Pale Moon: plans for 2017 and beyond announced

The lead developer of the Pale Moon web browser outlined a development plan today for the web browser for 2017 and beyond.

Pale Moon shares a lot of code with the Firefox web browser. As such, it is affected by Mozilla's decision to cut classic components such as XUL or XPCOM from the Firefox web browser, and replace those with technologies such as WebExtensions or Quantum parts.

We have talked about the consequences of Mozilla's decision already: classic add-ons will stop working when the switch is made, and that is probably the biggest impact for users of the web browser.

Developers who produce browsers that share code with Firefox, Pale Moon, Waterfox, Seamonkey, and also other programs such as the email client Thunderbird, face even tougher challenges.

While they might make the decision to simply use the new code that Mozilla puts out, it means that features will be deprecated in the programs as well.

Pale Moon 2017 and beyond

pale moon

The Pale Moon team made the decision to avoid this route, and keep on supporting the classic Mozilla platform.

The team plans to create a fork of the Mozilla platform before Mozilla cuts the ties to XUL and other technologies completely with the release of Firefox 57. Since Mozilla will cut out some features early, plans are underway to create the fork at the right point in time; this means that the team needs to find one of the last versions that still supports the old platform to gain the most out of the fork.

Pale Moon's lead developer notes that this fork will be open to anyone. He plans to build a Firefox-based browser from the code and publish it.

Long-term, it will be a different story for any XUL application (not just Pale Moon). Looking over our options, we've come to the conclusion that the only way to maintain a XUL-based browser in 2018 and beyond will be to create a separate (hard) fork of the Mozilla platform code close to the intended change-over -- but not too close since there will be a gradual deprecation of features preparing for the main change -- without Rust, Quantum or the new front-end, and keep aligning that with developments in scripting and rendering as an independent-from-Mozilla platform solution.

The platform itself will be open to other applications, including Pale Moon. Pale Moon won't be switched over right away, but it could be switched over eventually. It is too early to tell if any of the existing Mozilla platform programs will use that platform eventually; seems unlikely at this point in time. It is open to new applications as well however, so that is definitely an option.

Cooperation talks with other application developers, Waterfox and SeaMonkey were named specifically, were not successful. A cooperation would have put more development resources behind the project.

As it stands right now, only the Pale Moon team will work on the fork unless another organization or team starts a similar project earlier, or joins the team after all.

So, this is where we will put in our long-term effort later this year: building a solid, maintainable platform that can serve as a base for a XUL-Firefox derivative, and potentially Pale Moon's application code as well, depending on how things develop on the 'net. It will be a challenge. It will be difficult, but rewarding; it will build something that can offer a future to several applications that are now in peril (even things like a XUL-based WYSIWYG editor, for example).

Most of all, it will be a lot of work - and I do hope that people will continue to help out and chime in with development to make this parallel development of the platform and browser feasible without burning our current developers out.

Closing Words

This is a massive undertaking for the team, and it will be time consuming and difficult to work on Pale Moon and the Mozilla platform fork at the same time.

It is too early to tell whether this will work out well in the long run or not. If it does, it could become the new home for Firefox users who are disillusioned by Mozilla's current strategy for one reason or the other.

Anyway, I wish the team best of luck. If you are a developer and interested in joining the team, head over the Pale Moon site to do so. (thanks Appster)

Now You: Do you think forking the classic Mozilla Platform is a feasible project?

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Pale Moon: plans for 2017 and beyond announced
The lead developer of the Pale Moon web browser outlined a development plan today for the web browser for 2017 and beyond.
Ghacks Technology News
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Responses to Pale Moon: plans for 2017 and beyond announced

  1. Kubrick April 17, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    There are still a huge amount of die-hard old style firefox users out there and i think this is an excellent idea by moonchild.
    Im a long time pale moon user and i think the demand is there for this.
    Not sure about the long time vision of pale moon as the passage of time goes by and future rebases will be needed.

    Best of luck to the pale moon team.

