Waterfox web browser sold to System1

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 14, 2020
Updated • Feb 15, 2020
Internet, waterfox

It appears that the Waterfox web browser has been sold to System1 recently, the same company that bought the Startpage search engine some time ago. To be precise, Startpage was bought by Privacy One Group Ltd which System1 owns. System1 is an advertising company that tries to "make advertising better and safer, while respecting consumer privacy".

Update: Alex Kontos, the creator of Waterfox, published a blog post on the official site explaining the change. End

Privacy expert Liz McIntyre, who was involved with Startpage prior to the ownership change, noticed in October 2019 that System1 was looking to hire a web browser developer. She decided to keep an eye on potential web browser sales as it was likely that System1 was interested in buying an established web browser with a user base instead of building one from scratch.

The job description provides insight on the potential target: It revealed that development would focus on the Mozilla platform and that a key goal was to keep a classic version of the browser up-to-date.

System1 is hiring a Web Browser Developer to join our team. This is a diverse role that will involve “hacking” on the Mozilla platform, mostly on the backend. You will work with experts who know the Mozilla platform inside-out, while being a key contributor to novel open-source products which already have a passionate and growing user base.

Key goals for this role: Keep a “classic” version of the browser up-to-date with security patches; update components where possible and create better compatibility with legacy add-ons for the newer version of the platform that supports them. Build system work is required for this role sometimes, but that’s one of the fun parts!

There are not that many browsers that match the description which made the most popular ones, Waterfox and Pale Moon, the most likely target for a sale.

She discovered an ownership change in Waterfox Limited on December 13, 2019. Michael Bland was appointed director of Waterfox Limited on that day and Alexandros Kontos' role as director was terminated. System1 lists Michael Blend (note the e in the lastname) as chairman and co-founder.

No announcement has been made yet on the official Waterfox website or by System1. A thread on Reddit provides insights on the deal.

Alex mentioned in the thread that he planned to publish a post on the Waterfox blog about the change in ownership. According to his replies, "nothing is going to change for Waterfox". He is going to help with the development of the web browser according to his replies.

The blog post that he plans to publish later today may reveal additional information and insight.

Closing Words

There are apparent similarities between the Startpage and Waterfox deals. A level of secrecy surrounds these deals which leads to all sorts of speculations. Kontos mentioned on Reddit that transparency is important to him and it will be interesting to see if all important details of the deal are revealed in the upcoming blog post.

It is too early to come to a final conclusion but if history repeats itself, answers won't be provided to some of the most pressing questions.

Now You: What is your take on this?

Article Name
Waterfox web browser sold to System1
It appears that the Waterfox web browser has been sold to System1 recently, the same company that bought the Startpage search engine some time ago.
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  1. BarbaraT said on June 23, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    Did some research of System1
    Reputable company. Like the direction that Waterfox is going.
    Waterfox updates on all Linux distros, MAC OS and Windows OS.
    Will continue to use Waterfox. Very pleased. :)

    1. Anonymous said on January 31, 2021 at 4:09 am

      Welcome, System1 employee, and thanks for the funny post!

      1. Jody Thornton said on May 28, 2021 at 11:47 am

        Well it appears that Alex’s schedule is taking a toll. I don’t know what demands System1 have of him, but over the last couple of days there were hoards of GitHub tickets closed abruptly without explanation at the time. The poor communication was brought up on the subreddit for Waterfox, and Alex went on the defensive this morning.

        He seems just a tad tonal, so I’m sensing frustration there. Almost, dare I say it – a tad Moon-esque:

  2. Anonymous said on April 28, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    And now Waterfox doesn’t updates on LTS Linux distros like xubuntu 16.04, 18.04. Because they forcing usage of glibc 2.28 which is actual only to bleeding edge distros.

  3. Sad said on April 5, 2020 at 11:57 pm

    RIP Waterfox!

  4. TelV said on February 22, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Just updated to Classic version 2020.02.1 but when I click the “What’s new” link the page says “Not found” in the top left hand corner.

    Immediately prior to that I updated CanvasBlocker to 1.1

    Oh, and to all the Qwant fans on this forum, the message in the following image was just displayed when I tried to find out what the Waterfox update was all about. http://imgbox.com/WKXp9sze

    Have gone back to using Startpage again.

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:06 pm

      That was probably a web site bug involving trailing slashes – /

      Fixed, IIRC.


    2. TelV said on February 22, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      Oh, never mind. Just found it on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/waterfox/

  5. Michael said on February 17, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    No problem on your side. The error message is in the “” tag. The page has no real content without running javascript. And personally I don’t trust it enough to allow that.

  6. TelV said on February 17, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    In the comments section on the Waterfox blog, a post by a user by the name of John includes a link to: https://www.fixedfirefox.com/

    When I click that link I get an error which reads: “Error: there is a problem with your browser’s configuration.” Anybody else see that?

    Admittedly I’ve made a few changes to the prefs for the usual privacy reasons and I’m also using a VPN (Mullvad), but I wouldn’t have thought either would lead to the error I mentioned.

  7. Ralph said on February 17, 2020 at 10:25 am

    This new TraceFree browser is NOT free and every site you surf is recorded externally just like a Google search. The website TraceFree has Google Analytics spyware running in the background.

    Good security requires keep the smallest loop possible. There is no need-to-know reason for your browsing history to ever leave your computer other than external data-mining.

    GDPR defines your IP address as personal data while the USA data-mining industry defines it as non-personal data. That is a joke, lie and gigantic fraud! TraceFree essentially turns your device into a zero privacy Chromebook.
    Bottom line is cloud based browser is a terrible idea for maintaining privacy.

    As the public become aware of the unseen corporate data-mining (Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard notebook reveals his world domination plan) they hide ownership and intrusive intentions. The less transparency the less privacy. Our data is the new oil.

    Run for the exit whenever an analytic company quietly purchases control of trusted software.
    Another similar red-flag, opaque takeover story of Wire Messaging:

    In comparison Signal Messaging builds more trust:
    It boiled down to a matter of principle,” says WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton. “If two people want a private conversation, electronic or not, they should be allowed to have it.”

