Waterfox dev has big plans for the browser

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 13, 2017

The developer of the Firefox-based Waterfox web browser revealed today on Reddit how he plans to to deal with the changes Mozilla makes to Firefox.

When Mozilla announced the deprecation of the legacy Firefox add-on system, and the focus on WebExtensions, it was clear that any browser based on Firefox needed to come up with a plan going forward.

The lead developer of Cyberfox made the decision to put the browser to rest. He plans to migrate the browser to Firefox's Extended Release channel, and support it until Mozilla Firefox upgrades ESR to the next release cycle.

The Waterfox developer has different plans however. Waterfox is based on Firefox code that has been offered as a 64-bit version for a long time, and ships without features such as Pocket, or Adobe DRM that Firefox shipped with.

The plan, announced on the official Waterfox Reddit forum, would see the team putting out two versions of the browser in the near future. One that would be migrated to Firefox ESR, another called Waterfox RR which would follow Mozilla's release scheme.

Waterfox ESR would ensure that users of the browser could install and use legacy add-ons in the web browser, something that would not be possible otherwise with the release of Firefox 57 in November (and the subsequent release of Waterfox 57).

But the developers plans don't end there. He plans to get funding for a startup to fork the last working version of Firefox with XUL/XPCOM to create a new browser out of it.

He would then try and get programmers on board that would help him maintain that version of the new browser following in "Mozilla's ethos".

The new browser would have its own release cycle, which would be similar to Firefox's 1 to Firefox's 3.6 release cycle (less but larger releases). That new browser would use C++ and not Rust as the core language.

The lead developer plans to provide additional details about the future of Waterfox in the Waterfox 52 release announcement. The browser is expected to be out this week.

Closing Words

Waterfox ESR and Waterfox RR are likely going to happen. There is little doubt about that. This means that Watefox users can pick one of the browsers going forward. Those who rely on classic add-ons want to pick the Extended Support Release version, others the RR version.

The plan to create a startup, fork Firefox, and continue development of a classic version of the browser depends on financing of course. It is an ambitious project, but I'd imagine that interest is there both from the developer community and userbase to realize it.

Now You: What's your take on the announcement?

Waterfox dev has big plans for the browser
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Waterfox dev has big plans for the browser
The developer of the Firefox-based Waterfox web browser revealed today on Reddit how he plans to to deal with the changes Mozilla makes to Firefox.
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  1. Palemooner said on October 14, 2017 at 6:46 pm


    You should report Basilisk browser from Moonchild Productions, the same dev who creates Pale Moon.

    1. A different Martin said on September 6, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      For anyone who happens upon this now-somewhat-old comment thread, Martin *did* subsequently cover Basilisk. For now, at least, Basilisk seems to be serving as a “permanent” beta app to test developments contemplated for Pale Moon. Based on what I’ve read, many features and changes tested in Basilisk found their way into the recent Pale Moon 28 “milestone” update.

  2. bjm said on August 9, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Why is Waterfox setup twice the size of Firefox setup?

  3. Drew said on April 11, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Drew here from Australia 70Yrs old & just learning to use the PC, a friend said to use the Firefox Browser, it seamed slow & stuttered a lot & so my friend said to remove Firefox but install Cyberfox & WOW – Faster & Smooth & now a happy user
    but I’m confused being old school with all the above Tech comments, do I stay using Cyberfox & wait for Safety & Security enhancements or move on, cheers to all Drew …

  4. Andy Taylor said on March 18, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Does ublock origin, umatrix and privacy settings work on waterfox?

  5. Yay said on March 18, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Then after everyone abandons Firefox and Mozilla goes under, Mozilla’s programmers can join the new fork!

  6. wonton said on March 15, 2017 at 10:42 am

    @Heimen Stoffels cyberfox still getting updates till 2018 with not 100% certain stop

    1. gg said on March 15, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      can’t install ublock origin ? the firefox extensions page says “firefox only”

  7. Hy said on March 14, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    I hadn’t heard about this. Thanks for putting this up, Martin. It sounds promising, and I am hopeful.

    Thinking about Waterfox again, two things come to mind: profiles, and updates.

    Does Waterfox still use the same profile as Firefox (if Firefox is also installed on the same system)? I never liked this, and it was one of the main reasons I dropped Waterfox and switched to Cyberfox. Or is it possible now to have a separate independent profile on Waterfox?

    Secondly, when using these three browsers I noticed that Firefox would release an update, and at virtually the same time or within hours or a day at the most, Cyberfox would also release an update. With Waterfox, on the other hand, it was days, weeks, and at one point what seemed like months, before an update was released. This is the other main reason I finally dumped Waterfox, because I was concerned that after Mozilla made vulnerabilities public and patched them, using an unpatched Waterfox for weeks on end with known vulnerabilities was less secure than using a patched Firefox or Cyberfox. How much less secure is Waterfox than Firefox/Cyberfox because of this delay in patching?