    • Jed April 17, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

      Considering it already struggles to display several websites I use I don't have much hope for it. Some of the websites I use rely on several HTML5 elements that aren't supported in the rendering engine used by Palemoon (I think it's using a much older version of the Firefox rendering engine). Firefox renders quite a bit of content badly anyway though.

      At the moment I'm stuck between Chrome and Firefox. Chrome performs much better in comparison to Firefox whereas Firefox is a resource hogging beast. I'm hoping the revamp improves it somewhat, otherwise I'll have to consider Chrome. Only problem with Chrome is there is no NoScript, and uMatrix is awfully complex for what it is.

      • Jan April 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

        Have you tried to run UBlockOrigin in block all mode? You can use it easily as a script blocker and then allow scripts per site.

      • Peter (NL) April 19, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

        I read in an article that Pale Moon switched to another rendering-engine named: Goanna. So this could be a reason that PM is not performing quite well on several web sites.

  2. Daniel April 17, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    As long as Palemoon stays customisable i stay on board.

    I care for unique features more as for Google introduced discriminating "important web technologies" - What works in Palemoon works, for the rest i use Vivaldi.

  3. Jojo April 17, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    Why choose just one browser? I use FF ESR and PM as my primaries. But for one of my favorite BS sites (Slate) I have to use Chrome because the Livefyre comment engine doesn't work for me in FF or PM. When I need to print something accurately on my Brother printer, I find IE 11 does the job best.

    As to FF being a resource hog, I don't notice it with 16GB of RAM on Win10. I keep FF + PM open all day long with between 40-60 open tabs in each, but shut the browsers down overnight when I am sleeping. Computer stays up 365 X 24.

    Perhaps you should try FF ESR?

    As for PM, i would wager that it will eventually go under. The head guy there is a bit of a dick anyway. He banned me from their forum a few months back for using a "disposable" email address from a service (spamex) that I have been using for over 10 years. I had been on their forum for years with that same email address! I sent a reply asking if most email addresses weren't inherently disposable since I could easily create a new gmail or many other email address whenever I want. But I never received the courtesy of a reply back. [shrug]

    • GB April 18, 2017 at 1:37 am #

      @Jojo: “As for PM...The head guy there is a bit of a dick anyway.”

      Sorry to say, I couldn’t agree more. I tried to use PM many years ago, but when they ceased being an up-to-date secure browser, and when I saw repeatedly what an arrogant prick that head guy really was, I stopped using PM and never used it again.

      I do wish them the best in this latest endeavour!

      • George April 18, 2017 at 10:58 am #

        "...but when they ceased being an up-to-date secure browser..."

        Any proof for that heavy statement?

      • GB April 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

        @George: Sorry–don’t have time to do your work for you. You could start with a review of the discussions of PM here on ghacks over the last few years, and go from there.

      • Ron April 18, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

        Pale Moon is secure. You are either uninformed or lying. Here's an example: This latest thing about phishing with unicode characters in domain names: Firefox was unsecure, Pale Moon was NOT. I do my work.

      • Ron April 18, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

        If Pale Moon is insecure, don't you think Martin would be negligent in covering it so much? Pale Moon is not insecure. You need to do *your* work. Example: Firefox was insecure with this latest thing about phishing with Unicode characters in domain names; Pale Moon was NOT.

      • GB April 18, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

        Your “logic” and leaps are...amusing...and disturbing. Based on your own “logic”, you are “either uninformed or lying”. PM is not as up-to-date and secure as Firefox, Cyberfox, etc. Read the extensive discussions about this on ghacks, etc. Here’s an example: many people have had problems using PM on banking websites. PM just won’t work on them. The sites will not allow it as it is deemed not as up-to-date and secure as other browsers. Another example: a number of security and privacy add-ons which work in Firefox, Cyberfox, etc., won’t work in PM. Now the classic knee-jerk predictable response from PM defenders about almost any problem with it is that it’s never PM’s fault; it’s always the fault of the other: the site it can’t work with, the extension developer whose extensions PM can’t run, etc. There have been many discussions of PM problems like this and many others on here over the years. Do I think Martin is “negligent” in covering PM? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. But the mere presence of articles on here about something, such as PM, Opera, IE/Edge, Windows 10, etc., is NOT to be equated with an automatic endorsement of the product and a certification that it is completely free of all security issues, privacy issues, etc. Some PM-ers like you come on here and are so combative and ready to attack. It happens almost every time PM comes up. You want to use a particular product such as PM–fine, but don’t come on here and attack others who don’t have a view identical to yours as “uninformed” or “liars”.