  8. Anonymous browser said on February 16, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Take a look at TraceFree (tracefree.com). A browser that runs virtually in the cloud. Anonymous on the Web and no browsing evidence on the user’s device. Still in beta and only offered for Windows OS for now.

    1. John Fenderson said on February 18, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      @Anonymous browser:

      If it runs entirely in the cloud, how is it possible to be sure that it’s anonymous and isn’t collecting data about your use of it?

  9. Crumb R Sunnysideup said on February 16, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Whenever an advertising company/ad pushing outfit purchases a web browser and mentions privacy I take that as only meaning protecting your privacy from the ad pusher’s competition. And really it’s your metrics under the control of that ad company, and no others, that’s the real business model. So in the end Waterfox and it’s end users’ metrics is the product to be coveted and that content only offered up for a price to any who are willing to pay.

    Alex Kontos, the creator of Waterfox can just fork anew what is currently available and go from there is and he has a very valuable CV. I hope that web browsers can find success without having to always be vertically integrated into advertising companies’ business models.

  10. Ralph said on February 16, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Latest, common user-agent-strings to copy into the rotating Palemoon Secret-Agent add-on


    https://user-agents.net/browsers/firefox (skip long strings)

    Suggest to updating strings 2-3 times yearly to maintain anonymity

    1. Anonymous said on March 7, 2020 at 6:47 pm

      Perhaps you may want to automatize this. If so, there is a download page:

  11. Herman Cost said on February 16, 2020 at 3:42 am

    I reluctantly uninstalled Waterfox today. It was my 4th browser (Firefox, Pale Moon, Vivaldi are the first three) so its not that big a deal. I’m now experimenting with Opera just to get the feel of it, but, despite the free but very limited VPN) it obviously has its own issues.

    1. hmph said on February 16, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Switching from Waterfox to Opera is like jumping from spring water to frying oil.


  12. basicuser said on February 16, 2020 at 1:26 am

    The sale is good just because it shakes things up and shows the browser market isn’t tied up by Google and Firefox.

    As an aside to Brave supporters: Honey, the embeded ad partner of Brave was bought last year for 4 billion dollars. Something to think about.

    1. ShintoPlasm said on February 17, 2020 at 11:00 am

      Honey is not an embedded ad partner of Brave. It is part of Edge on Android, though.

    2. what said on February 16, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      The first part makes zero sense as Waterfox is a Firefox fork. The second part doesn’t make sense either as they don’t use an embedded ad partner. Other than that you are spot on. An apt user name.

  13. Anonymous said on February 16, 2020 at 12:49 am

    on a second thought im the opinion that this was the right move. waterfox needs a bigger team and as long alex keeps beeing involved im totally fne with it and we wont see any stuff of the conspiracy side build into wf.

    as alex said, its important to keep a rational mind. all that harassment is a nogo.

  14. Sebas said on February 15, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Another one bites the dust. Alex is angry on Reddit. Being economical with the truth is an art he masters. And downplaying the privacy aspect of his Waterfox is another one. Wondering what all these so honest and integer people really are.

  15. Tarmin said on February 15, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    Rest in Pieces. Another sellout. He tried to “fund so hard” and failed ultimately, so he went full Martin and sold out. End Of Story lol.

  16. ULBoom said on February 15, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Can’t imagine why System 1 would want Waterfox’s tiny user base as an end, seems like a door to something else. Compete with FF? Uh, No, that’s equivalent to taking on Google.

    Clear that similar to Startpage, the WF deal was closed way before even the fake job description was posted, has to irk WF true believers.

    Unless a developer who wants high levels of privacy inside a browser offers a paid for product and users actually do pay for it, gotta go outside your browser for privacy. Tor is definitely NOT the answer.

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 16, 2020 at 7:49 am

      > … WF deal was closed way before … job description was posted …

      Not so.

      The job description was, to the best of my knowledge, first observed in October 2019. Whether it published earlier, I have no idea; Alex wrote about a development The job description, captured on 1st November 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20191101174048/https://jobs.lever.co/system1/24ea9e6e-9be5-4c0a-be92-48706709fce4

      The change to Waterfox Ltd. occurred more than six weeks later – 13th December.

      Consider the complete lack of excitement in October 2019, when the connection with Waterfox was made:

      https://redd.it/dprrxi in /r/mozilla (no response)
      https://redd.it/dppiya in /r/firefox
      https://redd.it/dq5lka in /r/StallmanWasRight
      https://redd.it/dpdequ in /r/privacytoolsIO

    2. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:33 pm

      > deal was closed way before

      13th December 2019 …

      > job description was posted,

      … October 2019.

      Captured in the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20191101174048/https://jobs.lever.co/system1/24ea9e6e-9be5-4c0a-be92-48706709fce4

      > irk

      Not really. We quite like fairy stories in which the future precedes the past. Way.


    3. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:11 pm

      > fake job description

      Do you mean that the person who took the job is imaginary?

  17. >TT said on February 15, 2020 at 2:47 am

    Cool after day you get 1st update with no notes.

  18. dmacleo said on February 14, 2020 at 8:52 pm


    People are angry because of the company you are associated

    People don’t even understand how the company works from what I can see. They are a search syndicator.

    Mainly, what does this company have to gain by investing in WF, since they don’t do it out of the good of their hearts.

    They gain all the revenue from search instead of splitting it.


    maybe some of us actually DO know how this company inserts itself into its “partners” and have seen what a mess startpage became.

    maybe YOU are the one who does not understand OUR concerns.

    many of us touted your product for many many years and the integration with this particular company is, to us, not as innocent as you may want to think.

    its your call of course, but most of us realize that you have now doomed your project.

    don’t blame OUR comprehension skills on YOUR error in judgement.

    I wish you well, you provided a good product for a log time, but you fucked it up.

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:09 pm

      Alex’s response, in Reddit:

      “I’m sorry but this is incredibly rude. I’m trying my best here but the way you’re phrasing things isn’t okay. People have made out Waterfox to be more than it is, and are upset when it’s carrying on as it has before. There’s nothing more I have to say to a comment like this, but if you want to post again, do it nicely.”