    1. o_O said on March 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      “Does Waterfox still use the same profile as Firefox”

      By default, yes.

      “Or is it possible now to have a separate independent profile on Waterfox?”

      Just create a second profile for Waterfox. Go to Profile Manager. Create a new profile.

  8. Don Gateley said on March 14, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Just what I’ve been hoping for. Just installed its 51.0.1 for general use and it deals with my Firefox 54.0a2 profile just fine. FF dev 54.0a2 was bogging down a lot and I’m anxious to see if Waterfox is any better.

  9. ShintoPlasm said on March 14, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Nice idea, but I’m very pessimistic about it. Serious forks needs serious manpower – look at Google or even Mozilla with their hordes of devs…

    1. ... said on March 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Mozilla won’t last long after breaking XUL.

  10. Guest703 said on March 13, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    “That new browser would use C++ and not Rust as the core language.”

    Dropped. The only thing exciting about Firefox right now is Rust.

  11. Ron said on March 13, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    If this becomes a reality, it will be my secondary browser (Pale Moon is my main one). Good luck to the dev!

  12. Belga said on March 13, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Great News indeed.
    See now if the legacy addons will continue to be updated !?

  13. Mikhoul said on March 13, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    GREAT NEWS ! 👍👍👍 It will become my daily browser but I will also use Chromium on the side to have a backup plan.

  14. karlo2105 said on March 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I installed SeaMonkey and started to test it. It looks like Firefox used to be prior to version 4.
    But I don’t understand why many addons for Firefox don’t work on SeaMonkey. Is there any chance to enforce Firefox addons on SeaMonkey ?
    Even addons claimed compatible with SeaMonkey are not installable on the latest version.

    1. monkey said on March 13, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      SeaMonkey is based on very old Firefox, older than Pale Moon version of Firefox. I suggest you to use Pale Moon instead.

      1. Barbara said on January 29, 2020 at 9:43 pm

        SeaMonkey is based on a version of Firefox which is newer than the version of Pale Moon. SeaMonkey FACT. Recommend that you use SeaMonkey.

      2. Appster said on March 13, 2017 at 6:42 pm

        That’s wrong, SeaMonkey 2.46 uses Gecko 49 as its rendering engine, the same version Firefox 49.0 operates with. Newer Betas are already in the making. Just because the browser looks old-fashioned doesn’t mean it actually is.

  15. smaragdus said on March 13, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Australis was the beginning of the end and dumping XUL will be the last nail in the Firefox coffin. Mozilla did and is still doing all possible to alienate their users and force them migrate to other browsers. I cannot enumerate all the features that have been removed since version 3.6.28. I had to find add-ons to restore native features that have been dumped. Mozilla is no longer a foundation but a greedy corporation which has no respect for their users and by dumbing down Firefox they achieved one thing- losing more and more market share since the users were forced to seek for alternatives like SeaMonkey, Pale Moon, Otter, Vivaldi, etc.

    I hope that Waterfox, SeaMonkey and Pale Moon will live on, their demise would be a devastating loss for those who detest WebKit/Blink.

    I also hope that FossaMail will not be abandoned.

    1. fudge smucker said on March 16, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      Why do you detest blink? It’s following webs standards unlike Presto. Disliking the current Google monolopy is understandable though.

      1. Anonymous said on March 29, 2017 at 7:56 pm

        There are several possible reasons, but I suppose it’s mostly a transfer from hating google hence all google related things.

  16. Yuliya said on March 13, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Great news. No need to jump into the Chrom* bandwagon since Mozilla announced XUL deprecation, as opportunities like this arrise :) Looks like I will get to keep using Down Them All which is simply unmatched.

  17. Bill said on March 13, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I have Waterfox installed and use it as a backup to “Pale Moon” which has been my primary browser since 2011. Glad to see it wont go the way of Cyberfox.

  18. Moonchild said on March 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Interesting. I’d also take the opportunity to fix a number of long-standing bugs in the browser that Mozilla couldn’t be bothered to do. There is simply a need for such a browser, all things considered. But Alex had better make a solid promise to maintain and port/fix security issues in that case, going forward, since there won’t be an already-patched-up Firefox version to draw on.

    The problem I think I already see is that it will take the very latest XUL version of Firefox (56), meaning some things have already been completely cut from it in preparation to the move to Rust. He’ll have to undo that if he wants to make it a real contender. He should also consider using Visual Studio and not Clang for that one.

    1. pd said on March 14, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Is there a role for a brand new browser, free from legacy code, based on Servo and/or Rust?

      Isn’t it a waste of the few resources available to have all this splintering? WaterMoonCyberFox ESR / RR / 64/32 … Is it really that hard to centralize efforts? Or is it just that much easier to create a series of silo projects because nobody wants to sit down and nut out any compromises with each other?