      • CharmCityCrab April 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

        @GB Some banking websites block any small browsers because their IT people only test the security of the 4 or 5 browsers with the largest user bases and just automatically deem anything else "insecure" simply because they have not verified it's security personally. Other sites detect Pale Moon as an outdated version of Firefox because of it's version number- even though that's not what it is an PM just operates under a different versioning scheme- or automatically block all small browsers unless their rendering engines and user agents perfectly mimic a larger browser down to the letter and the site can't tell the difference.

        Also, having actually hung out on the PM forum for some time, I can tell you that some incompatibilities stem from the banking websites themselves having weak cryptology and Pale Moon refusing to work with them because it would put user privacy and security at risk. In other words, it's the bank website that's not secure in some cases.

        There was one bank I remember where it was an issue with PM's rendering engine, and they PM developers fixed it, but those are few and far between. For the most part, the issues I see reported tend to stem from the web moving towards a monoculture where sites refuse to serve, test against, or properly recognize all but 3-5 large browsers. That is *not* Pale Moon's fault.

        Now, of course, ultimately, if the web moves in such a direction as to completely lock out small browsers, Pale Moon will be in trouble. It won't be Pale Moon's fault, but obviously that *could* happen anyway. There's a trend in that direction.

        But I can tell you that Pale Moon works with every banking or credit card site I use right now. Pale Moon is not as compatible with the modern web as I'm sure they'd like to be (Much of which *is not* their fault), but it's not nearly as incompatible as it's detractors say, and this effort itself, if the platform code is developed and shared between Pale Moon and a new late Firefox fork from a version in the 50s and is *continually developed* going forward by a large pool of people to keep up with the way webpages are writing their markup code, that'll give both browsers a rendering engine that is even more up to date with where the web is going.

        Ultimately, of course, with Firefox switching to another platform base, Pale Moon is going to need to do a better job developing it's own platform code (They do this to some degree already, but have to rebase from time to time). That's what this plan seems like it's really all about- getting a common platform that'll draw the developers it needs to stay 100% current, a platform that can be used for their new browser, for Pale Moon, and for any open-source project that wants to use it as a backend (Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Waterfox, Cyberfox, new forks- whomever wants to use it). They'll need more developers to keep up, but with more applications feeding into the pool, maybe more developers will volunteer because they like the other applications, like the upcoming late Firefox fork- and everything they do for that platform code benefits every program using it without any extra work. It makes less overall work and allows developers for various projects to pool their backend resources. Other projects will have to actually sign on for this to work, but the time to start it is now, so I think the Pale Moon team is putting itself out there and getting it started, doing that hard work, and then hoping as people see what a valuable option is, adopting it for their own applications and contributing developer hours back into it.

      • Ron April 19, 2017 at 12:59 am #

        That's mostly because of bad UA sniffing which is the website's fault and not Pale Moon's (no matter what you think) . . . it's ASSUMING Pale Moon is an old version of FF, which it is not. Thanks for proving my point.

      • Phil K April 19, 2017 at 8:14 am #

        FWIW: using any financial institution website as proof of browser compatibility issues is a poor choice because in my experience that particular business segment is one of the *absolute worst* when it comes to both browser compatibility and overall security.

        For many years many banks designed their webpages around stupid/insecure IE-only features like Active-X and WOULD NOT work on anything else. And ironically, for an industry where web security is a particularly important matter, many financial institutions seem exceedingly poor at maintaining modern security practices on their webpages.