    2. arthur said on February 15, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      You apparently don’t know anything about them either and are just repeating what Alex has said, which is only part true. They are certainly not just a syndicator. That might be a little part of their business but their main business is data collection and ads. If you’d spent less time on reddit comments and actually investigated yourself you would find that they raised $270m in 2017 for “consumer intent” advertising.

      A couple of quotes from them “System1 is a consumer internet and applications company with the most powerful audience expansion platform in the industry. As one of the largest purchasers of digital advertising in the world*, we are redefining user acquisition through paid marketing and are able to attract new audiences at scale for our properties and our partners. Our proprietary best-in-class buy/sell technology platform leverages our* advanced data science capabilities and strategic partnerships*. Founded in 2013, the company is headquartered in Venice, CA, with additional offices in the U.S., Canada and the UK and has over 275 employees.*”


      “Our philosophy,” [Michael] Blend explains, “is that someone may want a product or service but has not yet done a formal search … we call that latent intent, intent that has not yet been demonstrated … we identify that in consumers based on a large variety of proprietary data*.”*

      “In our business,” Blend adds, “if we can gather as much data as possible*, give it off to our engineers and data scientists, and then manage the two effectively, the business can quickly scale.”*

      So either Alex didn’t investigate what the company did before agreeing to be funded by them, which would be strange, or is being economical with the truth.

      1. dmacleo said on February 16, 2020 at 3:08 pm

        if thats a reply to me the first set of quotes was alex responding to someone and nested quotes didn’t carry over.
        my reply was bottom section so I definitely and not just repeating the crap alex stating.

  19. Paul(us) said on February 14, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about the more than sneaky company called System 1, Martin.
    For me, it’s more a big fat zero company.

    I am going to uninstall Waterfox directly.

    To bad because I really liked it as a second browser. I am going to take a good hard look for a second browser after Firefox now at Pale moon and brave.

  20. dmacleo said on February 14, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    there are responses from alex



    my response

    yeah fk it I’m done.

    theres a huge difference between partnering with search engines (as current models used) and being owned by a company such as this.

    huge difference.

    wish you well, I’m out.

  21. Tsami said on February 14, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    This doesn’t mention Waterfox, but the info from: https://restoreprivacy.com/startpage-system1-privacy-one-group/ could be informative: “Can Startpage, System1, and the “Privacy One Group” be trusted with your privacy? Short answer: you decide.” The detailed answer is interesting as well. Then, further below, “Update: Startpage offers further clarification”.

    In the absence of clear cut answers, guidance may be contained in “The Scorpion and the Frog” parable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scorpion_and_the_Frog#Aesop. (Alternative ending, scorpion replies: “Well, you knew what I am when I asked.” In reality, the scorpion is the lone survivor).

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:15 pm

      >> … Short answer: you decide. …


      >> … I’m not going to speculate. …

  22. arthur said on February 14, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    I have Macs as well as Windows machines, unfortunately Apple pretty much killed Safari’s extension ecosystem. My go to browser at the moment is Brave despite its terrible syncing. If you semi-follow them on Github you’ll see that they’re always talking about how to they can improve privacy. You get some who parrot the nonsense said about it but whilst it does have BAT and replacement ads, neither of which interest me, they are opt-in and opt-in isn’t a thing many do these days.

  23. Raph said on February 14, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Alex Kontos role as director was terminated…
    The explains both why Waterfox quit working under Linux and why Alex then remained silent.

    Is Waterfox open source?
    If classic is only being updated for security fixes any changes should be minor. We need a diff report.

    The worse security aspect of a privacy optimized Waterfox is it generating outgoing network traffic when the browser is closed. In a test, the add-ons were disabled and it still sending out my data.
    As a work-around most Linux distributions allow easy disconnection of the network in the desktop panel add-on. I also wipe the home/user/.cache folder with Bleachbit even after opening Waterfox.

    Here is the new legacy uBlock Origin download page for both Waterfox and Palemoon :

    As an pretty cool alternative, the latest Palemoon ARM build has become available for the Raspberry Pi4

    Pale Moon Add-ons Site
    Install CanvasBlocker, Pure URL, Toggle JavaScript and nMatrix

    Install Secret Agent https://www.dephormation.org.uk/?page=81
    Check rotate User Agent tab. Then copy/paste from this list:
    Update: this priceless 100 most common user-agent spoofing list is gone. Why? Was it too effective?

    This Palemoon browser is quite peppy on the Pi4 Raspbian desktop, even with uBlock and u/n/Matrix.
    The fastest cards do make a noticeable operational difference. I use the latest Sandisk 128GB@170MB/sec Extreme Plus for $20 at Costco.

    Finally making a traditional Linux ext4 disk backup with requires the entire disk image to be copied. It can’t be copied to a smaller disk either.
    Not so with Micro SD cards when using the new Raspbain SD Copy program. It only copies the space used while creating duplicate partitions.

    The bottom line is there are alternatives as even the Pi4 runs the latest Firefox and Palemoon.
    Note: The rock we all take for granted here is gorhill. Thank you sir!

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:20 pm

      > … sending out my data. …

      There are occasional misunderstandings, or conflations.

      See for example Alex’s comments at https://github.com/MrAlex94/Waterfox/issues/1406#issuecomment-597939047 – maybe what you see is the language packs checking for updates (“will be remedied.”).

      If in doubt, please seek advice in the support area, https://www.reddit.com/r/waterfox/

      Thank you

    2. arthur said on February 15, 2020 at 12:39 pm

      Yes Waterfox is opensource and a few people have asked why it can’t be forked. Well it can be but who would want to? I think for most now legacy extensions are not that big a deal as web extensions have improved somewhat. Some will still want them but is that enough to maintain a browser forever, I’m not sure it is. But someone can if they want to.

