExtensions requires a completely different core, essentially a different browser altogether, which is why Firefox will soon be WebExtensions ONLY by next year while Pale Moon will still support all the XUL/XPCOM/Jetpack/SDK addons.
Mozilla is the one responsible for breaking themes, it’s not the underlying theme system that is broken. Themes and addons need to be changed and updated constantly ONLY because Firefox is constantly making unnecessary changes without a care for developers and this has been going on for years. When you design a theme that works for Pale Moon 27 and up, you can be confident that it’ll still work years later.
People make the huge but common mistake of thinking that Pale Moon is some kind of “static” browser and therefore must be outdated and insecure but this is completely false. The latest Pale Moon incorporates all relevant security patches of the very latest release of Firefox, and if you read the Pale Moon release logs you can see that there is a long history of “defense-in-depth” patches that closes potentially exploitable flaws before they can happen, which is what is called “proactive security” and so far no other browser developer I know of does this. Pale Moon also doesn’t include such functions like WebRTC which is a security disaster that has already been exploited a number of times. And remember that huge Tor browser exploit back in November 2016? That was due to a major flaw in Firefox that does NOT exist in Pale Moon. There is also a Pale Moon exclusive function which poisons canvas data to defeat HTML5 canvas fingerprinting which no other browser has.
So no I’m not kidding when I say Pale Moon is at least more secure than Firefox. Any information stating otherwise is what is outdated, not Pale Moon.
Fx0 is seriously uninformed.
Everything you wrote jibes with what I’ve read.
When Pale Moon updated to 27.0, one of my essential extensions stopped working (Download Status Bar) and one of them became partially nonfunctional (Tab Mix Plus). That prompted me to roll back to 26.5, and I have stayed there since. Recently, however, I did a portable install of 27.1.1 in order to test whether I still run into the same deal-breakers. I fact, I’m just about to exit Pale Moon so I can copy my Pale Moon profile to my portable install.
I wish I could say something useful about themes, but I haven’t played around with them for years and have been using the same lightweight theme, A Mellow Yellow, for a long time, just because it’s easy on the eyes and keeps everything legible. If it’s ever been broken, or has been updated behind the scenes, I haven’t noticed.
@A different Martin:
Check this page out, it will help you with your incompatibility issues/concerns:
This also applies to anyone else with concerns about Pale Moon and add-ons!
Good recommendation/reminder. I’ve visited the Pale Moon extension pages a number of times, including earlier today, after Download Status Bar still didn’t work, in Pale Moon Portable 27.1.1. I see they are now recommending Download Manager (S3) as a replacement. I installed it but haven’t had a chance to put it through its paces yet. Tab Mix Plus seems to be behaving better than it did initially in 27.0, but I haven’t had a chance to test that extension very thoroughly, either. In fact, I’m probably going to have to spend a few days in Portable 27.1.1 before I’d feel comfortable updating my registered install.
Anyway, I concur with your recommendation: if you’re thinking of switching to Pale Moon and have favorite extensions you want to install, you MUST visit the known incompatibilities page if you run into trouble. You might find a substitute extension, a fork, a pseudo-static version, or a workaround. I run around 60 identical or functionally equivalent extensions in both Firefox and Pale Moon. I couldn’t have done that without help from the Pale Moon extensions pages.
Has anybody attempted a list of extensions according to their planned or likely conversion, or termination ?
For instance, I have just downloaded Scrap Book Plus. It’s a filing and annotation system for Web pages. I have been looking for a tool do this for a long time (hint : it’s not that good). However, I won’t start with a new system unless I’m reasonably sure it will be there for the long haul.
Its impossible to compile such a list, because the WE APIs are incomplete and their is no information for devs to go on, so they have no plans
I use ScrapBook X – moved to it from Scrapbook Plus 18-24 months ago because of breakage or something. X was superior when I did the move, can’t really comment on the current Plus. You can expect to lose Scapbook anything when XUL goes. It sucks, I’ve got a huge amount of saved edited tech bits and bobs, named, sorted, filed away … yup, it’s gonna suck
Thanks for the info. That’s why I tend to prefer saving things in standard formats : html bookmarks, htm pages… or anything dumped into a Word document. Word eats most anything you throw at it, and you can be reasonably sure it will be around for, well, some time.