        Just today a client called me with yet another issue on one of the financial sites they need to use, because their "new improved and more secure" site design now required cutting-edge browser tech like "Internet Explorer 9 and above", "Firefox 30 and above".. lol. Never mind that they are using the latest mainstream FF release, it wouldn't work. And I'll give you ONE guess which browser they are trying to push on them, despite allegedly supporting what they're ALREADY using: Chrome. SURPRISE!! lmao..

        Just more lazy and/or clueless web designers.

      • April 20, 2017 at 6:34 am #

        "That's mostly because of bad UA sniffing which is the website's fault and not Pale Moon's (no matter what you think) . . . it's ASSUMING Pale Moon is an old version of FF, which it is not. Thanks for proving my point."

        Well so what if it's the website's fault, Ron. This is the banking website that PEOPLE HAVE TO DEAL WITH, and if Pale Moon isn't up to the job, then people will look for another browser. I seriously doubt they'll switch banks over it. Get real.

    • April 20, 2017 at 6:40 am #

      "As for PM, i would wager that it will eventually go under. The head guy there is a bit of a dick anyway."

      I tend to agree. It's a one-man shop with a couple of part-time helpers behind it. They just dumped Fossa Mail and I don't really have much hope for them now that Cyberfox (also a one-man operation) will cease operation here in a few months.

      I want a browser that renders properly, not some political statement that just 'declares independence' from the big three.

      • George April 20, 2017 at 9:02 am #

        "...This is the banking website that PEOPLE HAVE TO DEAL WITH, and if Pale Moon isn't up to the job, then people will look for another browser. I seriously doubt they'll switch banks over it. Get real."

        And what is "the job" exactly? A safe Web or have websites "work" no matter what? Oh and yes, people HAVE switched banks. A bank that does not offer a safe website and promotes unsafe transcactions is not a serious bank. Probably time for you to get real.

      • lord lestat April 20, 2017 at 11:57 am #

        Oh look, the Firefox die hard fanboy tries to get other competitors down again... You really must see Vivaldi and Pale Moon as serious threats for Firefox as you show such a rabid hate towards them.

        Not surprising :)

  4. Anon April 17, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

    No Rust seems a big restriction. I think Rust goes back a few versions before 52esr.
    The dropping of extensions is the reason for fork. The code so far has been mostly improving, e.g. multiprocess and sandboxing. So fork should likely be including this progress.

  5. confused April 17, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    I don't understand this announcement. I thought the lastest Firefox rebase (bumping Pale Moon to version 27) would be the last rebase. If the developers feel the need to rebase again I don't have much hope for the future of this project. Sad.

    • Sinon April 18, 2017 at 12:13 am #

      The development of software is always fluid and is always subject to change depending on what is going on, Pale Moon is no exception to this rule.

    • beemeup4 April 18, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

      To clarify, 27 is indeed the last rebase of the Pale Moon BROWSER. What's being discussed here is a potential preservation of the entire Mozilla PLATFORM based on XUL as a separate project fork, which encompasses more than just the browser itself (things like Thunderbird also fall under this platform).

      At this point it's only an idea being considered. Whether or not the project gains enough momentum is uncertain but the main takeaway is that the Pale Moon browser is stable and will continue its current path more or less unchanged at its core. If the platform fork is a success perhaps the browser development will merge with the forked platform as part of a larger unified project, but again, nothing is set in stone.

  6. Earl April 17, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    I still think SeaMoon/PaleMonkey is a good plan for future dev.

  7. pHROZEN gHOST April 17, 2017 at 11:28 pm #

    If you split up development resources to go in two directions, this is bound to make one or the other (or both) run into trouble eventually.

    Let's all go back to Netscape 1.0 :-P

    • Sinon April 18, 2017 at 12:14 am #

      Firefox was already headed in that direction regardless of this decision.

  8. Stan L. April 18, 2017 at 12:46 am #

    Current Palemoon is already struggling with a lot of websites and doesn't even work anymore with some of them (hello Netflix)... I think this is the beginning of the end.