      1. Samanto Hermes said on February 15, 2020 at 7:05 pm

        Once browser extensions are turned into a web standard, Firefox will probably lose all of its exclusive APIs, including webRequest: https://browserext.github.io/browserext/

  24. Michael said on February 14, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    All I feel like doing right now is post repeating expletives! But, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise either. I can’t think of one single browser that is current where I trust both the software and the developer not to sell the users out – they all do it. So what now – I don’t suppose we can come together and do our own fork, could we? :'(

  25. Apparition said on February 14, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    It just shows that web browsers developed by one or two people are not viable in the end. People are better off sticking with Mozilla Firefox, Vivaldi Browser, Brave Browser, and/or Apple Safari.

    1. George said on February 15, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      @Apparition an insightful comment, no doubt. Because large/larger companies and corporations are known to never fail, switch hands in the background, sell-out, perform shady operations, promote profit above all else etc.

      Let me just uninstall all software except anything coming from Microsoft, Google, Apple and Mozilla. What a wonderful world.

    2. John Fenderson said on February 14, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      @Apparition: “People are better off sticking with Mozilla Firefox, Vivaldi Browser, Brave Browser, and/or Apple Safari.”

      Except for Safari (I don’t use Apple machines, so that’s not possible for me), none of those browsers are ones that I want to use. Fortunately, other options (including using Waterfox but not allowing updates) do exist.

  26. John Fenderson said on February 14, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    This is sad news indeed. I guess I need to start looking for another browser sooner than I expected.

    1. ShintoPlasm said on February 17, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Join us, Mr Fenderson, join us in the Chrome universe…. Join ussssssssss…

      1. John Fenderson said on February 18, 2020 at 4:56 pm


        LOL! No, thank you. Even ignoring privacy concerns, Chrome/Chromium simply isn’t for me.

    2. thebrowser said on February 14, 2020 at 5:24 pm

      Agreed, however I still think after this many years of effort we owe a bit of trust and should listen to what Alex has to say regarding the future of Waterfox. I personally have nothing against people making money for their efforts and if he managed to cut a good deal maybe I can still be happy with Waterfox being my main browser.

      On the other hand, it may also be agood idea not only to search for alternatives… but getting used to the idea that no single browser is the definitive solution for privacy online. For a couple of years now I’m using several browsers for different purposes, sometimes with no ad-blocker at all, and I’m not seeing any targeted ads or anything like that.

      1. John Fenderson said on February 14, 2020 at 7:20 pm


        I am very sympathetic to your arguments here. And, indeed, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this.

        The problem is that the company involved is an ad company, and ad companies simply cannot be trusted. My concern is that sooner or later, Waterfox will be used to spy on my for them. If I have to be on “high alert” about Waterfox — actually examining and building from the published code, etc. to be able to spot if and when this begins, that makes Waterfox too expensive for me to use.

        > I personally have nothing against people making money for their efforts

        Me neither. That’s not the source of my concern.

  27. michael said on February 14, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    Next question should be, who is system1?

    1. Peterc said on February 15, 2020 at 2:39 am

      I checked out System1 a little when Martin announced that it had acquired StartPage. From what I recall, it’s registered in the least transparent, least regulated section of the London Stock Exchange and its primary lines of business are market research, market consulting, and advertising. Off the top of my head, I’d *guess* the primary reason they were looking to acquire a browser was to set the default search engine to StartPage because they figured it was cheaper than making ongoing sponsorship payments. To my mind, that would *tend* to confirm speculation about their plans for monetizing StartPage usage data, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go in the speculation arena.

      To be honest, the only reason I still have Waterfox installed in Windows is as a legacy-extension-compatible fallback in case something happens to Pale Moon, my primary browser. (I uninstalled it in my Ubuntu-based computers because its unofficial PPA was too unreliable.) I used it a bit back in the day when it was nothing more than the unofficial 64-bit version of Firefox, but Pale Moon has always been more stable and better-performing than both Firefox and Waterfox for me, so really, it’s just taking up drive space. But even though I don’t use it, it’s always disappointing when a “privacy-respecting” project is acquired by a marketing company.

  28. smaragdus said on February 14, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    The developer’s reaction at GitHub (https://github.com/MrAlex94/Waterfox/issues/1406). For me it does not look good.

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:23 pm

      Re: your given reference to an outdated and misleading Spyware Watchdog article:


      > Spyware Watchdog articles are thoroughly disreputable, and saying so is not Waterfox project bias. …

  29. Ghacks-jack said on February 14, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    I’m currently experimenting with IceCat Mobile (unofficial build via F-Droid). Works well for me, so far (prefer it over Brave on Android – although Brave works well, too). Anyone have experience with IceCat desktop versions?

    I reviewed the main pages and it seems compelling:

    “GNUzilla is the GNU version of the Mozilla suite, and GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser. Its main advantage is an ethical one: it is entirely free software.” It also has enhanced security out-of-the-box.
    source: https://www.gnu.org/software/gnuzilla/

    “GNU IceCat discontinued official IceCatMobile support after version 38.6.0. Unofficial IceCatMobile releases can be downloaded with the F-Droid client. GNU IceCat is based on the the current official release of Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) with removal of trademarked artwork and proprietary components, and enhanced privacy settings. Important differences between Mozilla’s Firefox and GNU IceCat is that IceCat has a focus on freedom and privacy.”
    source: https://directory.fsf.org/wiki/Gnuzilla

    [Yes, my main and preferred browser on desktop, for now, is Vivaldi. Seeking to replace FireFox as my secondary on desktop. IceCat Mobile and Brave are my current mobile browsers — subject to change through experimentation.]

  30. nonamus said on February 14, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Brave and edge and all other chromium forks will eventually face another refactoring of code forcing down a host of changes enabling ads, or risk staying at an outdated unpatchable codebase. That’s what happened to firefox, google has more and better coders plus all incentive to ruin web experience as thoroughly as they can.

    That won’t be just a commit, but eat or die…

    Palemoon 28 itself has a host of security issues firefox quantum shed, not backport-able fixes, plus cruft from the jump to ff 52 as base, plenty fresh bugs pm 27 didn’t have and pm 29 will still carry. And its the best we have right now!

