A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

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A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Moonchild » 2021-12-14, 14:59

First off, sorry for taking what some have considered a long time to evaluate the survey held in November, but it, and the general feedback I've seen in our community and outside of it needed me to give this a lot of thought to find a sustainable way forward. This post is the culmination of that thought process and what I think is the best direction forward for the Pale Moon project and all it entails.

The survey results
Let's start with the numbers. Almost 1000 people answered the one-question survey, although after about 200, the percentages were already stabilising. Here is the final distribution in a single graph:
nov-2021-survey-results.png
The legend is slightly different from the answers on the survey which were kept somewhat cryptic on purpose to avoid any obvious bias to the question.
Practically speaking, wanting a 100% Chrome match and wanting Firefox without telemetry/data gathering would, for our purposes, fall into the same category of wishing Pale Moon was not at all what we've been working on for a decade; however, they were important options to include to see if we would need to re-think or shut down. Thankfully, these two choices did not get a majority vote, meaning that overall, the majority of users are valuing Pale Moon for what it is instead of what it is not.
The other two choices being split as they are does, however, cause a major issue for which I had to find a solution. More on that below.

Other considerations/feedback
Of course I don't base my direction for the project solely on one survey result; that would be too much of a tunnel vision. So, other considerations were taken into account thinking about the future direction for the project. Most prominent among them:
  • Lack of participation in the extension ecosystem by users. Unlike what happened in the heyday of Mozilla, current users apparently feel underqualified to even try, let alone the fact they don't want to take any sort of responsibility for sharing what helps them personally with the world. Even trying our best to streamline forking procedures was met with a lot of resistance.
  • A smaller user base. Although fairly stable, it is apparently not substantial enough to really make the idea we've collectively had come to fruition. The momentum is simply not there to sufficiently drive a vision forward to something that is completely and fully independent in its own right.
  • Not enough core developers. Unfortunately, and I'll have to say pretty much a trend in FOSS, developers would rather splinter off and segregate themselves to have their own, often failing long term, spin-off projects rather than cooperating on something everyone could be proud of achieving. Competition often wins over cooperation, because a lot of developers do not want to compromise in any way and just "want their thing.", sometimes even completely ignoring the very core of Open Source and its principles and licenses - So we've ended up with a good handful of things that could have been unified, but instead are strictly segregated and fiercely defended, even if they are one-man spin-offs or slipshod hackjobs.
  • Users clearly struggling with compatibility issues on two fronts; both web compatibility and extension compatibility, and Pale Moon failing to deliver there, leaving users in a kind of limbo where there are little redeeming qualities to be had when falling short on both fronts at the same time. That wasn't a good situation and couldn't be left as-is without doing anything about.
A change in direction
Trying to come up with a way to satisfy the two, almost equally-sized, large groups of the users wanting mutually exclusive things (wanting a sane, minimal compromise, secure browser vs. wanting an unchanging web client that preserves maximum compatibility with the Mozilla legacy) was difficult, and this is why it took me considerable time to think about how to move forward with this to keep Pale Moon useful for its users.
So, what is the new direction, then? Well, it's basically taking a few steps back and no longer trying to be a separate entity. It's become clear that we can't continue to aim for an independent set of rules that we've been pushing hard for to make happen -- it's been a few years of effort now and it's clearly not working; as a project leader I simply have to admit that some things are too much and are not going to be achieved, and we need to aim for some other goals instead of staring ourselves blind on the idyllic mental image formed years ago where people actually want to make the effort for open, collaborative development of a full-featured browser and extension ecosystem. Perhaps this is also a sign of the times, and me being a solid Gen X person am a bit out of touch with current-day users of later generations, as well. But, this is why I'm willing to change, and why this new direction is necessary and must happen.

