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's Future

seamonkey firefox alternative

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 plan

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.

Closing Words

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)

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

Summary
Article Name
SeaMonkey's Future: Firefox ESR
Description
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.
Author
Publisher
Ghacks Technology News
Logo
Please share this article

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail



Responses to SeaMonkey’s Future: Firefox ESR

  1. Sano May 3, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    It's probably best for them if they can't maintain their own browser. IIRC one of Mozilla's goals is to make Firefox's innards more easily reusable by other products in a way that's both safe for the product developers (minimal breakage) and safe for Firefox itself (not tied down by the need to avoid breaking other products).

    I have to say I'm very much pleased with Firefox 53, I don't know what happened exactly but as I updated from 51 to 53 I noticed a difference in smoothness that I can't really explain since E10S was already enabled before. (I don't think the GPU process is supposed to have such an effect, is it ?) So I think that if the move to WebExtension can be smoothed out enough, which should be the case if they use ESR, Seamonkey is probably making the best choice considering what's to come for Firefox.

    • Appster May 3, 2017 at 9:45 am #

      But then again, there would be no point in SeaMonkey if it drops XUL/XPCOM extensions. I am not sure whether or not being an application suite will keep their users from switching over to other browsers. Were it not for the mail client one could use Chrome just as well to be perfectly honest. The things WebExtensions can do to the browser are minimal, which is both positive for lazy/incompetent developers unwilling to constantly MAINTAIN their add-ons and negative for users who wish to do more with a browser than casual surfing and playing Pacman.

    • Heimen Stoffels May 3, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      SeaMonkey 2.52 Alpha 1 is based on Firefox 55.0 (User agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:55.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/55.0 SeaMonkey/2.52a1) and very, very smooth to me (smoother than Firefox!) and also very stable :)

    • Sören Hentzschel May 3, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

      > I don't know what happened exactly but as I updated from 51 to 53 I noticed a difference in smoothness that I can't really explain since E10S was already enabled before

      I don't know what the reason for the difference on your system is, but a relation to e10s is possible even if e10s was enabled before because Mozilla is working hard to make e10s better with every release. In fact Firefox with e10s is still not perfect (I have a specific use case which triggers loading spinners for multiple seconds every time with e10s), but the e10s implementation is much better now than a few months ago.

      • Sano May 3, 2017 at 7:00 pm #

        Thanks, that could be it then. Going from Firefox 51 to 53 is 3 months worth of updates, so it checks out. It would be nice if the smooth experience thing could be benchmarked, rather than just JS speed.

  2. Heimen Stoffels May 3, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    Hahaha. And just the other day someone in another article on gHacks told me that SeaMonkey devs said the browser's dead but boy was he wrong. Luckily, SeaMonkey has plans for the future :)

    Btw Martin, how come SeaMonkey 2.52 Alpha 1 is based on Firefox 55.0 *with* classic extensions support and stuff when 52 seems to be the latest ESR they are supposedly building on?
    (for the record: here's the proof: User agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:55.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/55.0 SeaMonkey/2.52a1)

  3. Sören Hentzschel May 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    SeaMonkey and "future", that's funny. It's 2017 and SeaMonkey is still completely unusable on HiDPI displays. SeaMonkey is years (!) behind the development of Firefox.

    • lord lestat May 3, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

      At least Seamonkey is so far no cheap Chrome wanna-be-like browser like Firefox and it is maintained by people who ARE power users and who LOVE customization and do not hate both.

      Firefox developer team today has nothing like that anymore.

      • www.com May 5, 2017 at 11:35 am #

        Poor @lord haw-haw. You don't even use SeaMonkey either and it looks like you are running out of choices and will have to resort to ancient versions of software to keep on going.

        Let us know how the primitive state is working out for you, k? :)

    • Charles Tharp May 3, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

      HiDPI should not apple fix that.

      I am starting to rely more on seamonkey.
      I can look at my files, pages, and most importantly search my bookmarks.
      import bookmarks,
      sweet having everything built in behind a password mgr.

      • Sören Hentzschel May 3, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

        > HiDPI should not apple fix that.

        What has Apple to do with the HiDPI support of SeaMonkey? Only the SeaMonkey developers can fix that. And there are a lot of HiDPI systems with Windows, it's not macOS specific.

    • AC May 5, 2017 at 12:51 am #

      No, it's not funny that Mozilla wastes money for things like FireOS and SeaMonkey has to live on it's own.

      At least the UI of SM is proven, doesn't need to be changed every few years and respects power users.

  4. kalmly May 3, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

    I know a few folks who have used SeaMonkey exclusively for many years. I had thought - until I read this article - that I would be installing it and switching over to it when Pale Moon ceases to support Win 7.

    Sad. All the good stuff is going away, and the new stuff pretty much ignores user preferences.

    Remember choices?

  5. TelV May 3, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    That doesn't sound like very good news for the future of Sea Monkey if they're going to drop all extensions which Firefox won't support anymore.

    As for Mozilla it's disappointing that they won't provide an API for certain extensions like Classic Theme Restorer which is one of the most popular extensions for Firefox.

    If Sören Hentzschel is indeed a former Mozilla employee as Appster mentions above, then perhaps he'll be good enough to explain why because as far as I'm concerned Firefox will become dead meat once the extensions I consider essential stop working.

