Waterfox Classic development will continue, but as a separate project from G4

Ashwin
Nov 4, 2021
waterfox
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28

A few weeks ago, Waterfox G4 was released to the public. The update brought a modern design, but also introduced an unusual hardware requirement, that made it impossible to use the browser on computers that didn't support SSE 4.2. But some users were more concerned about the other browser, Waterfox Classic, and whether it has been abandoned.

Waterfox Classic will continue to be developed

Alex Kontos, the developer of the popular Firefox fork, had previously hinted that the Waterfox Classic version was not a priority. He had mentioned that its future depended on the ease of porting security fixes from Firefox ESR. No wonder users started worrying, but if you were among them, you can rest assured that it is still being worked on.

Waterfox Classic development will continue

Kontos has confirmed that Waterfox Classic will continue to be supported, but it will exist as a separate open-source project from Waterfox G4. The developer cites that it has been difficult to keep the browser up to date with the main project, which is why the two variants have been diverged.

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This is a welcome move for multiple reasons. Firstly, users who relied on it will get new versions. But more importantly, this will improve the development process of the browser, because previously, issues related to both versions were tackled together. Now that Waterfox Classic has its own Github repository, users will be able to track and report issues related specifically to it. And since it is no longer tied with G4, issues won't be closed because of complications/incompatibilities with the modern version.

Waterfox Classic github

The developer says that Waterfox Classic's future will rely on contributions, by which he probably means what he previously mentioned, about porting security fixes from Firefox ESR. A list of unpatched security issues will be made available on the browser's website. The announcement also says that Waterfox Classic will have its own page on the official site, this is something which has bothered some users, as the lone mention of it, has been the link to the releases page, from which you can download the browser. These changes are expected to go live this week.

Waterfox Classic will warn the user that the browser could be vulnerable to multiple security issues, and it is up to the user to decide whether to proceed to user it or not. That is not a very reassuring message, although it is quite understandable and the transparency is appreciated. Kontos has done a commendable job in maintaining Waterfox for over 10 years, and it can't be easy to work on two projects at the same time. Hopefully we will see other contributors chipping in to the project to ease the burden.

Now, the announcement does not mention the availability of an update, Waterfox Classic's previous update was released on October 13th. The portable version of Watefox Classic has not been updated since April this year, let's see if things change with the new project.

Waterfox G4.0.2 update released

On a sidenote, Waterfox G4.0.2 has been released. The update introduces the Waterfox Classic theme, Australis. The release notes for the new version states that there are some new preferences in about:preferences#privacy. It doesn't mention what the new options are, when I compared it to the previous release the only change that I could see is that Waterfox G4.0.2's Standard protection will block Cross-site cookies in Private Windows.

Waterfox G4.0.2 what's new

Now You: Do you use Waterfox Classic or G4?

Summary
Waterfox Classic will continue to be supported
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Waterfox Classic will continue to be supported
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Alex Kontos has confirmed Waterfox Classic will continue to be developed, as a separate open-source project.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. beemeup5 said on November 4, 2021 at 7:21 am
    Reply

    This is the problem with not being an actual hard fork of Firefox. Pale Moon has no such difficulties adapting relevant security issues, and if you peruse the release notes, you will notice that the majority of Firefox security issues are “not applicable” to Pale Moon. The larger the code base the harder it is to secure, or in other words, the more things that can go wrong, the more things will go wrong. It is simply mind-boggling how so many believe Pale Moon to be not as secure as Firefox despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Firefox security flaws simply don’t affect Pale Moon to begin with. If anything Pale Moon is MORE secure than Firefox.
    https://www.palemoon.org/releasenotes.shtml

    Waterfox Classic is basically old Firefox. It is no longer accurate to say the same about Pale Moon and hasn’t been for many, many years now.

    True fork = independent of Mozilla. Mozilla could disappear tomorrow and Pale Moon would still continue as normal.

    Not a true fork = dependent on Mozilla. The end result is you’re teetering on the edge of obsolescence, dying a slow death as you become a browser frozen in time in a world wide web that is constantly moving forward.

    1. Mystique said on November 4, 2021 at 8:29 am
      Reply

      I agree however at least (for now) Waterfox classic is still compatible with old extensions which Pale Moon seems to no longer support. I actually like Pale Moon but believe that was just a step too far and then when you include the fact that some extensions are outright blocked and the hostile environment then its a bit of an issue to the point of self sabotage.

      Pale Moon has a lot of potential though and shouldn’t be disregarded completely. They can turn things around and make good but there is a lot of work ahead.