    Just wait for it.

    And suit up!

    1. Iron Heart said on February 15, 2020 at 5:02 am


      > Brave and edge and all other chromium forks will eventually face another refactoring of code forcing down a host of changes enabling ads, or risk staying at an outdated unpatchable codebase.

      Literally not true. Some Chromium-based browsers, notably Brave and Opera, have built-in adblockers now. Those built-in adblockers do NOT rely on any extension APIs, so Google crippling the webRequest API as part of Manifest V3 won’t have any impact whatsoever on those built-in adblockers. See here:


      Firefox fanboys like to spread the view that all Chromium-based browsers will be crippled whenever Google does anything negative to the codebase , but this is not the case at all.

      1. ShintoPlasm said on February 17, 2020 at 10:56 am

        Also wanted to add to your list: Edge Chromium also includes a pretty good tracking protection (similar to Firefox’s) as standard on desktop, and Edge iOS/Android both have built-in adblockers based on ABP. None of these functionalities rely on the wR API either.

    2. New Tobin Paradigm said on February 15, 2020 at 1:20 am

      Such as?

    3. Samanto Hermes said on February 14, 2020 at 11:52 pm

      Stop spreading FUD. They frequently do security fixes: https://www.palemoon.org/releasenotes.shtml

    4. Kubrick said on February 14, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      Which pale moon security issues do you refer to please.?.Do you have credible sources and links so the pale moon people can see them.Your post would of been better posted on the PM forum for the developers to see.

  31. Anonymous said on February 14, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Granted, unlike a search engine, a browser can remain privacy-friendly as long as it stays fully open-source… though this is still worrisome. Will have to keep an eye on this.

    Thanks for the heads up, Martin!

  32. Sebas said on February 14, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    @mj Nobody is a saint. The other options you name- well we have to wait if it is that bad.

    But an ad company or Softonic against the high standards of the (former) respective owners- I don’t know, I suppose it could be cause of some uneasiness for them. Probably I am wrong- life goes on, something like that.

  33. Arthur said on February 14, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    According to Alex it hasn’t been sold he’s just being funded by them. That’s so much better…

    It’s quite amazing that someone with a project like that would even consider it. Not announcing it is just the cherry on the cake. He says he didn’t announce anything as he was drafting the letter. How long does that take not 2 months, it’s the equivalent of my dog ate my homework excuse. My thought is that he knew full well how badly this news would go down and how many would leave if he did announce it, so he didn’t and hoped no one would notice.

    It all points to a project that can’t be trusted, perhaps it never should have been.

    1. Herbert said on February 14, 2020 at 5:22 pm

      Wake up.
      “just being funded” by having your Ltd. company leadership/CEO becoming someone from the company who funds you? I’d call that a takeover.

    2. thebrowser said on February 14, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      To be honest this is the worst part, that he didn’t announce it even with a brief statement for their users to know. It really smells bad and doesn’t inspire much trust.

      However I think that after many years of Waterfox we should give Alex the chance and listen what he has to say about, and see where the project goes in the next few months. He’s still in charge of development, it’s still open source and more people are definitely gonna be watching closely.

      I can’t help but notice a certain similar situation with Ghacks and Softonic, but as Martin promised nothing has really changed for the readers and here I am happily visiting the site daily.

      Martin, this article was really informative thank you for that, but I’d love to hear a more personal opinion. Technology is your field, you know how these things work, you’ve run your own show for many years and you’ve been on the same side as Alex is right now. Thank you again for all the effort.

      1. arthur said on February 14, 2020 at 8:12 pm

        I did comment on why he didn’t prepare a post even though he had at least 2 months to do it yet it leaks and promises to post the next day. His response was interesting, that he didn’t think it pertinent as nothing has changed. I think most people would consider taking money from an ad company as a change worth bringing up and I imagine he did too but knew what the reaction would be and now is.

        But ghacks has changed imo. It still has good articles of course however it seems to me that there are more rubbish ones mixed in than there used to be as though they now have a quota to post each week.

    3. Iron Heart said on February 14, 2020 at 3:47 pm


      Maybe he no longer needs Waterfox for his CV and wants to do away with it? I quote him:

      “Sure, but for once I was enjoying relaxing and not worrying about Waterfox 24/7.”


    4. treasdop said on February 14, 2020 at 2:30 pm

      You don’t let a search partner become a director. That’s not how it goes.

  34. George said on February 14, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Does not sound good at all for Waterfox, but who knows… perhaps something positive might come out of this. We’ll be watching. To be honest, this news isn’t too surprising. WF was indeed a one-man show. Nothing inherently bad with that, but real life will catch you sooner or later.

    At least we have the brilliant Pale Moon (yes, it’s my main browser) – getting ready for yet another major release (v29). PM has stopped being a one-man show for years, in case anyone is still wondering.

    1. rickmv said on February 14, 2020 at 8:58 pm

      PaleMoon is supported on Windows servers which have been breached and spread malware for months. Linux is for the two there the “OS for communists”.

      1. vip said on February 16, 2020 at 1:20 am

        rickmv, It’s Pale Moon, not PaleMoon. That situation has been addressed and fixed. Little or nothing came of it. I haven’t looked it up, and my memory may not serve me here, but I don’t recall that any malware was spread. In any event, it may have escaped your notice that life has proceeded apace after that situation. Western Civ didn’t collapse. The sun didn’t burn out. All the puppies on the planet did not die. Etc. Be a hater and a sucker for a big-name browser if you want. I’ll pass. Thanks.

      2. Samanto Hermes said on February 15, 2020 at 9:21 pm

        Gotta love FUD thrown around. The timestamps were forged: https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=22520&p=170896&hilit=timestamps#p170889

      3. George said on February 15, 2020 at 11:53 am

        @rickmv, nice try. Thankfully, people are smarter than you think.

    2. D said on February 14, 2020 at 3:45 pm

      I agree with you. PM is a great browser.