    • ShintoPlasm May 3, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

      Sören has repeatedly stated that he hasn't been a Moz Rep for years now, and he has not been a Moz employee as far as I can tell.

      As for the move to WebExtensions, this has been discussed extensively on this website in the comments to various of Martin's articles - check out the ones tagged 'Firefox' to see what all of us think of Moz://a's future plans...

  6. Kubrick May 3, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

    This is good news.
    We should be grateful that choices are still available and people are making the efforts to give us these choices.
    If any of the firefox fork detractors feel they can do a better job then by all means make a solid committed contribution instead of bickering about it.

    Im a pale moon browser user and its sad to see that so many people would rather complain about it than make contributions.
    I cant code so i would be of no use but these alternative browsers need a lot of support as one day all we will have is a chrome/firefox only environment.We unfortunately have gone round in a circle right back to the netscape/internet explorer era.

    • Ken Saunders May 4, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

      Kubrick May 3, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

      "We should be grateful that choices are still available and people are making the efforts to give us these choices."

      +1

      "If any of the firefox fork detractors feel they can do a better job then by all means make a solid committed contribution instead of bickering about it."

      👍

      "I cant code so i would be of no use"

      There are always ways to contribute. Documentation, testing, reporting bugs, and more.

      I'm a Firefox users, but I still want choices. They're good for everyone.

  7. Clairvaux May 3, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

    On a slightly related subject, I don't see the security issue ever mentioned in the coming Firefox apocalypse. Functionality, yes, but security, no. Functionality is important, and nice, but wasn't the whole point of Firefox (or at least a big part of it) security, and the associated qualities of privacy and anonymity ?

    Extensions are supposed to do whatever they please right now, and they will be somewhat limited in the future. Isn't that rather a good thing ? The browser is arguably the single most dangerous piece of software on one's computer. Isn't it a bit unnerving that any Dick or Harry can write an add-on, make it change a whole lot of things in Firefox, publish it for everybody to download, and possibly not care very much (or not have the resources) to update it regularly against vulnerabilities ?

    For that matter, what do we know about vulnerabilities in the present catalogue of add-ons ? What do we know about them being audited regularly ? What do we know about updates ? Have there been any attacks due to defective (or rogue) add-ons ?

    Whatever one thinks of Mozilla, they do have significant resources to hunt vulnerabilites in Firefox. What about add-on developers ?

    • gh May 3, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

      attacks due to rogue addons? Yes, google search "firefox extensions blocklist|blacklist" to find the cumulative list which mozilla has amassed (to date, well over a thousand extension GUIDs have been blacklisted).

      vulnerabilities in the present catalogue of add-ons? From inspecting code within AMO-hosted extensions, I'm aware of at least 8 extensions affected by significant vulnerabilities. (No, I haven't reported 'em and, no, I won't publicly name them.) Nonetheless, I'm convinced the review/approval inspectors earnestly perform a "best effort" attempt when processing the queued extensions.

      What do we know about them being audited regularly? You can check the mozilla developer-oriented blog comments and dev forum and find occasional reports of "i got a notice about my addon, and I'd like to fix but need more into" ...so, some form of (probably automated) periodic code review must be in effect.

      • Clairvaux May 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

        Thank you for the information, GH.

        However, this underscores my point. No, I will not Google-search "firefox extensions blocklist|blacklist", because I'm not even aware there's such a thing as a Firefox extensions blocklist|blacklist. I won't check the mozilla developer-oriented blog comments and dev forum, because I don't even know what a Mozilla dev forum is, and I'm not a "dev" anyway. I'm just, you know, a user.

        I need synthetic information. I'm not a reporter or software consultant. I can't spend the whole day on such fact-hunting expeditions, filtering hundreds of comments to maybe find some relevant information.

        I stumble across warnings about Windows vulnerabilities, Office vulnerabilities or Adobe vulnerabilities all the time. I never come across similar warnings concerning the Firefox environment. Also, will the new standard increase security ? Intuitively, its seems it would. We don't know. I don't know.

        As a matter of fact, I wouldn't even be aware of the November incoming Firefox catastrophe but for Ghacks. I have alluded to that event in quite advanced tech blogs, thanks to what I have learned here, only to draw blank stares.

  8. Earl May 4, 2017 at 8:33 am #

    So, no future at all. Too bad.

  9. frg May 4, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    >> Btw Martin, how come SeaMonkey 2.52 Alpha 1 is based on Firefox 55.0 *with* classic extensions support

    Switching to the ESR source for releases does not mean that Nightlies will stop. The next release after the last 2.49 ESR (as of now 2.49.8 or 2.49.9) would be 2.56 based on ESR 59. Its more or less the same release cycle as Thunderbird already does. Not needing to do major releases every 6 weeks gives time to fix bugs for the next major ESR release. 2.52 and 2.51 already contain some bugs which need a bit longer to fix with the current available developer resources. But 59 is still some time away and if 57 flops or a Gecko fork gains ground you can be sure that the plans will be revised.

    > SeaMonkey and "future", that's funny. It's 2017

    Welll Sören SeaMonkey has its problems but the HiDPI one is a non issue for most of its user base right now. I agree that it needs to be fixed. Nevertheless the pale gray mess Firefox is by default is far worse in my eyes and won't become better. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder so as long as both products exists they will be different for sure.

    FRG

Leave a Reply