Please Mozilla, don't touch the user.js functionality in Firefox - gHacks Tech News

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Please Mozilla, don't touch the user.js functionality in Firefox

A bug report opened about nine months ago on Mozilla's Bugzilla bug tracking site for Firefox suggests that the organization could disable reading the user.js file of the Firefox browser by default in the future.

If you have not heard about user.js before, it is a configuration file that controls preferences in the Firefox web browser. One of the main advantages over Firefox's preferences file is that it has priority and that it is a user-owned file that is left untouched when Mozilla makes changes to the browser.

I suggest you check out the ghacks user.js repository on Github for detailed information and an extensive file to improve privacy and security of the Firefox web browser.

user.js file firefox

The bug reporter states in the description that he "never fully understood the point of having this file", that people have abused it and "broke stuff" in Firefox, and that it offers nothing that cannot be achieved by modifying the default preferences file, or by using Enterprise policies. Additionally, since Firefox needs to check for the file's existence regardless of whether it exists or not, it is causing "additional IO early on startup".

According to telemetry that Mozilla gathered, about 3% of Firefox installations that report telemetry use user.js files.

Others have pointed out early in the discussion that there are advantages, including maintaining Firefox preferences over multiple systems, when reinstalling Firefox, moving it, or installing a new version or edition of the browser. Another benefit that was pointed out early in the discussion is that user.js preferences are permanent (unless edited by the user) whereas prefs.js preferences are not as they may be modified by Mozilla at any time.

As Mike Kaply puts it, "he advantage here is that you can have a file that you keep around and just drop into a profile directory and Firefox doesn't mess with it".

The suggestion brought forward is to disable user.js by default but introduce a preference in Firefox that users need to enable actively so that the user.js file is read again.

While that would ensure that Firefox retains support for user.js configuration files, it would block Firefox from reading the file after the change lands even if it is in use; this would mean that a user's desired configuration, e.g. related to privacy or security, won't be honored by the browser until the configuration change that enables the reading of the file is made.

The bug reporter already revealed long term plans to remove support for the file entirely from Firefox.

Longterm, I'd really like to evaluate whether we can remove support for this file entirely, because it just fundamentally doesn't really make sense to have so many different files that all control the same thing, but it probably requires figuring out why so many people use it, which we don't have cycles to do. Nor is it really obvious how we'd go about doing so: if we think a substantial portion of people aren't aware they've done this, just doing a survey "why do you have this file" is unlikely to be enlightening; we could try doing telemetry on what prefs get set, but we'd probably have to have some kind of strict list of prefs we allow ourselves to send back to avoid passing back user data, which again might not get us the data we need.

Here is what I think about all this

The user.js file is an integral part of Firefox. It is used by about 3% of all Firefox installations and it is likely that the number is a bit higher even considering that many user.js files such as the Ghacks user.js have Telemetry disabled by default.

Making this a pref in about:config would probably not lead to a mass exodus of users and it would probably also keep the outcry contained. It seems possible that lots of users would migrate to another browser, e.g. Waterfox or Palemoon/Basilisk, that continues to support the functionality, or migrate to a Chromium-based browser

While I understand Mozilla's drive to improve Firefox startup performance, it needs to be weighted against the breakage that the change causes.

Lots of features have been removed or been broken in the past already in Firefox by engineers who sometimes could not come up with a reason for using them or at other times ignored the marginal number of users that used a feature. Maybe, it is time to

Now You: what is your take on the plan?

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Please Mozilla, don't touch the user.js functionality in Firefox
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Please Mozilla, don't touch the user.js functionality in Firefox
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A bug report opened about nine months ago on Mozilla's Bugzilla bug tracking site for Firefox suggests that the organization could disable reading the user.js file of the Firefox browser by default in the future.
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Comments

  1. firefoxIsDying said on January 6, 2020 at 12:33 pm
    Reply

    Mozilla seriously wants to destroy Firefox. Between removal of customization, features or even add-on review and ridiculous spendings, like all the diversity programmes people who donate to Mozilla fund, they do not listen to the voice of power-users at all. For anyone who’s not a power-user, Brave or even Chrome are better.

    It’s the power-users who installed Firefox for their friends, family and on PCs they managed at work. Now there’s no more reason to, Brave is much better for an average user.

    1. Chris said on January 6, 2020 at 9:37 pm
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      Yeah sure, the tech nerds will scream while regular users won’t know/care if this obscure feature goes away.

      1. foobar said on January 6, 2020 at 10:18 pm
        Reply

        Regular users use Chrome already.

      2. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 7:05 pm
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        The regular users do what we tell them to do long-term. Firefox became popular because *we* pushed it. Chrome eventually became popular because many of us were sore about the direction Firefox was taking and Google at the time was seen as “not evil” (my how times change).

        Browser numbers have always followed what tech experts and IT workers do with a bit of a delay. Most people don’t care… but most people also rely on someone else for most of their technical advice and will do what they say. If Mozilla pisses enough of us off, we won’t keep recommending Firefox.

    2. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 2:59 am
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      As indicated in the comment sections of https://www.ghacks.net/2019/11/11/firefox-71-new-aboutconfig-interface-lands/#comments it had already been clear that this is the endgame.

      No surprises here. Clinging to false hope is counterproductive.

  2. Yuliya said on January 6, 2020 at 12:41 pm
    Reply

    . . .

    1. Tom Hawack said on January 6, 2020 at 1:12 pm
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      @Yuliya, speechless indeed do we remain in the face o such an absurd plan. I’d almost say you took the words out of my keyboard :=)

  3. Addy T. said on January 6, 2020 at 12:42 pm
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    It seems that every good software is eventually ruined by the developer’s desire to babysit their users, especially the most experienced ones, and figure out for them what they supposedly need.

    Everyone can read on Wikipedia how the File Explorer’s features have been axed for no reason at all since at least WIndows 7 (already lost XP’s filmstrip view on Vista).

    In the case of Firefox, Mozilla has already ruined the extension system. I used a portable version of FF56 until DownThemAll became available as a web extension. So much for making browsing the internet safer. As this site has reported, Mozilla also caused a bug that disabled all of its extensions, including necessary adblock add-ons.