      I dunno, FOSS splinterforks have to reach a point of diminishing returns eventually. Don’t they? Soon we’ll be seeing MyFaveOldAPIextensionFox which will be browsers bundled with just that crucial extension people feel they can’t do without. I mean, such a browser would have some percentage of however many users that particular extension previously attracted, for example the 100K users Tab Groups had/has, and really … is that enough for any malware authors to even bother targeting? Such a cavalier attitude to security isn’t acceptable of course, but how many sympathetic white-hat hackers does it take to keep a browser up to date? A handful? Additionally, how many bugs are likley to be from ancient code the devs of these ‘micro browsers’ can potentially just copy/paste from Mozilla despite the split in philosophy7?

      Whichever way this is looked at, the loser is Firefox and independant, open-source browsers. Unless Servo/Rust, on top of the mega-overdue memshrink and e10s efforts, can genuinely ‘do an AMD Zen’ and hit back at Chrome with performance that is too good for users to refuse, it looks like the Mozilla MisManagement will, at best, consign Firefox to fighting for double figure share for many years to come … I mean really, FFS, does anyone believe Mozilla is butchering their most distinguishing feature – extension surface – for a good reason? Does anyone working on WebExtensions actually believe their building a new way to expose nearly as much of a surface as the old APIs? I expect they’re fooling themselves if they do. MisManagement will push to have as little exposed as is necessary to tick the “We have the same extension surface, same APIs, as Chrome … come back to us extension devs, … please!” box. It’s the traditional way of the software industry: why innovate when you can imitate and hope for the best?

      Don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve got all my fingers and toes permanently crossed hoping that servo/rust shoehorned into a butchered/depleted Firefox will somehow manifest without another slashing of the MisManagement sword. I mean what else can the cock up? Sack their best dozen technical minds because they support Trump? Give the NSA a back door into the Sync databases? Resurrect Firefox OS to compete with Windows? Try to impress users and the industry by turning Nightlies into the only release channel? 6 week release cycles are very ‘naughties’ after all. The mind boggles and nothing would surprise me at this stage! I’m still unsure why they’ve not enforced the merging of the location and search boxes. I hate the idea but it’s about the most differentiating feature these days and we can’t have those!

  19. James said on March 13, 2017 at 10:40 am

    I think the classic style would be a lot more efficient on old or modern hardware, I realize that old fox had some crashes here and there, maybe he can improve upon that.

  20. Klaas Vaak said on March 13, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Sounds great, but it could also turn into another TrueCrypt, FossaMail, Cyberfox, Thunderbird, etc.

    1. Heimen Stoffels said on March 13, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Eh, TrueCrypt is dead and Cyberfox will die later this year and FossaMail is nearly dead but a new maintainer is being sought. BUT Thunderbird is still under development and will see even more development now that they will likely team up with the SeaMonkey project.

      1. wonton said on September 8, 2017 at 6:42 am

        @Heimen Stoffels
        2018-04-30 Firefox 62 Firefox 61 2018-05-01 Firefox 60 Firefox 52.8; 59.1
        Cyberfox will end in 8 months then

      2. Jody Thornton said on May 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm

        Yeah and don’t expect any help from “Moon-Matt” over at Pale Moon. Even after pulling teeth, you woun’t find them that co-operative on much. Look at this for example:


        There are oodles of threads like this where someone suggests why they should get involved with another partner to co-operate together. And the Pale Moon team finds ANY reason to poo poo on it.

      3. Croydon said on March 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm

        Could you please provide a source that SeaMonkey might team up with Thunderbird? That sounds interesting.

  21. Idiot said on March 13, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Take a look at this table:
    Legacy addons (bootstrapped, overlay, XUL etc) will be supported in Nightly and Aurora even after Firefox 57 is released November 14th.

    1. Heimen Stoffels said on March 13, 2017 at 11:05 am

      But not every add-on will keep working all the time. After all, Nightly and Aurora are a testbed.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 13, 2017 at 11:34 am

        Also, I doubt that this will be a permanent exception.

  22. buck said on March 13, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Fantastic news, assuming the funding and development talent can be gathered to support the ultimate goal of a new browser with ongoing XUL/XPCOM/JetPack addon support.

    I’ll be contributing financially to this effort.

  23. Thomas said on March 13, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Where is the funding page?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 13, 2017 at 8:28 am

      Not yet up.

  24. Kebin said on March 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Good news.
    Any Fork only helps, plus more options to users.
    Webkit/blink is monopoly

    1. peter dodds said on May 20, 2017 at 10:22 am

      good news. i got a shock i installed firefox nightly and some of my extensions wouldn’t work. canvas defender selfdistruct cookies and other’s personally i don’t like the sacrifice Mozilla are making. i like a fast modern browser but i need my extensions to. work. i really hope waterfox developers and the community and funding needed to support waterfox so legacy extension work and further develop waterfox as a modern web-browser in its own-right. so now i am using waterfox 53.0.1 64bit.

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