While I’m at it and I got your attention : what’s your take on MAFF format ? Will it stay after add-o-calypse ? Is it wise to keep saving pages into that ?
Mozilla reveals plan
They have been revealing plans for years now !
Give it up start over
Loved firefox years ago ,No longer have any use
for a confused bunch …..Could have been a Contender !!!
>developers will be able to control a variety of styles on these properties (such as colors, icons, and background images)
So, basically a regular “swap your browsers image” theme, just like in Google Chrome? Sounds extremely boring and useless. Only reason why I do not use Chrome is because of the ability to fully customize the xul elements in the browser UI to my liking in the current Firefox versions.
I wonder what is their real goal here because deprecation of XPCOM and XUL add-ons platform, making UX and UI idiot-proof and similar to one Chrome/Chromium has, dumping shitty “features” nobody wants and nobody asked for won’t keep Firefox being unique and competitive. Someone already has mentioned this here on ghacks that with their decisions they may made people thinking: why I should use cheap replacement (Firefox) when original is better (Chrome).
So: that’s the thing? To destroy this browser with their corporate hands from inside and made users switch to Chrome/Chromium or any other webkit-based clones and then happily join Google/other big corps for new jobs?
Every since they made Brendan Eich resign from CEO position, things are seems to be getting worse each few weeks.
It seems that Mozilla is firmly stuck in 2005
A background image is not a theme, lightweight or otherwise. It’s not even a skin.
Mozilla Firefox has lost the compass since long time. It is moving on inertia.
Used to be a tool for user but turned into a monopoly business on their own.
Thanks to Pale Moon that hasn’t let us ,(me an ex-firefox user since 2006) down.
In old Firefox times (up to 31.0) I said goodbye to my Full Themes because they were broken by updates. Switched to Lightweight Themes only in FF 31 and then finally to Pale Moon.
Extended LW Themes capabilities in future Firefox sounds really interesting to me and like one of the few good Mozilla ideas, but I appreciate Pale Moon too much now and I won’t go back to FF just for Extended LWTs.
So with more people here using Pale Moon (me included), maybe we could have coverage for that. Please?
Mozilla has been “deprecating” Firefox over the past few years.
They’ve wasted time adding useless fluff features.
At the same time, they have steadfastly refused to fix the few things that weren’t “up to scratch”.
As a result, I swapped to Pale Moon back in 2013 (on my Windows OS).
I still use FF on my Linux Mint OS.
Just in case you’re interested, the Pale Moon for Linux Installer (aka pminstaller) works great in Linux Mint 18.1 Cinnamon. The only hitch I ran into was that I wanted to install a slightly older version and I had to figure out on my own that I needed to manually type 26.5.0 into the version box (not exactly rocket science.) If you want to install the latest version, you wouldn’t have to worry about that; the “latest” version is pre-selected by default. The pminstaller works for installing, updating, and uninstalling.
Importing your profile: After you install Pale Moon, launch it once so that it creates a Pale Moon profile folder and then quit it. Then go to your home directory in File Manager, unhide hidden files and folders if they are hidden, go to .moonchild productions/pale moon/, and paste in your Pale Moon profile from Windows (C:\Users\[your account]\AppData\Roaming\Moonchild Productions\Pale Moon\Profiles\[profile folder name]). If I skipped the step of copying your profile from Windows, it’s because you actually have two choices. You can either paste the contents of your Windows Pale Moon profile folder into the existing Linux Pale Moon profile folder (the one that was just created), overwriting the existing default contents, or you can paste in the entire profile folder as a second profile. If you opt for the second choice, you have to open profiles.ini (which is also in the pale moon folder, along with the profile folders) in a text editor and manually change the filename after Path= (on the last line) to the name of the profile folder you just imported. Then launch Pale Moon again. It should now look and work pretty much the same as it did in Windows.