      On one hand I know that they are trying to recreate some sort of independent environment which is clever but on the other hand they are pushing away developers by a somewhat perceived negative environment and often opinion based logic such as blocking installation of extensions such as AdNauseam (an extension i do not use), older extensions not being welcome unless specifically coded for Pale Moon, that’s not really a bad thing but when you combine it all there is very little chance of developers lining up to work with Pale Moon at this currant time.

      Pale Moon and developers be better of focusing on creating a browser that others can freely use and join in development and that means toning down the hostility, blocking of extensions based on opinion. A browser is a tool and shouldn’t have opinions or limitations on how you use it, that’s how I believe Firefox was originally designed. You could extend upon it in the ways you the user had seen fit.

      I hope nobody see’s this as me bashing Pale Moon, its community and the developers but it’s just the general opinion of what I am seeing and reading every time Pale Moon is mentioned. I want it succeed more than most people here so I wish them all the very best in all their endeavors.

      In regards to Waterfox G4 it’s still a disaster. I am however glad to hear that Waterfox classic is still being developed and hope to see a few people contribute to it and not only keep it going but improve upon it for those that continue to use it.

      For many Waterfox and Pale Moon are the only option as far as ‘their’ future with Firefox goes so one has to congratulate the developers of each for doing that much. I wish them the best.

      1. vanp said on November 5, 2021 at 6:18 am
        Reply

        “In regards to Waterfox G4 it’s still a disaster.”

        How so?

      2. Mystique said on November 5, 2021 at 6:54 am
        Reply

        Head on over to their reddit and read a few comments.
        I would say its premature and wasn’t ready for prime time yet not to mention that one version was such a disaster they had to rush out an update asap to resolve it.

        It without a doubt been a disaster of a launch.

    2. remember_mypal said on November 4, 2021 at 1:19 pm
      Reply

      @beemeup5

      Pale Moon is a useful browser, but let’s not confuse the devs’ bragging and reality. It’s pretty misleading to claim that Pale Moon isn’t dependent on Mozilla when the devs spend the majority of their time backporting features from newer versions of Firefox.

      As for security, the fact that some issues affecting newer versions of Firefox aren’t relevant to Pale Moon’s older 52esr based code doesn’t mean that there aren’t any security issues in that old code which have been eliminated during the course of new development on Firefox’s sida, without ever getting hilighted as security issues. Nor is there any guarantee that Pale Moon devs haven’t introduced new vulnerabilities on their own, which of course wouldn’t be caught by Firefox’s security reviews. Pale Moon with its 1-2 competent devs obviously doesn’t have a dedicated security team.

      OTOH I wouldn’t expect too many nefarious people bothering to specifically target a tiny minority browser with their exploits, so Pale Moon may be more secure in that sense.

      1. beemeup5 said on November 4, 2021 at 5:35 pm
        Reply

        Which features? I can’t recall the last time Pale Moon backported any major features from Firefox. The code bases are so different at this point I don’t see how that would be possible.

      2. remember_mypal said on November 4, 2021 at 7:09 pm
        Reply

        @beemeup5

        Not talking about user-facing features, ffs. If you go to their mcp-graveyard UXP repo that has their platform stuff until a month or so ago when they took ongoing dev repos private, you see references to bugzilla.m.o and hg.m.o all over the issues.

        You’re right about the code base difference tho, why else do you think it’s taking them so long to have new regex, new JS syntax stuff, webcomponents, etc.? Hint: it’s not because they’re coding it all from scratch.

      3. Mystique said on November 5, 2021 at 7:02 am
        Reply

        Valid points. Pale Moon has a long long way to go and short of a few hundred developers before it can be a successful mainline browser. Developing a browser is a terribly complex task and when you go it alone and taken on a codebase with such a small team its going to be a huge task… mammoth even.

        Like you have eluded to, they aren’t coding it all on their own but rather piggybacking off of Mozilla still even if it is in a smaller degree than just straight up slapping a few cosmetic changes and a custom userchrome.css (that will break every second browser update) on top to make it appear as if all is well.

        Both Pale Moon and Waterfox deserve credit but they also have to be scrutinized in the same breath for not being able to stand on their own two feet and when you consider how far Mozilla keeps on distancing itself further and further away from what the developers of these browsers and their users want and expect from a browser.

  2. TelV said on November 4, 2021 at 9:00 am
    Reply

    I’m still using Waterfox Classic, but it’s becoming extremely slow of late just opening ordinary every day sites like https://www.knmi.nl/home which is the Dutch weather forecast.

    Also, some sites like online banking won’t work at all with this version since identifies itself as Firefox 56.x and is deemed to be too old. Same goes for Github when I try to login.

    As for G4, I’d consider switching to it if Kontos would redesign the ugly shaped tabs. For the same reason I’m not interested in Australis which is even worse. Fortunately with the Classic version CTR still works and produces nice square shaped tabs which can also be resized among other things.