What does this mean in practice?
Departing from my underlying thoughts and translating it into what this means for the Pale Moon project itself, the immediate changes going forward:
  • As some of you may have noticed, FUEL was restored. This is a first step in improving the extension compatibility part that wasn't going to happen otherwise because it's clear that people would rather just jeopardize their safety and security rather than putting in some effort to make extensions they are using compatible. So, FEBE and NoSquint and other popular extensions that build on long-since deprecated abstractions will work and continue to work.
  • On the slightly longer term, Pale Moon will return to carrying the Firefox GUID (like Basilisk has done) instead of its own, to further improve extension compatibility. Of course this won't make "legacy" Firefox extensions suddenly/magically compatible if there are discrepancies with our core code and APIs as opposed to the state of Firefox when Mozilla abandoned them, but it will take away any barriers aside from user effort when it comes to extensions, and will reduce pressure on the core development people putting extension responsibility squarely and solely in the hands of the community.
    Of course this will require some changes to extensions and the add-ons site, but that shouldn't be too terribly much of an issue and might actually simplify the site's code (to what extent will have to be answered by Tobin who wrote that code from the ground up).
  • With less pressure on us to mould and feed the extension ecosystem, we will continue our efforts to work on implementing the major blockers that have caused increasing web compatibility issues (primarily issues in JavaScript, Google frameworks, Google WebComponents, and a few persistent yet difficult to implement specs. We are aware that without further outside help, this will still take considerable time and web compatibility will remain less than desired/optimal while we work on improving the adherence to current trends in web "design" (mind the quotes).
    Part of me still hopes that Google will be called out for its blatant manipulation of implementation-first specs to push and maintain the monopoly in a triple-E strategy fashion (I struggle to call them "standards" if they are solely determined by one vendor and have not had broad, multi-faceted consensus before being pushed) but it seems to be as much a global political game as a technological one, and my hopes are rather slim, there.
  • In line with the problems regarding licensing for EME (also in Google's hands) and rejection of our web clients for WebRTC (once again, Google in control) despite passing the suite of tests, combined with the planned extension-first steps to be taken in Pale Moon as a browser, the utility of Basilisk as its own browser will vanish. It was created to partly fill that extension-runner role as a closer Firefox alternative browser, and as a vessel to develop UXP. It fulfilled those roles but is turning into dead weight that I no longer want to carry so focus can be given to one browser and one product.
    As such, I may be retiring Basilisk and stop development on it altogether, or potentially split it off to do something else with it -- I'm not sure yet. If people are genuinely interested in seeing it continue in its current form, I'll consider someone taking it over, too. Contact me in that case.
On the longer term (and not yet set in stone at this point) we may organize things differently and give this whole Open Source collaboration another shot, but that's stuff we'll have to think about next year. It simply can't be that the current world literally has no genuine cooperation any more; I refuse to believe that, so call it a hope or prayer or what have you that this increasing tribalism will take a back seat again.

I think doing it this way is the only real way the project can be carried forward without disadvantaging a major chunk of our user base.
Oh, and for those who really want Chrome compatibility and Firefox without telemetry, you should consider switching to LibreWolf. We're clearly not going to be able to fulfil your wishes and remaining on Pale Moon or Basilisk will just mean you are choosing something that isn't in line with what you really want from a browser.
"The best revenge is to not be like the person who wronged you." -- Marcus Aurelius
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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Marcus » 2021-12-14, 17:59

I'm sad and relieved at the same time because I was afraid the XUL platform was to be abandoned.
Perhaps this is also a sign of the times, and me being a solid Gen X person am a bit out of touch with current-day users of later generations, as well.
Not so much a sign of times, it's circumstances, but those change. Google and other evil empires will crumble down eventually. It's just a matter of us being alive to see it and benefit. let's keep our wits about us ;)

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by athenian200 » 2021-12-14, 18:08

I'm completely on board with the new direction. I will offer my own thoughts on what I think has happened here.

Essentially, the Pale Moon project has historically been focused on maintaining a more pleasant UI and retaining features that Firefox eliminated for no good reason, while removing anti-features like telemetry and WebRTC. My impression is that the goal of creating an independent extension ecosystem was decided upon early on, before Firefox dropped XUL extension support and while there was still a community of developers for such extensions. That goal might have made some sense in the past, but it simply does not make sense in 2021. XUL extensions are no longer developed, and those most involved in maintaining the add-ons ecosystem outside of the core developers are no longer involved with the project. The timing was wrong, and we do not have the resources to do what we initially set out to accomplish by removing dual-GUID. Furthermore, it isn't like there are many other browsers actively supporting these extensions at this point, so the value that originally came with creating an explicit target for our project has diminished.