    And with the upcoming compact themes in Firefox 53, I no longer see the utility of Palemoon anymore. Australis was my main reason to ditch Firefox. Compact themes completely hide Australis, so... I guess I'll get back on firefox now.

    Thanks for the ride and good luck !

    • George April 18, 2017 at 10:31 am #

      Netflix is not "a website" but a paying service. There are millions of people that have absolutely no use for it - and never will.

      As for "already struggling with a lot of websites and doesn't even work anymore with some of them"... I have zero problems.

      • April 20, 2017 at 6:48 am #

        "Netflix is not "a website" but a paying service. There are millions of people that have absolutely no use for it - and never will."

        It's a website that uses a paying service. And there are millions of people out there that have every bit of use for it that you don't.

        Just because you use (or don't use) a service out there doesn't mean everybody shouldn't value it. Instead of bitching about a website, why not try to get your browser to work with it.

        The burden is on you all, not Netflix. They won't go out of business just because Pale Moon doesn't render it properly.

    • Phil K April 18, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

      People need to be careful when assigning blanket blame for "Site X doesn't work in browser Y" statements.

      Specifically, the fact that Netflix doesn't work in PaleMoon right now seems to be mostly a matter of some trivia that could be easily fixed if not for some combination of communication breakdown and elitist attitude on the part of Netflix.

      Like so many other annoying large businesses, they just don't care to support anything but the top 2 or 3 at most browsers that they see on their websites, whether or not doing so would require little effort. Another recent example of this from Netflix is how a bunch of Linux Firefox users discovered that all the sudden they couldn't use the site because Netflix had decided to ghettoize anyone whose Firefox had a slightly modified User-Agent string to identify which distro it was running on. (Which Netflix didn't bother to accomodate in their hard-nosed user-agent sniffing)

      If you'all are happy with a Google monoculture on the web I guess that's your prerogative, but I'd rather continue pushing for the tech-agnostic universality which Berners-Lee always expected his baby to exhibit. Otherwise it's back to the dark days of IE and the Microsoft anti-trust shenanigans. Careful what you wish for.

      • Jed April 18, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

        The problem is, the same websites that struggle to render in Palemoon either rendered improperly in a previous version of Firefox, or currently render improperly in the current version of Firefox. One of the main examples I use is how the word Windows 10 renders on the Windows 10 subreddit. It always renders beautifully in Chrome/Chrome-based browsers, but looks ugly in Firefox/Gecko based browsers.
        This is the Chrome one:
        This is the Firefox one:

      • Phil K April 19, 2017 at 7:58 am #

        @Jed: Understood. Unfortunately I don't pretend to be enough of a html/css expert to know for sure what causes that particular text rendering difference. Some guesses:

        Obviously it's not presented as a bitmap, so must have to do with the font the page specifies for the text, which is most likely being substituted, which is what often happens when a page specifies a font not present on the client browser/OS.

        Here's what appears to be the markup for that page element:

        #header .redditname a::after {
        content: "Windows 10";
        font-size: 70px;
        font-weight: lighter;
        color: #ECF0F1;
        font-family: "Segoe UI Light",Helvetica,sans-serif;
        letter-spacing: 0.05em;
        margin-left: 100px;
        line-height: 100px;
        font-variant: normal;
        transition: background-color 0.5s ease 0s;

        Segoe UI Light is a typeface mostly used by Microsoft these days, and probably not present on most machines that aren't running Microsoft software. If that's the case, according to the markup then it will first try substituting Helvetica (which looks different) and if that's not present, 'sans-serif'. (Which could be almost any sans-serif font.)

        There also seems to be a quirk in how one specifies the font in the page, Reddit may be able to fix the issue with as little as a couple of quote characters:

        In any case, I'm fairly certain after watching the web develop from the beginning that the majority of "site X doesn't work on browser Y" problems are mostly down to site designers who don't care/bother to design to the standard rather than 2-3 fave browsers. (along with their particular idiosyncracies)

  9. Fena April 18, 2017 at 3:07 am #

    I agree about netscape ! There was a time before the big bloat when norton commander/netscape etc ruled because back then they were innovative, what the people wanted. They did not try to be a clone of anything.