    The features of a software should always be expanded, because (some) users come to rely on them. They should only be removed if they cause a significant security risk or significantly slow down the application despite having little to no use.

    Mozilla’s nanny nature has quite a history. The foundation has also vowed to protect its users from “fake news” — that means, browser developers now think they get to decide what is the truth. Apparently, the German magazine SPIEGEL is not labeled as fake news, despite it manipulated its bestseller list and allowed a faker to run amok (Relotius).

    This behavior is, btw, absolutely not limited to the digital world. The EU has decided that all its citizens should drive only cars full of cameras and tracking devices — to make sure that they abide by speed limits. Idiotically, the limiters can be disabled, the 1984 stuff not.

    I do not need a software foundation or a government to tell me how to drive, what the truth is, or how use a web browser, beyond necessary laws. What is at work here is the infantilization of society, and an arrogant, undemocratic distrust of the people.

  4. Susan said on January 6, 2020 at 12:49 pm
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    It was always going to happen when you just want to create a chrome clone which has seemed to be their aim for quite a while. Have they said that userchrome.css will be chopped yet? They’ve hinted at it enough.

    1. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 3:02 am
      Reply

      Whether they say it or not, we know that customization as a whole is on the chopping block.

    2. Heimen Stoffels said on January 7, 2020 at 6:08 pm
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      Yeah, a Chrome derivative would’ve been better. Vivaldi, for example, is based on Chrome and *does* support user.js and user.css

  5. Tom Hawack said on January 6, 2020 at 1:09 pm
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    “The bug reporter states in the description that he “never fully understood the point of having this file”

    He’s absolutely right to state he never understood the point, obviously.
    If the idea is to follow a trend which is to remove any feature used only by a small percentage of users then that very approach is IMO absolutely absurd.

    The arguments mentioned in the article brought by tenants of the user.js file are mine of course, no need to say more.

    Personally, I’ve used the user.js file for years and only recently do I replace it with Enterprise policies, that is Autoconfig and Policy Templates, the former fed by the very settings found in the excellent, best, mentioned in this article : ghacks-user.js. Nevertheless I consider such a plan as the best thing to do to accelerate Firefox’s market share drop.

    Let’s be honest : Firtefox, out-of-the-box, is perfectible, be it with objective privacy & security settings’ modifications, be it with subjective per-user preferences. Removing the ability for a user to elaborate on those equations is totally absurd.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 6, 2020 at 5:14 pm
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      @Tom Hawack:

      I generally agree with you, but want to add a shade of gray to this:

      “Firtefox, out-of-the-box, is perfectible, be it with objective privacy & security settings’ modifications, be it with subjective per-user preferences.”

      This may be true for most people, but Firefox is not perfectible using those methods for me. If it were, then I wouldn’t be using Waterfox.

      Also, having the configuration that remains possible being relegated to the .js files and about:config entries means that they are effectively unavailable for most users. So for a lot of people, it may be technically possible to make it exactly as they wish, it requires more technical knowledge than most people have, or are interested in having.

      1. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 3:19 am
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        @John Fenderson

        I’d also add that having to use config files means the user shoulders the burden (cost) of time, in the form of staging and deploying. Making it difficult is already good enough for Mozilla.

        Do recall that breaking encryption is also “possible but expensive”. This difficulty is exactly how encryption works.

    2. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 5:20 am
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      While you use user.js, I never use user.js. As Mozilla said, it’s only used by tiny fraction of user.

      I used the Firefox RSS Reader everyday but it’s only used by tiny fraction of user, and what Mozilla did to it?

      See the pattern here?

      1. Finvana said on January 7, 2020 at 4:45 pm
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        And that pattern correlates to a lower user base with every brainless change for the sake of change.

  6. Mike said on January 6, 2020 at 1:24 pm
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    Personally, I found that ghacks seem to be easier to use as vendor.js (drop-in js in browser/defaults/preferences), as it sets defaults without copying them to prefs.js needlessly, but user.js is still very useful for any kind of manual overrides, which restore themselves after browser restarts.

    Removing latter just for -1 irrelevant stat() call vs even 3% users seems rather petty, but I think “People complain loudly before removing features and then when we do remove them, there is just a whimper” comment by dev responsible says everything about how it’d go.

    As long as browser engine is solid and well-maintained, any kind of extra customization is easy enough to bolt on top with the patches (which are already must-have for me, with either FF or Chromium), but I think main danger of such moves is loosing whatever appeal and userbase that engine has left – 3% by 3% – and then it no longer will be maintained or relevant.

    And given the attitude inside company that’s on display again and again, there’s absolutely no hope for change at this point (which would require something like mass lay-offs, which I bet Mozilla won’t survive), so gotta enjoy it while it lasts, and look for abandoning “The Web” as lost cause entirely, with Mozilla being just one more symptom of its demise.

  7. Pants said on January 6, 2020 at 1:46 pm
    Reply

    From the article
    > While that would ensure that Firefox retains support for user.js configuration files, it would block Firefox from reading the file after the change lands even if it is in use

    This is not how I see them implementing it – the pref would be added and if an existing user.js was found then it would be modified (to continue allowing the user.js) – the same way they introduced the userContent.css / userChrome.css change.

    For new installations or for people adding a user.js to a profile for the first time, it’s no big deal IMO to have to flip something in about:config: they’re already making changes.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 6, 2020 at 2:09 pm
      Reply

      You are right, thanks!

    2. Kincaid said on January 6, 2020 at 2:24 pm
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      Except when the process needs to happen automatically, without having a user open a configuration window and flip a preference by hand. In these situations, the proposed change breaks everything.

      1. notanon said on January 6, 2020 at 5:40 pm
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        @Kincaid, anyone using the user.js can flip a preference.

        If you’re using the user.js, you will be checking the Github for commits, & then you’ll see the warning about flipping the preference well before Mozilla makes the change.

        Pants might even post a warning on the download page mentioning the requirement to change the preference.

        You’re making a big deal out of nothing.

      2. Kincaid said on January 6, 2020 at 10:45 pm
        Reply

        @notanon

        Sorry, but you’re not seeing the issue because you’re not understanding the issue.

        Without user.js, there is no way to set a preference in a new profile without first loading Firefox.