Changing Windows folder paths to Linux folder paths: If you have extensions (e.g., Session Manager) that target specific Windows folders, you will have to manually reset those paths in the extensions’ preferences. (Don’t worry. If you overlook any at first, you’ll be reminded when something doesn’t open, or attempts to open from the wrong place, or attempts to save to the wrong place, etc. At that point, you can go into the extension’s preferences and fix the path.) And if you created a user.js file that resets certain paths each time Pale Moon is launched, as I do, you will also have to manually edit the user.js file in Linux to adapt those paths to the Linux file structure. (Again, don’t worry if you overlook this. First, you probably don’t have a user.js file. Second, if you do, it probably doesn’t set folder paths. And third, if you change the problematic paths from within Pale Moon and it seems to forget those changes with each new launch, you’ll eventually remember to edit your user.js file. Don’t ask me how I know this.)
Anyway, it’s much less complicated than it sounds and a lot easier than configuring an out-of-the-box Pale Moon install to your liking from scratch.
Oh, and Pale Moon itself seems to work great in Linux Mint. The biggest differences I’ve noticed are that Options are called Preferences and some of the control buttons (Cancel, OK, Resume, etc.) in dialog boxes seem to be in a different order. Pale Moon is my default browser in Windows, and now it’s my preferred browser in Linux Mint. (And actually, in Chapeau Linux, too…)
Thanks for posting that info, as other readers may find it useful. :)
I am aware:
– Of the procedure for transferring FF profiles to PM profiles
– That PM is available for Linux Distros
Currently one of the extensions that I use regularly, doesn’t work in PM on W7.
It has been broken for several months (it used to work).
However it still works in FF on LM18.
I suspect that it will finally cease to function when FF57 is released. :(
I’m pretty sure it’s no longer a good idea to import Firefox profiles into Pale Moon, at least since Firefox 35. The two browsers have diverged too much. Back in the old days, when Pale Moon wasn’t much more than a stripped-down, souped-up, super-stable Firefox fork, no problem. In fact, when I first began using Pale Moon, as a secondary browser, the first thing I did was to import my “lovingly curated” Firefox profile. Now I’m pretty sure you have to “lovingly curate” your Pale Moon profile from scratch.
I understand sticking with Firefox if a critical extension doesn’t work in Pale Moon. I’ve temporarily gone back to Firefox as my primary browser a couple of times when a critical extension broke in Pale Moon. Once I found a hack, a workaround, a fork, or a substitute, I went back to Pale Moon, which I still find faster and more stable.
Yeah, it’s really nice to be able to import user profiles from Windows to Linux. I did it for for Pale Moon, Firefox, and LibreOffice, and it saved me a lot of time and effort. I’m not a coder — I don’t even understand LibreOffice Basic — and if I had to redo my recorded and then painstakingly edited LibreOffice macros from scratch, I’d go batsh!t.
works perfectly in ubuntu 16.04 as well
When lightweight themes appeared they were called something else. I was astonished when they were renamed themes and the real ones were buried among thousands of these questionable background images that just made things harder to read. I counted 44 out of the first 128 complete themes shown that actually can be installed on FF51. (These were eventually renamed complete themes once they were essentially forgotten as we all know.) This highlights a very old and presumably uninteresting problem for Mozilla, which is the poor design of the Add-Ons site. They apparently don’t see any benefit to filtering for usable content according to the FF version being used.
The notion of putting everything to a vote based on usage statistics means that their own expert opinions are secondary to the whims and ignorance of the masses, whereby silly and unpopular features are discarded along with ones that expert users might want to use and also install on systems for customers, friends and family members. This to me is the worst mistake that Mozilla makes and forms the core of the justification for wrecking a much loved browser. Technical progress without much user appeal is the sad result.