  10. Klaas Vaak April 18, 2017 at 5:58 am #

    The effort s worth a try, but ultimately it will go the same way as his email client Fossamail. A lot of websites, esp. those where data has to be filled in, only accept the major browsers. Sure, people can use a "backup" browser for that, but why use 2 browsers? Geeks do, but the rest of us just want 1 browser for everything instead of the hassle of having to switch.

  11. Owl April 18, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    How about offering him some support? Huge amount of work. Good luck Moonchild :)

  12. Henk van Setten April 18, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    I surely hope Pale Moon will survive, I really like it. Still, right now it's not my main browser anymore due to some persistent glitches. A "recent fork" strategy may improve things for a while but inevitably, when new web technologies keep emerging, in the long run that may fall short as a base too. So I fear the prospects are not good, but still I wish them the best with their brave efforts to keep going against the stream.

  13. TelV April 18, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    I've been looking at Vivaldi as an alternative browser when the time comes to switch. I picked up on it when Martin featured Manjaro recently and then read up on the extensions Vivaldi supports: I use quite a few of those already especially NoSquint Plus to turn pale grey fonts on sites to black.

    Also, it has a novel approach to the Tabs Not on Top issue which can be resolved using Classic Theme Restorer at the moment, but since Mozilla has marked that as WontFix come November it'll look like Chrome afterwards. Vivaldi however can display tabs on the foot of the browser or in a sidebar either left or right of screen as illustrated on their site:

    I'm also intrigued by the History graphs which Vivaldi can display which have been reviewed here:

  14. pd April 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    I wonder if there's a case for an organisation like Apache to take on a fork? There needs to be homes for forks of FOSS projects that go down unpopular routes. The fork code itself could just use github I guess but there needs to be an org behind any significant rearguard effort.

    It'll be interesting to see how many little projects that once took on the Mozilla XUL platform to produce software, but then were abandoned by Mozilla in favour of that fanciful phone project amongst other things. Those were the days: when Mozilla seemed like it would be more than a browser developer. Now they have the goal of making Servo suitable for embedding so we don't get one single render engine (Webshit) dictacting the entire 'open' web like IE (mshtml) did. Too bad it's only lip service they're paying to this goal. Give them a month and their idiot management will probably erase that goal as well. Or perhaps they'll wait a little bit longer so they can really cut the toes off for any projects optimisitic/naive enough to trust Mozilla.

  15. Ray April 18, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

    I started looking into coding Chrome extensions to see if I could port over some older Firefox addons to WebExtensions.

    First of all, the Chrome Extension API is just so much easier to use since it is just HTML and JS. I can see why Firefox is heading in this direction. I think, with time, you will see older XUL addons being converted over to WebExtensions. Hopefully, WebExtension Experiments can also bridge the gap for WebExtensions needing an API that doesn't exist yet.

    The fact that Firefox 56 will allow you to run both WebExtensions and XUL addons is a positive. I will probably be sticking with FF 56 for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, a decent fork of Firefox 56 will exist, but I think it's just a matter of time before I switch over to using FF 57 and beyond. It might take months or even a few years, but it will happen.

    I wish Pale Moon good luck, but XUL is an older technology that is showing its age.

    • Phil K April 19, 2017 at 8:44 am #

      OK but web extensions are much more limited in what they can do as an extension, too. Which I think is why a lot of FF extensions have still not appeared as web extensions.

      The MAIN reason FF is heading in that direction is because they are now tagging along on the Google/Chrome train, hoping it will ensure their continued relevance... as a Google vassal. Sad state of affairs.

  16. Norbert Lars April 19, 2017 at 12:05 am #

    i think moonchild is one of the few people that see the future pretty clear.

    i`ve read @jojo opinion, for me is enough to understand he is an idiot, gj moon for banning him :))

  17. Kubrick April 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    The amount of misinformed people commenting on pale moon here is staggering.
    Use the pale moon forum to be informed instead of posting dribble about security etc.

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