        If you first have to run Firefox in order to set a preference to enable user.js, then it’s impossible to have the preferences set in user.js applied for the first run. Having the prefs set for the first run is essential in many important situations.

      3. notanon said on January 7, 2020 at 6:35 pm
        Reply

        [Editor: please watch your language]

        Don’t comment any further if you don’t know what the F you’re talking about.

      4. notanon said on January 9, 2020 at 1:57 am
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        [Editor: please..]

        You set a preference ONCE in about:config, then it’s set forever (are you so uninformed about how Firefox works that you didn’t know that @Kincaid???).

        Not hard.

        Again you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

        You don’t see Pants or Martin even replying, because it’s obvious to them. But I’m posting so the newbies won’t be detered by your misleading babble.

      5. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 5:23 am
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        @notanon
        Let’s see what you’ll say after Mozilla removed the preference later lol

    3. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 5:29 am
      Reply

      Well, the most useful purpose of user.js is that you can just copy it to a new installation (or profile) of Firefox and it will set the preferences like you wanted.

      If you need to set a pref to read it then that completely defeats the whole purpose of the file.

      1. Anonymous said on January 8, 2020 at 1:35 pm
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        bit late to the party, but can’t you just add user.js AND a prefs.js file containing a single line that enables loading of user.js?

  8. CraigS26 said on January 6, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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    Hope !! David R 1/5/20 (currently most recent Bugzilla link post) … Ok, so, overall the issue seems to be that checking for user.js causes a few milliseconds of delay when starting Firefox. But people use user.js to make configuring Firefox easier on themselves.

    The best solution would be to provide a configuration interface that is easier to use than user.js, and provides the same benefits as user.js, but doesn’t slow down startup like user.js. Then when the feature is deployed, do an import of user.js into the new interface and set a message informing the user of it.

    What that would actually look like, I don’t know. But removing user.js — when it is used by well known projects — like ghacks — (my edit), as well as multiple blog posts about customizing Firefox, is not a good idea.

    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1543752

  9. Kincaid said on January 6, 2020 at 2:14 pm
    Reply

    We strongly encourage Mozilla to keep user.js functionality intact and always check for that file when Firefox starts.

    If they are really concerned about “performance impacts” from trying to open a non-existent file (such impacts are not even perceptible to the user), they can ship a zero byte user.js file by default. Problem solved.

    If for some odd reason that’s not acceptable, a command line parameter can be added. It takes literally a few microseconds (completely imperceptible) to evaluate a command line parameter, even on the slowest systems.

    Firefox has so many real startup and shutdown performance issues developers can focus on instead of these fake excuses to remove functionality they admit they don’t fully understand.

    We use user.js daily in multiple different profiles that commonly need to be reset to a set of defaults defined in one of several different user.js files. If Mozilla removes the ability to load user.js by default, there will be no way to easily accomplish this needed function.

    Please, Mozilla, enhance and improve advanced functionality in Firefox, and do not remove any more of it.

    And, Mozilla, if you want to work on real performance issues, don’t worry about startup times. Focus on shutdown times. It currently can take over 5 seconds to fully unload a Firefox instance in Windows so that a new instance of the same profile can be loaded without error.

    And you can work on memory consumption, if you’re looking for things to do that will have a noticeable positive performance impact. I currently have just this gHacks page open in one tab, and bugzilla open in another tab, and Firefox is consuming over 700MB of RAM. Yes, I have extensions installed. So do many people. But advanced users often turn off telemetry, so it’s not a reliable method of determining actual real world statistics.

    By the way, if you want us to turn telemetry on, create an option to reduce it to the bare minimum. Don’t collecting unique ID’s, stop collecting hard drive model numbers, stop collecting data like “defaultSearchEngineData.loadPath” and “defaultSearchEngineData.submissionURL” (both of which can contain private information), and stop collecting details about non-public extensions (which also can contain private information).

    Mozilla, we want to help you make Firefox the best browser in the world. But when you ignore the needs of advanced users, and remove functionality we need, you lose us one by one.

    Market share of Firefox has plummeted over recent years, and frankly, it’s partly because of this sort of poor decision making. Advanced users are the people who recommend Firefox to others. We are the ones that install it for others. We are the ones who publish articles and write respected blogs (like this one).

    Support us, and we’ll support you.

    If you would like to talk more personally, just post a reply here with contact information, and I’ll get in touch with you.

    Sincerely,
    Kincaid

    1. Anonymous said on January 6, 2020 at 3:36 pm
      Reply

      @Kincaid, better to post in bugzilla, although knowing from past experiences unlikely to affect. They will take similar stance like Chromium took on V3 manifest.

    2. Rex said on January 7, 2020 at 1:31 am
      Reply

      Mozilla is a lost cause – there are plenty of such messages to them on Bugzilla and other forums – they will just arrogantly ignore and continue on their path towards Chrome clonehood.

  10. Cor said on January 6, 2020 at 2:22 pm
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    This bug report is… very 2019. Continuously repeating a “think of the children” straw man, without any openness for discussion.

    In case of Firefox, backwards compatibility should always prioritize over adding or removing features.

  11. Anonymous said on January 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm
    Reply

    This is the end of Mozilla.

  12. Shania said on January 6, 2020 at 3:34 pm
    Reply

    Firefox subreddit mods started censoring again, as they have done in the past multiple times.

    Removed:
    https://old.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/ekqyur/firefox_considering_offbydefault_preference_for/

  13. WON'T FIX said on January 6, 2020 at 3:45 pm
    Reply

    Mozilla: WON’T FIX.

  14. Small Minds said on January 6, 2020 at 3:48 pm
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    The project management geniuses and even quite a few developers at Mozilla have never been able to come to grips with the fact that having a popular browser with millions of users (like they used to have, at least) means that even a few percent of users using a certain feature can mean hundreds of thousands of people. Since Mozilla isn’t supposed to be a for-profit and doesn’t have to squeeze the bottom line above all else, this blissful ignorance of the impact of their whims never ceases to amaze me. Percentages at this scale can’t reasonably be treated as though you were talking about 2-3 people out of 100 users total. (Not to mention the fact that the reasoning behind this chance is incredibly dubious, to say the least. Not that this comes a surprise, of course, considering the past few years…)

    1. Small Minds said on January 6, 2020 at 3:50 pm
      Reply

      chance -> change
      above

    2. Anonymous said on January 6, 2020 at 8:30 pm
      Reply

      “Since Mozilla isn’t supposed to be a for-profit and doesn’t have to squeeze the bottom line above all else”

      Mozilla Corporation, the part of Mozilla that makes the browser, is for profit. Only the foundation is non profit.