All most people will be willing or able to do is fix the old extensions that break over the natural course of natural development, and not develop new ones from scratch. This will provide a less polished experience and less of a guarantee of extension compatibility than if the extensions were actively maintained by a capable maintainer with our browser as a target, but the fact is that anyone still using this browser at this point will be expecting that. We've found that users will generally see something like requiring extensions to target the browser as arbitrary. The browser has much more pressing issues with web compatibility, and everyone sees this clearly, so worrying about an imperfect experience with unsupported extensions and themes is putting the cart before the horse.

I think it took us a while to see how developing a browser without the benefit of consistently usable upstream code from Mozilla is going to be a very different experience from what we've done in the past, and that it will be significantly harder to keep users and developers interested in the project as the original XUL extension ecosystem fades away and web compatibility becomes harder to maintain.

I think what we have to do is leave the fate of extensions to the community, who will either keep them working or let them fade away as compatibility breaks over the natural course of development, undesirable though that may be. Our main priority now needs to be browser engine development (and the recruitment of interested C++ developers), with an eye to avoiding changes that break extensions in that process as much as possible, and also being transparent about those changes when they are needed. We may have to decide on a case-by-case basis what to do in situations where a new feature we are implementing might impact extension compatibility. Trying to get out in front of any potential issues by emphasizing that we only support extensions that target us has only exacerbated the very issues we hoped to avoid, and actually comes across to users poorly, making them feel they are not being treated like adults.

In the end, we cannot hope to please the users who want a polished experience with fully supported extensions and consistently excellent web compatibility. We're a small team of volunteers fighting to keep something alive, losing time and money rather than being paid. The energy we've spent trying to project a more polished image has mostly backfired and resulted in people holding us to unreasonable standards, essentially wasting a lot of energy and planning on our part to make things even harder on ourselves.

That is just my two cents as someone who has been watching this project for a couple of years now. It seems like we need more core development, more transparency, and less emphasis on image maintenance.
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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Pause » 2021-12-14, 18:32

I would have been very surprised if there had been a result meaning most users wanted another renamed Chrome-clone/Firefox, so am thankful that was not the case.

While I find myself disappointed that the amount wanting Old Firefox/Legacy extensions was so large, I can imagine that the main hope of many of those voters is that they'd still work without having to change anything, particularly given the low amount of paticipation in the extension ecosystem as you pointed out (thankfully it's not a complete lack at least).

I can't really say I paid much attention to Basilisk (other than the time I suggested the name for its unofficial branding :P - although I don't know if I was the first to do so at the time or if others had already suggested that as a name too), but I can understand where you're coming from with that and can agree that it does come across as an unnecessary burden given what you've said about the lack of core developers, the changes to come for Pale Moon, and Google's licensing and control issues.

I too agree that there must still be plenty of people genuinely interested in collaboration in the world, especially with one of the few true - and independently developed - alternatives to the mainstream browsers, but with the small user base it's probably a matter of (hopefully) catching their interest at some point in future (not that a small user base makes it impossible or less important in any way of course, but there's certainly less visibility to others as a result of that).

As for people feeling under-qualified to become extension developers, or even simply not wanting to take responsibility to share what works for them with others, I'd imagine - and this is purely speculation on my part, I have no idea if it's truly the case for anybody at all - that there may be the fear of it quickly escalating beyond their area of knowledge to diagnose, let alone fix any issues with, especially if it's a server-side issue.

Which as their area of knowledge may be minimal already, given how much more complicated the web gets over time could easily be worse, especially if it's caused in some way by the Google implementation-first spec method you already pointed out.

I can easily imagine the worry that potential extension developers could have that they'd let people relying on them down in that case. Another effect of having a small user base though I'd imagine.

But at the same time, perhaps without the explicit target - which it seemed some people felt personally attacked by in some way - people will be more willing to use the Old Firefox/Legacy extensions as a starting point that will progress to them becoming fully-involved extension developers over time, I guess we'll have to wait and see how people do actually react to it.