    I’ve also considered switching to Firefox which is ten times faster than Waterfox, but it doesn’t support the Backspace key and I use that a lot. In addition, I hate the “Search with…” icons which appear even though browser.urlbar.oneOffSearches is set to “Disabled” in about:config.

    I’ll continue with W-C for the moment, but it’s no longer a serious contender for the browser market IMO.

    1. dx said on November 4, 2021 at 4:10 pm
      Reply

      You can re-enable the backspace key setting 0 the browser.backspace_action parameter in about:config.

    2. Anonymous said on November 4, 2021 at 9:24 pm
      Reply

      With all due respect, square or rounded tabs is not the difference that matters in today’s digital world where browsers turn computers into remote controlled spyware and brainwashing machines. Ethical forks like Waterfox are more important than those superficial details.

    3. ike J. said on November 4, 2021 at 10:57 pm
      Reply

      W-C is rendering more quickly for me nowadays; OTOH, it has reverted to the same frequent crashes that plagued the browser a year or 2 ago.

    4. Anonymous said on November 5, 2021 at 12:27 am
      Reply

      Well it’s a skinned Firefox 56, what are you hoping for?
      I wouldn’t believe about the ‘security’ fixes unless some security researched about the browser. Until then you’re using a vulnerable browser, the dev himself said so.

  3. TelV said on November 4, 2021 at 9:20 am
    Reply

    Oh…I’ve just read https://www.ghacks.net/2021/10/20/waterfox-g4-sse4-2-processor/ which contains screenshots of the latest version, one of which shows square tabs.

    But does it support the Menu Bar option for displaying easy access to File / Edit / View / History etc.? In that respect I detest those Javascript menus.

  4. Jody Thornton said on November 4, 2021 at 10:12 am
    Reply

    My HP xw8600 workstation has dual Xeons which are not supported by Waterfox G4, so I’m out of the club. I’ve moved on the Firefox ESR 91, set up some CSS code to mimic the Photon interface, and I’m not looking back.

    I find that compared to Classic, that Basilisk seems a wee bit more customizable. I only have used it with Classic Theme Restorer, Status-4_Evar and uBlock Origin. But it seems to have better compatibility with web sites overall. Some new banking sites don’t work and neither do Facebook comments, but I’ve had good luck with it for the most part.

  5. TelV said on November 4, 2021 at 10:41 am
    Reply

    I just installed G4, but didn’t like it. To start with it wants to install in the existing Classic folder. So I had to create another folder to avoid screwing up my existing Waterfox Classic installation.

    The next thing is the choice to configure Startpage as your search engine, or to continue using Bing. I chose the latter and intended to configure DDG afterwards, but don’t agree with the policy on this issue.

    As regards looks I subsequently selected the middle option thinking it would apply a white background, but all the tabs became Australis shaped which I never liked even when Firefox had them.

    I wasn’t sure how to get back to the Lepton design so I decided to uninstall it instead. But hohoho…it does not want to be uninstalled and displays a popup giving the user the option to refresh the installation, or to cancel. The latter merely takes you back to the desktop needless to say. I tried it four times, but couldn’t get the uninstall process working (I’m on Windows 8.1 by the way) and had to use Windows System Restore to remove it.

    I’ll maybe take another look at it when I have more time, but for the moment I’ll stick with the Classic version.

  6. Paul(us) said on November 4, 2021 at 11:19 am
    Reply

    Neither actually because I find it neither fish nor meat!
    If I have to choose, I find Pale Moon a lot more attractive in terms of functions and ease of use as the third browser, behind Vivaldi and Firefox.

  7. Anonymous said on November 4, 2021 at 1:29 pm
    Reply

    I use the G4 version and like the new Australis theme. However, I wish that G4 was easier to install and update in Ubuntu. I can do it, but it could be more automatic.

  8. Bye-bye-waterfox said on November 4, 2021 at 1:35 pm
    Reply

    > The portable version of Watefox Classic has not been updated since April this year, let’s see if things change with the new project.

    Just a minor correction: The statement above is not correct. Indeed, the devs will no longer publish portable installer builds for Waterfox Classic (there was also an announcement about this!), but portable installations do still receive updates. They announced in their blog that you must use the last portable installer build (which is the one of April, indeed!), and then use its internal update function in the browser itself several times to raise the version from 2021.04 to 2021.10. Not really nice for a fresh portable install, but it works (and is their recommended way).

    Regarding Waterfox Classic itself, I think the browser is dead. I have a portable version running at 2021.10 (the latest release up to now) as test browser, but surfing the web is horribly slow and the browser is also pretty broken as many extensions don’t work properly anymore.