  15. michael said on January 6, 2020 at 4:17 pm
    Reply

    I can understand where they are coming from. Revenue is going down and the power users do not pay the bills directly.

    Unfortunately the users who pay the bills are those who don’t manually configure their software and click on google ads.

    But this is obviously a race to the bottom for mozilla.

    How will they compete next year? Edgium and Bravium will probably win over significant parts of the Firefox userbase. The new Edge browser will be the only browser on windows that is deeply embedded with MS services, and Brave offers not only tracking protection but also ad blocking.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 6, 2020 at 5:21 pm
      Reply

      @michael: “the power users do not pay the bills directly. ”

      No Firefox users pay the bills directly.

      But I understand what you mean. I would say that power users are very valuable to Mozilla, though, because it’s the power users who will recommend (or not) that others use Firefox.

      As a power user, the modern Firefox doesn’t meet my needs and so I don’t use it, but I have still been recommending it to less technically inclined people when they ask. I’m not at the point where I’ll stop doing this yet, but I am growing less comfortable with doing so as time goes on.

  16. pHROZEN gHOST said on January 6, 2020 at 4:25 pm
    Reply

    Mozilla: If it ain’t broke, we’ll break it.

  17. popcorn said on January 6, 2020 at 4:38 pm
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    “According to telemetry that Mozilla gathered, about 3% of Firefox installations that report telemetry use user.js files.”

    Most people using user.js disable telemetry so they wouldn’t know the real number of people using it. So mozilla try’s to convince people it wouldn’t matter if its gone with a fake statistic?

    1. notanon said on January 6, 2020 at 5:34 pm
      Reply

      @popcorn, it’s hypocrisy to say there’s more than 3% of Firefox users, because they turn off telemetry, & then turn around & post articles saying Firefox has only “fill in the blank” percent of users in browser marketshare AND avoid mentioning that alot of Firefox users who turn off telemetry also spoof or block their user agent, so they don’t report back as Firefox to the people collecting browser share statistics.

      Right now, one of the browser share aggregators (I don’t remember which), gives all unknown browsers to Microsoft Edge, not Firefox.

      So if you’re going to post in an article (Martin did here), that alot of Firefox users block telemetry, then you better post in the next browser share article that alot of Firefox users spoof their user agent as some other browser (probably Chrome) or block the user agent entirely (in which case, it’s counted as Microsoft Edge).

  18. Shania said on January 6, 2020 at 4:47 pm
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    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1543752#c44

    I really would have preferred not to do this, but given this ended up on hackernews newer comments are more noise than signal, and so I’m going to close comments on this bug.

    Just to re-summarize a few relevant points to assuage people’s concerns here:

    we’re not singling out user.js, we’ve been fighting mainthread IO throughout the startup path. This is just one of many bugs on file for this effort.
    on lower-end Windows machines, the performance characteristics of all of our file opening are significantly worse than “just a few milliseconds”, which is why we’re trying to reduce IO as much as possible.
    the IO characteristics of Firefox startup are pretty significantly different between Linux, macOS and Windows, for a number of reasons.
    there are bugs on file for some of the excessive icons/fonts stats on Linux, but consensus from our GTK folks seems to be that there is little we can do about the ones caused by GTK internals, in addition to most of the results likely coming from cache instead of causing actual disk hits anyway.
    user.js being used results in breakages that are hard to debug (along the lines of “Firefox doesn’t remember my settings”) and cause user frustration/attrition.
    the 3% telemetry number is indeed questionable – but in both directions. There’s no telling from just that number how many users intentionally use this file, and how many are having prefs effectively “locked” by other software without their consent. And yes, it excludes users who disable telemetry. Any solution here will bear that in mind and/or we’ll do more research first.
    (In reply to David R. from comment #41)

    The best solution would be to provide a configuration interface that is easier to use than user.js, and provides the same benefits as user.js, but doesn’t slow down startup like user.js

    This isn’t straightforwardly possible, unfortunately. The typical solution to having things not delay startup is doing them in the background, asynchronously (ideally after startup so there’s no resource contention), and if we did that here then we couldn’t guarantee when your preferences get applied. If we end up blocking loading the UI and any webpages (because the prefs control bits of gecko, too) on such an async operation, then in terms of the visible effects for the user, we’re doing exactly the same, ie delaying startup.

    This bug isn’t being worked on right now, and either way I don’t see us removing support for this entirely without more data/research to back up such a decision. It’d be an easier choice to only read the file if a pref under toolkit.legacyUserProfileCustomizations is set in prefs.js , as was done for userChrome/userContent.css , which preserves functionality for those who want it but allows omitting the additional IO for the majority of users.

    1. Small Minds said on January 6, 2020 at 6:03 pm
      Reply

      When you don’t like a signal, just say that it’s “more noise than signal” like our friend did here!

      How can you claim with a straight face that reading one relatively small text file is an enormous I/O bottleneck compared to everything else Firefox processes at startup? This has to be one of the most ridiculously baseless claims I’ve seen during my ~30 years as a developer… And you’re supposed to be a developer, too, not a corporate BS generator, right?

    2. popcorn said on January 6, 2020 at 6:55 pm
      Reply

      Well played Shania, shut down the debate as the truth begins to circulate. I wonder how much FF would speed up if all telemetry(spyware) was removed. Maybe its time for mozilla to invent new vocabulary words and more lines of configuration that deal with a single preference to obfuscate the issue further.

      I moved on from FF over a decade ago and I no longer install FF for others since the only advantages it had over Chrome are vanishing. Perhaps Edge chromium will evolve into something useful.

      1. Shania said on January 6, 2020 at 7:08 pm
        Reply

        @popcorn, I was quoting the dev who posted the comment on bugzilla and closed replies. I am against this anti-user move.