    3. Arthur said on February 14, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      You might think it’s brilliant and that’s fine but I don’t. An obvious example, how many password managers work with it? As far as I could tell 1 sort of plus the built in one as usual. There are a couple of posts mentioning Pale Moon as a Waterfox alternative, if they get 1 extra user out of this I’d surprised.

      1. Samanto Hermes said on February 14, 2020 at 11:47 pm

        There are some add-ons that don’t work on Pale Moon, but do work on Basilisk, because Australis.

      2. George said on February 14, 2020 at 3:58 pm

        @Arthur I’d expect from someone who judges Web browsers based on compatibility provided by 3rd-party password managers (and not by the judged browser) to at least know how to properly use KeePass.

      3. Arthur said on February 14, 2020 at 5:55 pm

        What part of 1 didn’t you understand? And even that only works with auto type. You want to use Bitwarden, tough, Enpass, tough, 1Password tough, Lastpass a very, very extension that you’d be stupid to trust……

    4. Klaas Vaak said on February 14, 2020 at 12:51 pm

      @George: of Pale Moon is so brilliant, why did they put Basilik on the market?

      1. Peterc said on February 15, 2020 at 3:04 am

        @Klaas Vaak: Basilisk is billed as Moonchild Productions’ experimental, developmental browser, where they road-test things they are considering implementing in future versions of Pale Moon. It’s not really intended to be anyone’s primary browser. One of Pale Moon’s better-known issues is that the GAFAM companies have been developing new (sometimes proprietary) Web standards at breakneck speed, and W3C-compliant browsers like Pale Moon have a hard time loading pages that are coded to those new standards. On a few occasions when I’ve run into one of these pages, I’ve managed to load it in Basilisk — better Basilisk than relentless tracker/profiler Google Chrome — but that’s about the extent of my experience with it.

        PS: Are you still using Linux Mint MATE? How’s it working out for you? I’m still using Mint Cinnamon. The first several days after the in-place upgrade from 19.2 to 19.3 were rough for me (*terrible* performance) but soon settled down after some tweaks and updates. I’m keeping my Windows 7 computer going past end of life for for a handful of Windows-only programs, and I’m *very* unhappy with Mint 19.x’s glacially slow and unreliable Samba implementation … but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Mint 20.x!

      2. George said on February 14, 2020 at 3:09 pm

        @Klaas Vaak what kind of a question is that? If Coca-Cola was so brilliant, why did they put Diet Coke on the market?

        I mean… seriously? Not to mention that this “question” has been answered from day one.

        P.S. My days of engaging with trivial anti-Pale Moon comments on gHacks are long gone, so don’t even bother. This article is about Waterfox, but I guess many here are easily triggered.

      3. Klaas Vaak said on February 14, 2020 at 6:56 pm

        @George: “My days of engaging with trivial anti-Pale Moon comments on gHacks are long gone ….”
        I see, that’s why you are still answering, which shows the value of your reply.

      4. George said on February 15, 2020 at 2:43 pm

        @Klaas Vaak I guess you also failed to understand “engaging”. Oh well never mind, have it your way. You “win”.

      5. Samanto Hermes said on February 14, 2020 at 2:35 pm

        Stop spreading FUD. Basilisk was never intended to be a replacement.

      6. Nomen Nescio said on March 28, 2020 at 10:01 pm

        @Samanto Hermes: so what was Basilisk intended to be?

      7. Klaas Vaak said on February 14, 2020 at 6:55 pm

        @Samanto Hermes: did you just learn a new term, FUD, from another commenter above? I did not say Basilik is a replacement, but it is sure odd that the same company would put another browser to one it has already good success with.

      8. Nomen Nescio said on March 28, 2020 at 10:06 pm

        @Klaas Vaak: and you get none the wiser by reading the developer’s explanations about Basilisk. I tried.

  35. Yuliya said on February 14, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    >This is a diverse role that will involve “hacking” on the Mozilla platform
    They went full buzzwords on this corporate talk, haven’t they? “diverse role”; “hacking”… smh

  36. oh, well... said on February 14, 2020 at 11:57 am

    Another one bites the dust.

  37. notanon said on February 14, 2020 at 11:47 am

    [Editor: please, no need for that here]

    Bought by the same advertising company as StartPage, LOL.

    They’ll probably move to Pale Moon or stay with the new “adware version of Waterfox”, LOL.

    [Editor: please, no need for that here]

  38. FFork said on February 14, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Bad news.
    One less alternative.

    1. if said on February 14, 2020 at 5:06 pm

      Currently its still much better than Firefox in regards to privacy, who not only does search dealings but actually builds tracking companies into the code, abuses its own studies backdoor and has partnered with 3rd parties who exfiltrate browser history.

      Going forward? It probably wont be for long. BAD news, agreed.

  39. Emil said on February 14, 2020 at 10:45 am

    All the best for the founder, I don’t know if I would’ve resisted. As for the browser, it’s obviously headed to become another dead commercial fork like Brave, byebye.

    1. Iron Heart said on February 14, 2020 at 11:41 am


      You seem to have developed a “Brave hate hard on” ever since I pointed out that it is more privacy-respecting than Firefox out of the box, lol.

      And even if you refuse to acknowledge the fact: Mozilla Corporation, the company which develops Firefox, is for-profit as well. At least Brave isn’t dependent on a monthly allowance provided by sugar daddy Google, like Mozilla is.

      1. Sophie said on February 14, 2020 at 5:02 pm

        @Iron Heart
        I have to speak up here. I’ve watched and read your posts lately about Brave, and it is clear that you have some pretty strong opinions about it. Nothing wrong with that, but you see to be a serious fanboi for Brave, and a hater of Firefox.

        Look, you’re clearly dead set on Brave. Fine, I’ve used it too. But I don’t feel the need to come on here, on Ghacks, and spout away about one product at the expense of the other.

        Why don’t you just live and let live? You clearly love Brave, I love Firefox, end of. Please don’t keep coming on here ranting about it.

        And actually, even if I was a Brave fanatic, I’d still be saying the same thing to you. That’s the whole point! Basically, get a life!!


