SeaMonkey's Future: Firefox ESR
The SeaMonkey Council just revealed its plans for the future; core points are plans to migrate to Firefox ESR, support classic features for as long as possible, but drop them eventually.
SeaMonkey, just like most Firefox-based browsers, face a tough decision right now. Mozilla announced the move to WebExtensions, the dropping of NPAPI plugin support, the introduction of Quantum, the dropping of the classic add-on system, and more, and all of these decisions affect not only Mozilla and its users, but also any browser that is based on Mozilla Firefox.
Some, like Pale Moon, decided to keep supporting these features, while others, to follow Mozilla and drop the old tech as a consequence.
SeaMonkey is also based on Firefox, and it was unclear up to this point how the maintainers of the web browser would react to the changes.
An open letter to users and supporters highlights the future. The letter, published on MozillaZine, highlights the current state of the web browser first.
SeaMonkey 2.46 was released in December 2016, and the team plans to release a new version, SeaMonkey 2.48 that is based on Firefox 51 soon.
The delays are caused by infrastructure and build issues, and one of the consequences is that SeaMonkey won't be based on the latest stable version of Firefox, but an older version.
Mozilla's decision to change core technologies in Firefox and the organizations infrastructure have made it even more difficult to keep up with Firefox.
Also keeping up with Firefox is becoming difficult at best. Mozilla plans to discontinue classic extensions and themes with Firefox 57 which is right around the corner. XUL, one of the key technologies of SeaMonkey, is also on the chopping block and will be discontinued in the near future.
The replacement technologies, based on modern web standards, are immature and still under constant development. In the end, an almost complete rewrite of the current program will probably be needed. If it weren't for our friends from the Thunderbird project, we would now have even bigger problems.
The SeaMonkey council plans to switch to Firefox ESR after the release of SeaMonkey 2.48. This means, for the next couple of releases, that the team can continue to work on the current code base as security patches and bug fixes will mostly land in that time.
This means that SeaMonkey will continue to support features such as the classic add-on system for a while longer before it is dropped (when the next ESR release hits).
The team makes it clear that it does not plan to support features that Mozilla plans to drop, or has dropped already.
The most critical issue is to support web extensions in one of the next releases. It is unclear how long we will be able to support classic extensions.
Also, we are not planning to support any abandoned stuff like classic extensions and NPAPI plugins on our own. We will try as long as possible. But when they are gone, they are gone. The current developer base is much too small to do our own fork.
SeaMonkey decided against switching over to one of the Gecko -- Firefox's rendering engine -- forks because they "do not have enough developers themselves to cope with the changes Mozilla plans", and because it is unclear whether they manage to keep up with the evolving web tech landscape.
This may be a definitive no at this point in time, but the team acknowledges that this may change in the future.
Based on how successful Mozilla is, or if one of the forks gain ground, this might change in the future.
The SeaMonkey Council is looking for support, not only financially, but also for contributors who help develop or maintain the web browser.
SeaMonkey is a niche product, and the team that is behind the browser suite is well aware of that. Good news is that SeaMonkey won't go away, so that users who use it currently will be able to continue using it provided that they don't mind the changes that will be introduced based on the changes that Mozilla makes. (Thanks Appster)
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