      2. Small Minds said on January 6, 2020 at 8:21 pm
        Reply

        @Shania
        In that case I apologize for replying to you the way I did – under the assumption that you were the dev in question. I’ll redirect my words towards them, then. That fool sure knows how to rile people up with their nonsense…

      3. Shania said on January 7, 2020 at 4:35 am
        Reply

        @popcorn, no issues. :)

      4. popcorn said on January 7, 2020 at 6:12 pm
        Reply

        Apologies

  19. notanon said on January 6, 2020 at 5:22 pm
    Reply

    Martin, why are you suggesting Waterfox & Pale Moon?

    Pale Moon is based on Firefox 38 ESR (& they served malware from their official servers in July 2019), Waterfox Classic is based on Firefox 55 ESR, neither is being patched, as Firefox 68 ESR is the current stable ESR.

    Waterfox current is based on Firefox going forward, so if Firefox doesn’t support user.js, then neither will Waterfox current.

    Both Pale Moon & Waterfox Classic have security vulnerabilities, despite what their developers claim, because they’re based on obsolete versions of Firefox that are not actively patch by Mozilla. I wouldn’t be surprisedd if the majority of Pale Moon & Waterfox users are part of hacker’s botnet armies & riddled with malware (hidden, perhaps mining bitcoin, or something similar).

    I don’t use the user.js, so I don’t care. I do review the ghack user.js, & if I see something beneficial, I make a manual change in about:config.

    If people weren’t constantly bashing Firefox, I’m sure the developers would listen more. But having to sift through all the butthurt XUL users constantly complaining, I don’t blame the developers for avoiding public feedback.

    Either you support Firefox, or you don’t. If you constantly bash Mozilla, don’t expect them to do you any favors.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 6, 2020 at 5:50 pm
      Reply

      @notanon: “Waterfox current is based on Firefox going forward, so if Firefox doesn’t support user.js, then neither will Waterfox current.”

      Sadly, this is true and I’ve already encountered problems because of this. As a result, I no longer update Waterfox and will just continue to use an older version.

    2. Wendy said on January 6, 2020 at 6:16 pm
      Reply

      No one in their right mind will migrate to Palemoon or Basilisk after the fiasco last year. Even ignoring that they will instead be much more likely to move to something like Brave or Vivaldi.

      1. kubrick said on January 6, 2020 at 9:58 pm
        Reply

        @wendy.
        What nonsense.
        Vivaldi and brave are just chromium wearing different dinner jackets.plus any browser which is based on chromium will be spying and collecting private data.

      2. wendy said on January 8, 2020 at 12:12 am
        Reply

        The nonsense is that you think they are simply skins and that the spying hasn’t been removed. Try reading up on things before commenting (yes, I know it’s not the done thing for most on the internet).

      3. Kubrick said on January 8, 2020 at 7:06 pm
        Reply

        @WENDY.
        More utter rubbish.(you seem quite proficient at it.)..Chromium uses the BSD licence so it can go closed source at any moment.It still contains google coding.
        Vivaldi is a complete waste of time and is just an app stuck on top of chromium and the resource usage is abysmal.The only reason i “might” try brave would be to support brendan eich who is a pioneer in the internet field.

    3. Samanto Hermes said on January 6, 2020 at 8:32 pm
      Reply

      Stop spreading FUD. Only the archive releases server was hacked, and by invasors, not by the developers.

      Furthermore, the argument “Pale Moon is insecure” is bogus:
      1. https://www.palemoon.org/releasenotes.shtml
      2. https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=22270
      3. https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=22399

      1. wendy said on January 8, 2020 at 12:10 am
        Reply

        Yes and look at the crappy response of palemoon over it. Lots of it might have been this that and the other but nothing definitive because they weren’t even professional enough to keep logs so it was all guesses. So no, it’s not FUD.

      2. Lord-Lestat said on January 8, 2020 at 1:14 pm
        Reply

        @Wendy as long something receives security patches it is NOT insecure. Firefox 52.9 unpatched IS not secure as it receives NO security patches anymore.

        Waterfox Classic, Seamonkey or Pale Moon which may not be based on Quantum do get security patches, therefor stop your ininformed leftist zealot argumentation which so many of you guys here share. Nobody is interested in your fake news.

        Nothing more to add. If you are unable to understand what security patches backporting and hard forks mean, there is no point in discussing with you anymore.

      3. John Fenderson said on January 8, 2020 at 7:14 pm
        Reply

        @Lord-Lestat: “as long something receives security patches it is NOT insecure”

        What?? This is simply untrue. Regular security patches reduces security issues because the ones that are discovered and patched are fixed — but that does nothing for the ones that haven’t been discovered by the manufacturer, or that haven’t been fixed.

    4. Rex said on January 7, 2020 at 1:37 am
      Reply

      I’ve got news for you – Firefox is ‘based on’ Mozilla Suite and Netscape Navigator, the latter being from the previous century, so by your logic Firefox is also ‘old and insecure’.

      Do you seriously think that being based on a particular version means that Pale Moon simply copied the Firefox code from that version, stuck their logo on it and called it a day without an iota of further development? Look up the meaning of a software fork before spreading bullshit like this.

      1. notanon said on January 7, 2020 at 6:39 pm
        Reply

        @Rex, move out of you’re cave, you’re embarassing yourself.

        Firefox is NOT based on Netscape Navigator & Mozilla Suites. Firefox has a completely new code base since Firefox Quantum, that’s why XUL add-ons were deprecated (forcing all the dinosaurs to use Pale Moon/Waterfox).

      2. Lord-Lestat said on January 8, 2020 at 12:18 pm
        Reply

        And here we have it… That is exactly the kind of zealots Mozilla-new is collecting, the guys who force companies to remove stuff as it could be “pushing things or is not inclusive”

        The same persons who destroy great things because of their leftist zealot opinion – or get a mental breakdown over things they can’t accept… for example the “Santa Hat incident” end of 2019 with Microsoft and one of that leftist zealots involved.

        You are sadly not different @notanon – calling all what has classic features and customization garbage and the users of that stuff which was invented for intelligent persons – you call dinosaurs.

        You are one of that classic new age Mozilla leftist zealots. I do not know what i find more horrific… The opinion of you extremists or the companies who value and love you guys presence.

        I am glad that i am a so called dinosaur – someone who is able to handle stuff created for intelligent users… Better that than being a leftist zealot.