Themes no longer compatible with current firefox… yeah, how about keeping things COMPATIBLE instead of just walking like an elephant thru the porcelain closet.
AMU indeed pulls light themes forwards…
Another argument I DON’T see: number of installs for those heavier themes?
I’ve used classic for a long time now, for I don’t want a “Edge” or “Chrome” browser, I chose Firefox back then for reasons of having the extra space for bookmarks in a toolbar, for the customizability,
Having on the top: Text menu, buttons, URL bar, some more buttons, search bar, and then the minimize/maximize/close buttons.
Having 3 rows of bookmarks, and then be able to auto open for any you click or search only NOT if staying on the same site.
AND having a dark theme on that.
And then they say “custimization” is a priority, when I need bout 4 plugins and a theme to get that all working as I need to do it. Can’t have it in other browsers, and if Firefox is going to block me using it as I need it to, what reason do I have to stay at firefox? Chrome performs the same, just with less annoying stupidity from its dev’s.
Chrome themes are just colors and background images; Firefox complete themes can completely change the look of the browser. There’s no way they could come anywhere close to feature parity.
I don’t particularly care about themes myself; I care very much about addons. The real problem here is shared between themes and addons– they simply are not being straightforward. They’re using weasel language. “We will provide as much functionality as possible” is transparent BS. Users will lose substantial functionality. They never explained why it was necessary. They’re just doing it, and ignoring that their users despise them for it.
“Weâ€™ve all been in that situation where your friend sends you a link to an interesting and lengthy article, but youâ€™re too busy at the moment to take the time to read it. With SnoozeTabs, you can dismiss this articleâ€™s tab and set a time for when you want the tab to reappear. SnoozeTabs helps reduce clutter on your screen and in your bookmarks so you can focus on what matters right now”.
Or just click on your friend’s link later.
“Pulse is a way for you to instantly send Firefox engineers your opinion on which sites work well in Firefox and which sites donâ€™t. Just click on the pulse button in the bookmark bar and rate a siteâ€™s performance with one through five stars. By telling us how Firefox performed on a wide variety of sites, you will help us understand how Firefox is performing in general and also help our engineers understand where to focus their efforts to improve Firefox browser performance.”
If you have an idea where their engineers “should focus their efforts”, you’ll have a button for that soon ,)
“What’s your take on the development?” > Maybe a “more modern” Firefox, but ugly soon.
One reason for Mozilla’s deprecating the old add-on system is security. Current add-ons can do everything, which is what makes them so powerful, but also dangerous. Laudable, but it will also make Firefox another boring Chrome clone, UI wise.
Honestly, I’m on XP and I do not even know which version is running, could be 7.0.4 or even 3.6.28
Pale moon is the best BTW
As ex-Firefox user who left when Chrome was released I have to say I love what Mozilla is finally doing with Firefox: removing bloated features like ui customization and bloated theme features, replacing the way too complex and slow xul extensions system with webextensions, removing the ugly outdated UI in favour of a state of the art one with Australis!
But: Why should I switch away from Google Chrome when it offers the same? The browser market lives from diversity and not from senseless make-it-all-look-like-another-product – which is done today by almost every Chrome competitor to get a slice of the pie too. People use Firefox because it is customizable, people use Chrome because of simplicity, design and minimalism.
Mimicking Chrome is a bad idea. I rather would switch to Brave before I would install Firefox! Why? They, unlike Mozilla, are actually trying to bring in creativity into – as more skilled users would say – a boring product.
For example an upgrade of standard tab browsing, a fully non-native ui, many security based features and this is only scratching the surface of what is planned for Brave. Also, in Mozillas attempt to be a more attractive Chrome similar browser (without Blink) they are willingly sacrificing their users features and options just to reach this goal.
We say Google are evil but at least they never would do that to their user-base: ignoring their interests in favour of others. As long as Mozilla tries only to be a follower instead of a leader they never will be a serious competitor towards Chrome.
Actually sad that an ex-Firefox and simple user is able to realize that instead of Mozilla.