Shooing the Fox under the Pale Moon

In light of the recent *cough* breaking *cough* changes in Firefox, I’ve found my preferred alternative. Would you believe? – It’s Firefox!

(er… Not quite.)

Let’s start with a little boring back-story rambling…. (feel free to skip)

Once upon a time, Mozilla started doing things to Firefox that drove the tech world batty. The interface bothered alot of people because, for obvious reasons, people care more about what they are looking at than what goes on under the hood. In any case, the good ol’ days of Firefox being the go-to browser for an increasing number of people began to turn around. Long story short, like many people in the tech community, I see every new version of Mozilla Firefox step further toward the abyss of abandon-ware. Mozilla has invested a great deal into this browser, but the more they do, the more they are alienating the grand majority of users. I for one, used to be a Firefox quasi-evangelist. However, a growing number of features have inhibited my standard usage. I said standard usage. Nothing fancy. I’m talking about just loading pages. As Firefox became bulkier, it slowed WAY down, and I had to resort to using Opera for a time. But Opera is terrible. It’s a cache system, when left unmonitored, has no cap, and thus it expands until the entire program comes to a crawl. Don’t watch any video ads with it unless you want it to slog through the rest of your Youtube playlist. Firefox at least limits the cache size. Opera struggled in some regards, such as loading, as if it needed a warm-up time. Firefox, on the other hand, had me resorting to preferences to disable hardware acceleration just so the page would render correctly when I scrolled.

Recently, after I updated Firefox, I discovered that I could no longer change tabs. I could load a tab, yes, but I could not change a tab. Clicking the other tabs did nothing. Only the latest-opened tab was drawn. Even clicking on it meant it wasn’t a simple render problem: Nothing about the website context changed. My hunch is that this comes from some serious back-end changes to Firefox. For some time now, Mozilla has been working on Servo, an HTML layout engine written in Rust. While experiments and test runs were promising, I wonder if full integration didn’t go so smoothly as planned. In any case, rather than running tests, Mozilla decided to drop the latest version on everyone. I’m done with being pooped on, so I’m calling it quits.

I believe Chrome abuses user privacy (and unless you dig into its source code to prove me wrong, don’t comment to me any articles arguing against this point), so there’s no way I’d use it, no matter how nice people find it. I consider Safari rather crappy unless you aren’t accustomed to anything else. Forget Internet Explorer or Edge. MS is learning to stop ignoring the standards, but I’d prefer something more standards-complaint. There’s Tor, but that’s just an anonymous Firefox and gets to inherit the same problems. What other viable options are there? What about all my bookmarks? What about usability?

The Alternative

There’s Pale Moon. Being open-source and following a very liberal license, Firefox has sat like a cherry on a tree, fully ripe and starting its gradual rot. It needed a replanting. Some disgruntled users took the code from a slightly older, more user-friendly version and refurbished it. Most plugins still work (unless they require the Aurora user interface), but if you’re worried about watching your movies on Flash, don’t worry – it still works.

Where to get it:

Pale Moon homepage

Advantages

  • It works.
    No slowing down, no breaking standard usage, built on older, yet reliable technology.
  • Familiar layout.
    Remember how browsers used to look? You’ll recognize this.
  • Nothing stupid imposed on you.
    Remember how Mozilla told you that useful settings would be buried in the about:config preferences? How about the fact that all add-ons must be signed by Mozilla to work?
  • Nearly 1-to-1 Firefox add-on support.*
  • Web standards complaint.
    Supports HTML5 videos!

And of course, version numbers will always be used (Spoken for those who know what I mean).

* Some add-ons have replacements. AdBlock Plus, for example, doesn’t work in Pale Moon, but the gap is filled by a fully-ad-blocking add-on (no white-listing “nice” ads).

No matter what browser I choose, I will miss the tabs-listing window that allowed me to organize my tabs. It had to become a minor add-on that “may not be supported” in future versions of Firefox, as if somehow a useful feature was a bad thing.

Caveats

Like anything taken from an old repo snapshot, it will have bugs that were later fixed. An active maintenance team can fix those things early on, and Pale Moon has been around for some years now – enough time for a number of bugs to be worked out. That said, there isn’t a major corporation behind this endeavor, so active developers tend to be few and divided over a variety of things. Need a bug fix? If it doesn’t affect the majority of users and it’s a pain for the active devs to fix, don’t expect a quick miracle. On the other hand, being a small group, the devs focus more on what is best for the average user without imposing some bizarre unwanted features on everyone. Again, due to small dev teams, evolution of such software is slow, and while they aim for 1-to-1 add-on ability, the fact is, in the future, Firefox add-ons might end up being very different in makeup and no one may make those snazzy new add-ons portable. Not that this is a big deal (unless you fall in love with one, that is), but it does mean such projects need alittle love. If you download the 64-bit version, you will most certainly be limited, and again, that’s because the rest of the tech world marches on.

Another caveat is that some sites say they don’t “support older browsers”. Pale Moon broadcasts to them its old Firefox ID, making it look like an older version of Firefox to any website that doesn’t look for the Pale Moon ID. That said, Pale Moon still works fine on those sites, so you can safely ignore the messages unless some nasty programmer decides to disable features if your browser ID string doesn’t exceed a certain value. Pale Moon uses an older browser identification method also, so it’s hard to spoof your way around such blocks.

Pale Moon doesn’t have the dev tools like Firefox, so if you want that, you have to get it through an add-on.

If you like using Google as a search engine, you might be disappointed to know that it was (as of 8/17/2016) removed as a search option in the search toolbar. The lead developer speaks of the reason for this.

Final Comments

There are a number of issues with “modern” browsers anyways. I keep reading comments by software developers who groan that we aren’t remaking the web. Whatever the cry, there is little interest from the major players in working on the right things. The internet has been around for more than two decades, and to this day, we still don’t have proper support for basic things like vertical text (for languages that write top-down, even though the internet is around the world) or a universal audio format.

In stepping away from the annoying futurist crowd clamoring the retarded phrase “Internet Of Things”, it’s nice to get back to what should expected from a browser: web-browsing that I – not some corporation – control. No fancy theme or ever-changing interface. No crashing or glitches from the latest “optimizations”. And of course, no corporate-run dev team that ignores the average user. It should load fast, be easy to use, and perform as expected. Isn’t that what you would like in a browser?

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About chronologicaldot

Just a Christ-centered, train-loving, computer geek.
This entry was posted in freeware, software, tech news and opinions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shooing the Fox under the Pale Moon

  1. Thanks for sharing. I also used Mozilla back in the day but now I’m all for Chrome and I even have Chrome on my smart phone. I guess I’m comfortable with it right now but just in case Chrome betrays me in any way possible, then I will change my browser to the ones you recommended.

    • Admittedly, I am on the superstitious side. While Chrome is “open-source” (and it’s thus likely people would have found crap in it by now), I’ve never bothered to read through it, and the binary Google gives you may not be the same as the source code they offer. In any case, I know many people haven’t found it a nuisance, and as far as browser quality it’s very hard to beat, so power to you!

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