      3. Iron Heart said on January 8, 2020 at 1:49 pm
        Reply

        @Lord-Lestat

        You are an extremist yourself, much like notanon. You always compare the browser one uses to one’s political opinion and think both are interchangeable, that’s just nuts. A software having a simple interface is not necessarily an expression of its users being dumb, its an expression of an attitude centered around “getting things done”. You don’t need that many buttons for a browser to be operational, a browser like Chrome cannot be compared to Adobe Photoshop.

        Browsers progressively became less and less cluttered over the years, and yes, Firefox was part of the process. Firefox 2.x and 3.x were significantly less cluttered than Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8… Chrome took it a step further and has the most uncluttered interface so far. That being said, all relevant functions are in place in Chrome, that’s why so many people use it and are happy with it. If I am happy with the functionality of Chrome, does that make me a communist for not wanting to tinker with it (because everything already works)? See, that’s what I would call “nuts”!

        What makes someone conservative in your eyes? Using Classic Theme Restorer and Tab Mix Plus and Tree Style Tabs at the same time? Cluttering the interface with dozens of buttons? Does one have to modify the interface until it is no longer recognizable to be a “conservative” in your world view?

        Chrome’s interface being like it is marks the end of a long process of uncluttering, people finally have a browser which no longer gets in their way while they work (like Internet Explorer often used to back in the day), yet still has all necessary UI elements in place. Most people do. not. need. more. than. that. Please understand this and then move on.

        I know some people which are IMHO conservative and they use Chrome. Have they ever felt the need to tinker with the interface? Nope. Why should they when every function they need for basic browsing is already present? Are they communists now?

        Sorry, but your argument is nuts and goes nowhere. There are certainly more than 2% conservatives and yet e.g. Linux has only 2% market share. Why? Because most conservatives are happy with Windows and macOS, miss nothing and use it like the rest of the world does.

        “Using cluttered software = conservative, smart.”
        “Using uncluttered software = communist, dumb.”
        – Your Lord Lestat, knower of nothing.

      4. Iron Heart said on January 8, 2020 at 1:32 pm
        Reply

        @notanon

        Firefox Quantum still makes heavy use of XUL in the code base, you nutjob. That’s why Thunderbird 68.x can still use legacy add-ons, despite being very closely related to Firefox 68.

        Besides, Gecko (the rendering engine Firefox uses) is indeed a dinosaur compared to the much better Blink rendering engine which Chrome uses, and Quantum was lipstick on a pig.

        Wow, the count of comments containing wrong information coming from you is staggering…

      5. notanon said on January 9, 2020 at 1:51 am
        Reply

        @Iron Heart, you’re the ignorant one, not me.

        XUL is NOT used “heavily” in the code base, where is your evidence, moron?

        The old about:config gui was recently deprecated to a new about:config gui (it’s NO longer XUL).

        The Firefox (starting with Quantum) has overhauled the old code base with new code based on vastly improved code that’s deprecated the old code base.

        Iron Heart you don’t know what the F you’re talking about. As usual.

        AND Blink is merely a FORK of Webkit, which is just as old a Gecko. So stop posting lies. Or are you ignorant again.

        Post personal insults at me that are unfounded, & I will answer in kind.

      6. Iron Heart said on January 9, 2020 at 8:34 am
        Reply

        @notanon

        > XUL is NOT used “heavily” in the code base, where is your evidence, moron?

        Look it up on GitHub, moron. XUL is still heavily used in the main UI, it has not yet been rewritten in HTML. The legacy add-on system is also still in place to some degree, that’s why Thunderbird 68 (a very close code cousin of Firefox 68) can still run legacy add-ons with minimal modifications done to the code beforehand.

        > The old about:config gui was recently deprecated to a new about:config gui (it’s NO longer XUL).

        I’m aware, and it sucks now.

        > The Firefox (starting with Quantum) has overhauled the old code base with new code based on vastly improved code that’s deprecated the old code base.

        Quantum was a stop gap lipstick on a pig before WebRender a.k.a. the real code refactoring is finished.

        > Iron Heart you don’t know what the F you’re talking about. As usual.

        LOL, look into the mirror. I know what is going on with Mozilla.

        > AND Blink is merely a FORK of Webkit, which is just as old a Gecko.

        Gecko is a dinosaur not necessarily because its code existed from the 90s onwards (because so does KHTML, the basis of WebKit, which is in turn the basis of Blink, is just as old), it’s a dinosaur because its code is lacking by modern standards. SpiderMonkey is also shit. Back in 2008, when Chrome was released, Chrome’s V8 Javascript engine was up to 30 times faster. And SpiderMonkey was dragged on and on and on with no major overhaul. The incompetents at Mozilla are now often using V8 code directly, maybe that’s because some of their most competent engineers now work at Google, who knows.

        > Post personal insults at me that are unfounded, & I will answer in kind.

        Happy to read your diatribe, no offense taken at all. I take no offense from people like you.

  20. bevode said on January 6, 2020 at 6:02 pm
    Reply

    Actually i’m using this file because, i’m a average user who want to configure my firefox asap when i install it.
    So i’m not an entreprise, so why i have to learn how entreprise system work, if i just have to copy past a simple file ?

  21. Mike said on January 6, 2020 at 6:05 pm
    Reply

    notanon, your post is full of errors and conceit as well. PM is based on 52 with security patches in every new update and they tried had going higher (53-55) but it was too torn up. WF Classic is 56 mostly security patches but a few minor tweaks as well. Neither are insecure, and because of hiw new FF works, it is a lot less secure in some ways.

    The only advanced users still bashing moz;//a are the ones who haven’t given up long ago.

  22. Anonymous said on January 6, 2020 at 6:14 pm
    Reply

    The performance argument is not credible. And they are not even hiding that they want to kill it completely in the future for reasons unrelated to these alleged performance problems, which makes their current excuse for half removing it even harder to believe.The user.js is an easy way to undo lots of anti-user defaults and they want to kill it like they have been killing customizability and stealing user choice for years.

  23. max said on January 6, 2020 at 7:48 pm
    Reply

    Just file a new bugticket:
    “Point http://www.mozilla.org to Google Chrome”
    It’s their endgame anyway, no point in postponing the inevitable.