      2. Iron Heart said on February 15, 2020 at 4:56 am


        Cheerio, Miss Sophie! Don’t let the Lion’s head get in the way of your butler…

        You have clearly missed the fact that I didn’t even bring up Brave here. @Emil did, I just defended it once again against (expected) random Mozilla fanboy nonsense. The amount of bullshit and smearing said about Brave, coming almost exclusively from Mozilla fanboys, is impressive. Yet thankfully, most people like @notanon don’t even know what they are talking about, so their nonsense is easy to counter.

        > Please don’t keep coming on here ranting about it.

        “Please don’t come here any longer. I just can’t afford to listen to opposing views anymore.” – This is what you sound like, and this is what you really mean. Sorry to disappoint you, I will continue to hold a differing view from yours and I will express it, too. Furthermore, calls for me to leave or for Martin Brinkmann to censor me would rather lead to me doubling down on my Brave recommendation. Not sure you really want that, Miss Sophie.

        > Why don’t you just live and let live?

        Because neither do the Mozilla fanboys and fangirls? Give me an actual reason to do so, and I might start with it. Start with ceasing to lie about Brave.

        > Basically, get a life!!

        How about you get a life instead of whining about other commenters? It literally takes me five minutes to debunk the Mozilla fanboys, the impact on my life is thus negligible. It doesn’t take a novel to counter weak arguments, I still have enough free time left anyway. Thanks for caring for my free time, though.

      3. Apparition said on February 14, 2020 at 5:29 pm

        A Brave fanatic is needed to counter a lot of the FUD being spread about it.

      4. notanon said on February 14, 2020 at 11:54 am

        @Iron Fail, imagine someone still using Brave, when Manifest v. 3 is coming to reap them?

        The day of the Manifest v.3 is coming to r*** them.

        Then there will be a knashing of teeth by Brave users.

      5. Mikhoul said on February 14, 2020 at 7:34 pm
      6. rollseyes said on February 14, 2020 at 12:34 pm

        If you don’t know what you’re talking about then how about don’t comment? They have made it clear that manifest 3 won’t effect their shields are it’s not an extension. They have also said they will not even commit the manifest 3 changes. And why do people like you have to be such low lifes? Why r****? If you have to use an asterisked out word then you should probably not be using it.

      7. Iron Heart said on February 14, 2020 at 12:11 pm


        Continuing to perpetrate your FUD, yes? As I have pointed out numerous times before, Brave’s internal adblocker doesn’t make use of any internal extension APIs, at all. It is implemented differently. Google crippling the webRequest API (which adblock extensions like uBlock Origin depend on) has no bearing on Brave’s internal adblocker, as it DOES. NOT. RELY. ON. INTERNAL. EXTENSION. APIs.

        See here:


        Please stop the pro-Firefox FUD propaganda, thank you very much.

      8. Samanto Hermes said on February 14, 2020 at 11:38 pm

        I wonder how someone that knows that Mozilla is evil uses a browser whose company’s CEO is Brendan Eich. If he was appointed as CEO at Mozilla, then probably he is willing to engage in shady stuff.

      9. Iron Heart said on February 15, 2020 at 4:40 am

        @Samanto Hermes

        Yeah, sure, it all depended on Brendan Eich… Mozilla being deceptive is a claim that stands and falls with his presence! What a joke! Mozilla has a history of decline, i.e. they made worse and worse decisions as the years went by. And notably, most of the shit went down after Brendan Eich had left. Also, Eich had left Mozilla in 2014. Smearing his name by implying that the current fuckups of Mozilla have anything to do with a person who left 6 years ago is nothing short of ridiculous. Brave has yet to do something questionable – until then, I trust it. See you later, foxboy.

      10. Nomen Nescio said on March 28, 2020 at 9:53 pm

        Iron Heart, I’d like to ask you something. I have more or less put aside Firefox years ago, and have used primarily Pale Moon and Waterfox since. What do you think about those browsers? Can they be trusted more than Firefox? They are based on Mozilla code.

      11. Samanto Hermes said on February 16, 2020 at 2:18 am

        I don’t even use Firefox neither am I a fanboy. Ok, Brave fanboy.

  40. mj said on February 14, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Just read Alex Kontos responses on reddit. And wait for blog post. Dont judge harshly based on scarse info.

  41. Sebas said on February 14, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Well the whole idea is basically the same thing what happened with ghacks net. One person simply cannot maintain a browser or a website like ghacks.

    I always wonder what it does to the persons involved. They are happy with the money, of course. But to see your ,child’ fading away, the child which was your pride. I guess money cures the pain pretty fast for most people.

    1. Diana Gorda said on February 19, 2020 at 10:55 am

      And if the child is still alive?

    2. mj said on February 14, 2020 at 10:36 am

      How about such moves allows it (“the child”) to live on, but under slightly different circumstances? Why do we have to take it as a 0-1 choice – either saint and pure or rotten and disgrace?

      1. Nomen Nescio said on March 28, 2020 at 9:43 pm

        What if the child lives on, but without its soul?

      2. pbogdanov said on February 14, 2020 at 10:50 am

        Would be nice if you show us example of company/site which after been bought by adware company didnt go down ?

  42. Trey said on February 14, 2020 at 9:04 am

    “and create better compatibility with legacy add-ons”

    Hasn’t development of legacy add-ons pretty much stopped? Sounds like a dead-horse.

  43. Ovignac said on February 14, 2020 at 8:49 am

    The only people that work for free are the ones who already have everything they want. Everyone gets paid, it’s just a matter of how. An advertising company buys a web broswer and “nothing is going to change for Waterfox”? Huh? Pure altruism is the motivation. I believe that.

    1. Nomen Nescio said on March 28, 2020 at 9:39 pm

      Given the fact Kontos sold Waterfox to an advertising company, I now distrust Kontos as well as Waterfox.

    2. John Fenderson said on February 14, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      @Ovignac: “The only people that work for free are the ones who already have everything they want.”