    My main browsers are Firefox (with arkenfox and many privacy enhancing extensions) and Ungoogled Chromium.

    1. Anonymous said on November 4, 2021 at 9:29 pm
      Reply

      Waterfox G4 is still a much better option than Firefox.

      Beware with arkenfox, he’s a shill. He still has his uses, if you’re careful enough not to trust him.

      1. Bye-bye-waterfox said on November 5, 2021 at 10:26 am
        Reply

        Thanks for your warning. However, I always track every change in the arkenfox repository carefully. Besides, I don’t use the arkenfox’ user.js blindly, but have my own user-overrides.js, too. For sensible stuff there’s no alternative to Tor browser anyway.

      2. John said on November 5, 2021 at 9:24 pm
        Reply

        @Anonymous: A shill for whom? Mozilla?

  9. Vítor I said on November 4, 2021 at 9:50 pm
    Reply

    How can I install Waterfox G4 in Linux Mint (19.1)?

    1. Peterc said on November 7, 2021 at 6:01 pm
      Reply

      @Vítor I:

      Your question piqued my curiosity because I used to install Waterfox Classic in both Windows and Ubuntu-based Linux distros and one of the reasons I gave up on it is because the PPAs were so *damned unreliable*. (The other reason is that my other “legacy-Firefox-based” browser, Pale Moon, was always noticeably faster, more stable, and less buggy — at least for me, with my preferred extensions, at that point in time.) I see from a post on this reddit topic:

      https://www.reddit.com/r/waterfox/comments/lvqvor/ppa_for_waterfox_classic_on_linux_mint_hawkeye_no/

      that at least some people have run into PPA signature problems since I gave up on Waterfox, but you might get lucky if you read this:

      How to install Waterfox (not classic) in Linux Mint : waterfox
      https://www.reddit.com/r/waterfox/comments/l7skoo/how_to_install_waterfox_not_classic_in_linux_mint/

      and get familiar with this:

      GitHub – hawkeye116477/waterfox-deb-rpm-arch-AppImage: Unofficial repository with Waterfox Web Browser packages for Ubuntu, Debian (deb), Arch Linux (pkg.tar.xz), Fedora, CentOS and openSUSE (rpm) and AppImage packages for all distros following with CentOS 7
      https://github.com/hawkeye116477/waterfox-deb-rpm-arch-AppImage

      and then ask for help on the Waterfox Community Support reddit:

      Waterfox Community Support
      https://www.reddit.com/r/waterfox/

      if (when?) you run into trouble.

      I’m guessing that as a Mint user, you aren’t enthusiastic about the “ultimate solution” — namely, compiling Waterfox from source. I know I wasn’t!

  10. brian said on November 5, 2021 at 3:06 am
    Reply

    Used to use classic then went to cyberfox then back to classic. Had to ditch it, I use way more tabs than it could handle. Finally moved to Brave.

    1. Mystique said on November 5, 2021 at 6:43 am
      Reply

      and how has tab management on Brave been since then. Last I checked it was quite the disaster. Unless they have implemented experimental features from Chromium I imagine all your tabs are about the size of a toothpick and god forbid your browser or computer crashes or there is a power outage and Brave decides it didn’t want to recover your tabs because there is virtually no fall back recovery system as Firefox used to have.

      I can’t really blame Brave alone for having an inferior extension system and such ridiculously limited UI that Google itself had barely changed in a meaningful way since 2008, it’s only been since roughly version 95/97 that the UI and tab management settings/features have appeared in Chromium so yeah…

      I also used to use Cyberfox at one point.

      Obviously you’ve found your way around it all and have learned to deal with the compromises so that’s cool. All the more power to you and happy browsing.

      1. Peterc said on November 7, 2021 at 6:20 pm
        Reply

        @Mystique:

        My primary browser is Pale Moon (with the classic Tab Mix Plus extension), and my fallback browser for the sadly increasing number of sites that won’t run in Pale Moon, or don’t run well, or generate memory leaks, is Brave. Tab management in Chromium-based browsers is a *mystery* to me, and Brave is no exception. When I exceed a certain number of open tabs, some of them aren’t even displayed on the tab bar, and the only way I’ve found to reliably get to them is by using the “Tab Manager Plus for Chrome” extension. Someone with more experience with Chromium-based browsers might know of a more elegant solution, but from what I’ve read, nothing in the Chromium world matches the features and usefulness of Tab Mix Plus in the legacy-Firefox world.

  11. Geralt said on November 5, 2021 at 10:25 pm
    Reply

    I use waterfox because I wanted to have some small but important for me features in old extensions like f. E. when I click active tab it moves to last selected tab or if I close active tab the same(flst). Or grouping tabs. I think selecting many tabs and moving it is implemented in Firefox?

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