  24. grandis said on January 6, 2020 at 8:15 pm
    Reply

    “The bug reporter states in the description that he “never fully understood the point of having this file”

    Anyone that stupid should be ignored. We need and use Userjs daily. That our usage does not show up came when telemetry settings got sneaky, we hate settings we make being ignored.

  25. Tommy said on January 6, 2020 at 9:24 pm
    Reply

    Is Mozilla HQ downwind of a large solvents factory, one has to ask.

  26. Bob said on January 6, 2020 at 11:02 pm
    Reply

    Leave user.js alone! It’s very useful!

  27. Dave said on January 7, 2020 at 2:09 am
    Reply

    I don’t understand why the post is allowed to remain. There’s no “bug” being reported.

  28. Anonymous said on January 7, 2020 at 3:21 am
    Reply

    It’s a file that can be used to set Firefox preferences on startup – it has no other purpose.

    But as Firefox won’t ever write to that file, if you make changes inside Firefox (Options, about:config, etc.) then the changes will not be reflected in user.js.

    Part of the problem is that if you manually change some preference via Firefox options, then that change will essentially be reset next time Firefox starts up if user.js happens to set that preference. And there is no obvious indication to the user why that happened. Similar thing can also happen during Firefox updates where Firefox would update some default values but user.js overrides those to some “old” values.

    What makes the user.js useful is that it’s just a text file that can be shared or copied or what have you. This makes it good useful for synchronizing changes across multiple Firefox profiles.

    It’s not necessarily good for that because it will set those preferences on each startup, but it works.

    prefs.js is an automatically created file, user.js has to be manually created by the user and allows them to handle Firefox’s preferences in a clean space.

    Since you are writing to a nonexistent file…

    People complain about even minor annoyances.

  29. Firefoxuser said on January 7, 2020 at 4:39 am
    Reply

    Firefox is a tool. The reason firefox still has 8% or so marketshare is because of about:config, addons, user.js, userchrome.css and such things which chrome doesn’t have and won’t.

    Firefox users are treated like second class citizens. You would see here and everywhere else, quite frequently, that X site breaks when using firefox and replies asking to file webcompat report, checking if useragent manipulation change things etc. On the contrary, chrome users face such issues extremely rarely. I can’t remember when was the last time I saw a website not working in chrome but rendering in firefox properly. On top of that, firefox occasionally has…quirks like breaking addons like happened last year and they worked during weekend to issue emergency fix.

    Each time firefox drops a feature, or moves it behind legacy config, it’s removing a portion of the userbase too. In last five years or so, firefox users plummeted because users have seen features being removed and devs ignoring feedback.

    “users don’t enable telemetry and then get frustrated about removed features”

    “I don’t understand the use of this file, so recommend removing it”

    “only 3% users? Doubt if they all are legit”

    “yeah sure could be more users due to disabling telemetry but I think it should be handled userchrome.css way and I am closing replies because your reasons are noise to me”.

    Sometime devs have apathy towards users, so users too don’t bother to come back when their usability/customization suffer.

  30. pd said on January 7, 2020 at 4:51 am
    Reply

    If they just put it behind an opt-in preference like they did with user*.css then that’s no big deal.

    If they get rid of it altogether, that is spitting in the face of once-valued power users.

  31. Shania said on January 7, 2020 at 5:18 am
    Reply

    I don’t understand why there are so many DLLs, exes and all the stuff in program files and appdata of firefox. I’ve never fully understood the point of having these files. Should I remove them one by one to speedup application startup?

    /s

  32. Atkins said on January 7, 2020 at 7:24 am
    Reply

    Dumb it down Mozilla. Your users are stupid, might as well make the browser stupid.

  33. allen said on January 7, 2020 at 11:15 am
    Reply

    Given that the large number of users of a browser do not often startup their browser during a typical day but instead startup once a day and leave it running all day or even over several–or many–days, Mozilla’s “intense” concern over “startup I/O” (or whatever else at startup) is unfathomable as a performance concern. Their “righteous” desire to manipulate and control users, however, is on full display and has been for some time. Mozilla stopped being about serving users a long time ago. For Mozilla, if you’re not part of their perceived majority (those who will let Mozilla tell them what they need), then you’re not worth worrying about.

  34. Name said on January 7, 2020 at 7:22 pm
    Reply

    “it is likely that the number is a bit higher even considering that many user.js files such as the Ghacks user.js have Telemetry disabled by default.”

    Same here.

  35. Lord-Lestat said on January 7, 2020 at 8:02 pm
    Reply

    This is so typical Mozilla… and the following “compressed” essay even more proves to be realistic, no matter what the no-sayers may throw against.

    Mozilla is a fully lost cause!

    ———————–

    Why has Mozilla-new and their new user group of “progressive/leftists” a general problem with browsers like Vivaldi/Brave/Waterfox/Seamonkey or Pale Moon and customization and choice in general? No matter how hard people try to ignore that very simple issue and constantly are in denial it has anything to do with politics… it is in direct correlation towards the change of the mentality of what is considered “politically correct” today! First the public shared oversimplfied reasoning… Mozilla-new removed most power user features (and they will also remove userchrome.css in the future) to be attractive to Chrome users, to make Chrome users switch away from Googles product. The point is that Chrome users or general simple users do not accept and like “bloat” – so it was decided that all the “conservative features” had to go to enable Firefox more compatible with their needs.

    Now here is where politics are kicking in, and things get a LOT MORE messier… Mozilla-new has turned into a fully customization/choice and politically-moderates and conservatives hating “heavily left leaning developer” – as that would (at least also theoretically) appeal to the majority of Google Chrome users or general people with the same opinion – which have because of their ideology and believe much less tolerance and understanding for everything which provides choice/which is more conservative aligned. Mozilla-new has fully turned into a company which just betrayed their own creation and origin user-base as it was not compatible with “leftist/progressive visions/ideas” and their world-view! But there is a major problem with Mozillas way of thinking… No matter how much they try to appeal to “leftist/progressive” simple/Chrome users with ongoing feature removals and morality adjustments – The majority of this user base will stay loyal to Google and Chrome – no matter how much Mozilla tries to persuade that kind of users to use Firefox instead. Mozilla-new will only be seen as an imitation facility who additionally got greedy and jealous – who tried to adopt Chromes simple add-on system, it’s development mentality and political mentality for the sake of broadening Mozillas shrinking user-base!