      I understand and agree with your final point, that System1 is going to want to extract revenue from this. But as a blanket statement, what you say here is simply not true. I, and a whole lot of people that I know, work for free on a number of things even though they don’t have everything they want (and aren’t even particularly wealthy).

      Money is the always the motivation for working.

      1. Brian Gaff said on October 10, 2020 at 2:44 pm

        My main annoyance with adverts, being a blind person is that people work to make web sites easy to use for us, then along come the adverts and screw it all up with graphics and non complient html crap. Also you need to ask yourself why waterfox was sold, Did the people developing it run out of money?

  44. Anon said on February 14, 2020 at 8:46 am

    @Anonymous: For the advertisers. They don’t care about the users, as long as they have some user base to sell their data.

    1. Deo-et-Patriae said on February 14, 2020 at 1:42 pm

      I woudn’t be suprised if this was the same Chinese company to bought even FileHippo and especially CCleaner. I’m talking about AVAST. Seems like them.

      1. Yuliya said on February 14, 2020 at 2:52 pm

        Isn’t Avast from Czechia?

      2. iMustBeGettingPaidByChinaToSayThisRight said on February 15, 2020 at 3:17 am


        Haven’t you heard? Everything bad that’s ever happened, is happening, and will happen is all China’s fault.

  45. Anonymous said on February 14, 2020 at 8:36 am

    i fear thats a nail in the coffin. an advertising company that goes for privacy oriented searchengine + browser , that cant work out. its an inherit conflict of interests somewhere down the road.
    as WF user, i also dont want ads, unless on sites i like to support and opt-in for ads, unless they overdo it.
    lets hope the source keeps open

  46. JB said on February 14, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Perhaps somebody should keep an eye on VPN services email providers too.

    1. dev/urandom said on February 14, 2020 at 5:50 pm

      Disconnect Privacy Pro / premium, its vpn, search things, for iphone, browsers, has been one to watch in my opinion for other reasons. CTO is ex-nsa, company seemed to spring from nothing.

      Early on it offered its privacy search addon for firefox which curiously, would fiddle with about:config flags to do with search suggestions (separate from its search field btw, and to do with sending out info to search engines as you typed), which it had no buisness doing and which addons were forbidden from doing covertly. This went largely unnoticed. Mozilla then partnered with them for its anti-tracking lists, 2 modes of pointless subpar tracking protection, locked down from user modification.

      Having said all that, involvements to infiltrate cryptography standards (extended random and elliptic curve ring any bells?) is a bit closer to home… CTO positions seem quite coveted. Thats 2 strikes for one specific company i wont mention. Tin-foil hattery from bizarre coincidences? Sure, but nefarious anti-privacy decisions and mistakes afterwards strongly correlate.

      1. JB said on February 15, 2020 at 3:18 am

        Thanks for the heads up! Would have never heard about this.

    2. Apparition said on February 14, 2020 at 5:26 pm

      System1 already owns Startmail, so I doubt they’d be interested in other e-mail service providers.

      1. Jens said on February 17, 2020 at 9:56 am

        No System1 does not own Startmail (yet) – they only bought out Startpage. I think Liz McIntyre confirmed this and she worked for the company before hand.

      2. ard said on February 16, 2020 at 11:37 am

        If you read this article proper, you will not find an e-mail service mentioned, but a search provider Startpage, that sofar claimed to be a secure search engine; which I now have my doubts on. Can’t find the name Startmail as you suggests.

    3. Yuliya said on February 14, 2020 at 12:16 pm

      E-mail is inherently insecure. VPNs could be CIA sponsored, or some state-sponsored anyway.
      Use Tor, at least we know that’s quite a headache to track someone through. And use, whenever possible, pre-internet encryption; and the bovious – don’t disclose the key through the same medium.

      1. Anders said on February 17, 2020 at 9:54 am

        When you use Tor, you put all your trust in Tor, a project created by the US government, which continues to finance it today. Sure it’s open source and routes traffic over three relays but those relays can log everything and manipulate traffic. Anybody and everybody can setup a Tor relay, including TLAs. You get the point. There have been many exploits and Tor users who have been de-anonymized by US gov, particularly the FBI going after pedos.

        Source: https://restoreprivacy.com/tor/

        You can distribute trust by chaining VPNs, so neither VPN will have your IP and browsing. Just use one VPN on your router, and another on your PC. Very easy to do, if you want paranoid levels of privacy without trusting a single entity.

      2. Samanto Hermes said on February 17, 2020 at 3:28 pm

        Nice FUD, bro.

        > When you use Tor, you put all your trust in Tor
        You don’t have to put trust in Tor, since it’s decentralized.

        > Anybody and everybody can setup a Tor relay, including TLAs
        The Tor Project frequently blacklists compromised Tor relays.

        > There have been many exploits and Tor users who have been de-anonymized by US gov
        All of those users have been de-anonymized because of their own bad op-sec, not because of Tor by itself. Even the NSA has admitted that they cannot efficiently de-anonymize Tor users.

      3. Nomen Nescio said on March 28, 2020 at 9:30 pm

        “Even the NSA has admitted”

        LOL It’s all in your choice of words. I prefer “claimed”.

      4. Ascrod said on February 14, 2020 at 5:27 pm

        Tor depends on relays not being compromised by malicious actors, state or otherwise, as well.

        Email wouldn’t be as insecure if providers (especially Google) would adopt PGP instead of trying to EEE the protocol.

      5. Alex said on May 15, 2020 at 2:40 pm

        There is no guarantee on this as far as I know. Anybody checks who each exit node belongs to constantly? Perhaps not.

      6. Yuliyas_Wifes_Boyfriend said on February 14, 2020 at 2:55 pm
      7. Nomen Nescio said on March 29, 2020 at 4:56 pm

        Do you trust VPNs more? A VPN can be CIA operated just as a Tor node can, can’t it?

  47. Anonymous said on February 14, 2020 at 8:12 am

    {System1 is an advertising company that tries to “make advertising better and safer…}

    Better for who? Safer for who?

    1. Graham Perrin said on March 14, 2020 at 11:37 pm

      Belated congratulations on being the first cynic here.


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