    Mozilla-new is humiliating everything which is true and honest FOSS with their actions. Real Open-Source developers have standards, morals, loyalty… all that what Mozilla-new is missing. They abuse the legacy of a real unique and once amazing past – which just was discarded for being “non-inclusive and non-liberal”

    What they forget is that a honest and real liberal and inclusive concept would mean also to keep features of users who have a different opinion, mentality and especially skill level! As i see it this is a common problem with this new kind of “leftist/progressive” opinion of so many developers and it’s management today – which also affects the users they gain – they make use of concepts they do not at all understand and honor. While the users of such groups are wildly attacking people and organizations who go a different way – and not wanting to become simple and minimalist just for the majorities sake. If something is swimming into another direction it is seen as threat and danger seen as mortal enemy to the today established system what is seen as “the only correct and acceptable one” – this has direct influence on the vision how a product is developed!

    Nobody with a sane mind would want to support radical right-wing visions – but the issue is that today everything is getting attacked and in conclusion removed just because there is the chance that it could point to a very small degree towards a moderate middle-ground or even moderate conservative ground – all what is moving away from your typical “leftist/progressive” concept. Mozilla is supporting an excluding concept – which may be nicely wrapped as “inclusive and socially correct” but in reality fully excluding a minority who also has rights – the group of users who are sitting in the already mentioned middle-ground/moderate-conservative-ground and do not like that everything gets intentionally dumbed-down or removed to put everything out of the way for a less tolerating/accepting and rather aggressive/dismissive user group – which Mozilla wants on board.

    And that is in the end the ultimate reason why people and software which are sticking out from the crowd do get so much despised and demonized – or even receiving threats (Classic add-on archive) or getting in an active way monitored and even the smallest mistake is recorded and used in time to blacklist the projects or people which refuse to play the established and discriminating game of today.

    1. Anonymous said on January 10, 2020 at 12:28 am
      Reply

      @Lord-Lestat

      That sounds ridiculous. The user.js is not “right-wing” and removing the user.js is not “left-wing”. Their removal decisions are profit motivated, to cut the costs by sacrificing what is good for the users, for the benefit of the web industry, their real customers, following the track of the Google megacorp. The values they are spitting on are the non profit, “users first” values, so if this change has to be politically interpreted, it is on the contrary as something right-wing…

  36. Don’t remove user.js said on January 7, 2020 at 11:32 pm
    Reply

    Some comments…

    Comment 12
    2019-04-13

    ”1. ghacks are very niche. This isn’t anywhere near sufficient to explain 3% of pings.
    2. They seem to have stopped doing that in 2017.

    Come on, don’t patronize me. I’ve been around here long enough to know this… ”

    Comment 43
    2020-01-06

    ”Who in their right mind would want to cripple the main selling point of Firefox, which is customizability? This ticket should be a nobrainer WONTFIX.
    Even if you want to reduce the IO on startup the replacement MUST BE equally as convenient and powerful.
    And you wonder why usage of Firefox is dropping…”

    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1543752

  37. Peterc said on January 8, 2020 at 4:02 am
    Reply

    I periodically copy my Pale Moon and Firefox user profiles between Windows and Linux — whichever one I’ve been using most and made the most recent or important changes to gets copied over — and I use OS-specific user.js files to reset filepaths used by certain extensions (like Session Manager) to the paths appropriate to the OS in question. Basically, I just copy and paste everything except the user.js file. I would find it annoying (but not really surprising) if Firefox were to stop supporting user.js functionality.

  38. Anonymous said on January 8, 2020 at 5:45 pm
    Reply

    Mozilla has already ruined the about:config page. Sad!

  39. SJWs_Ruin_Everything said on January 12, 2020 at 11:09 pm
    Reply

    A total sjw with he/him in the profile and hurt fe-fees wants to cripple the browser. Nothing new for m0zilla. Similar to the time when a theater major destroyed about:addons and when a political science minor pushed for removal of classic extensions. Firefox is dead. Vivaldi is the only customizable browser left.

    1. Rex said on January 16, 2020 at 11:25 am
      Reply

      >Vivaldi is the only customizable browser left.

      Anything derived from Chrome/ium doesn’t count, since they’re still dependent on upstream Google for changes made, and Google is further restricting what little customizability was there to begin with.
      The only truly independent browser that is neither derived from Chrome nor attempting to ape it like ,Firefox is Pale Moon – aka what Firefox used to be before the great SJW takeover. They forked the XUL codebase one final time from Firefox 52, and are no longer dependent on whatever further fuckery Mozilla has done since then.

      XUL was originally an application platform with common code used for Firefox, Thunderbird and several other now discontinued applications like Sunbird (calendar) and Songbird (media library).
      Since the Pale Moon devs have now created UXP or Unified XUL Platform, it is the base used to build Pale Moon, Basilisk and the Interlink mail client that is partly based on Thunderbird.

      In addition, Hyberbola Linux uses the Unified XUL Platform that was forked to build their own browser called IceApe.

      So there’s a future for XUL technologies, just not with Mozilla anymore.

      1. Iron Heart said on January 16, 2020 at 6:16 pm
        Reply

        @Rex

        Most of Pale Moon’s web compatibility improvements and security fixes are ported from Firefox upstream. They are not independent from Firefox, although they claim to be.

        And no, XUL doesn’t have a future. It was a bandaid solution back in the day as HTML wasn’t yet powerful enough back then.

      2. The_Punisher said on January 16, 2020 at 10:01 pm
        Reply

        I’ve been using this “band aid solution” for quite a few years now and haven’t looked back. What is it exactly that Chrome extensions would let me do that XUL doesn’t? More the other way around I’d say.

      3. Samanto Hermes said on January 17, 2020 at 3:16 am
        Reply

        > They are not independent from Firefox, although they claim to be.
        They are independent in the sense that they don’t blindly follow everything Firefox does. We can say that Firefox is dependent from the Chromium codebase, as can be seen in Bugzilla.

        > XUL doesn’t have a future. It was a bandaid solution back in the day as HTML wasn’t yet powerful enough back then.
        Care to say why?

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