Thank You to everyone who contributes to Pale Moon in any way, whether that be developing the browser and/or underlying codebase, testing (and reporting any bugs with) it, providing support to users, making extensions for it, helping to fund it, spreading the word etc.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by inrobert » 2021-12-14, 19:33

I am glad that increasing web compatibility issues are going to be addressed. A typical user in general can adjust to many things, like interface changes, available extensions etc., but can't overcome improperly working websites.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Pentium4User » 2021-12-14, 19:36

inrobert wrote:
2021-12-14, 19:33
I am glad that increasing web compatibility issues are going to be addressed.
This is the reason why I chose web compatibility in the ballot.
I user-controllable and customizable browser like Pale Moon is only useful if it can be used for most web pages. If 50 % of pages aren't working, it can't be really used for everyday browsing.

I personally don't care about the old FF addons aren't compatible anymore with PM.
I still use a 64 bit capable Pentium 4 670 processor with Pale Moon.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by ron_1 » 2021-12-14, 20:10

MC, by GUID, you mean "Globally Unique Identifier"? "GUID" is very close to "GUI," so my heart stopped for a moment, thinking PM was going Australis.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Moonchild » 2021-12-14, 21:05

I mean the acronym I mentioned, not one that differs by one letter.
When I talk about NASA, I'm not talking about my NAS either.
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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Night Wing » 2021-12-14, 22:35

There is no perfect browser in my opinion. I'll explain.

I use 64 bit linux Pale Moon as my daily driver running in at this time, 64 bit linux Mint 20.2 (Uma) Xfce. I have two backup browsers which are 64 bit linux Firefox and 64 bit linux Waterfox.

Pale Moon has problems with YouTube so I use Firefox or Waterfox depending on what I want to do in YouTube. Firefox does fine when it comes to watching YouTube videos, but it has it's own problem with YouTube and this is explained below.

Sometimes I stay up for 24 hours straight so I get overtired. I can't get to sleep. I have quite a few YouTube videos which help put me to sleep and they are listed below.

Night Camp In Woods:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KFoj-SOfHs

Blood Moon Campfire:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DLBmTRLSiM

Both Firefox and Waterfox have no problems playing these two videos, but Firefox has an odd quirk to it on all of my four computers. I have all of my four computers set to sleep mode after 30 minutes.

With the above two videos, Firefox will put my monitor to sleep at the 28 minute mark. But at the 30 minute mark, Firefox will not put any of my hard drives on all four of my computers to sleep. The campfire sounds just keep going. But with Waterfox, all of my four computers hard drives go to sleep, no campfire sounds at the 30 minute mark. Just quiet.

Both Firefox 95.0 and Waterfox G4.0.4 also have this super skinny scroll bar on the the right side of any web page. So I have to go into "about:config" in each these two browsers and use the code below:

Code: Select all

widget.non-native-theme.scrollbar.size
The default setting for the scroll bar, for both browsers, is the number "12" on my computers so I have to change the number to "24" and save the number setting so I get a wider scroll bar which is easier to grab with my mouse.

So the above are examples why I use three browsers.
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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Likestofish » 2021-12-15, 00:07

If the survey results are the reality that has to be dealt with, then so be it. I remain grateful both for Pale Moon and the labours of its developers. And as far as web compatibility issues go, I've become accustomed to using some variant of a certain cancerous mutation when practically necessary. A little sad to see Basilisk go and it did fill some gaps by times, though I could never really quite warm up to it.

Thank-you for pressing on with the project.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by ron_1 » 2021-12-15, 00:37

Well I wasn't familiar with that acronym. Now I am.
.
Off-topic:
Moonchild wrote:
2021-12-14, 21:05
When I talk about NASA, I'm not talking about my NAS either.
Do you talk about NASA often? :)

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by RexyDallas » 2021-12-15, 01:16

I can say I have slightly modified two extensions to work, so I may be guilty of that, but I'd have to find out how I publish extensions, and be sure they are actually good enough to publish. One of them directs you to a long since dead webpage on startup, though, so that would have to go.

I feel the need to have at least a decent standard to upload it. I feel people would generally be unhappy if I uploaded a somewhat broken extension, or one which directs users to a long since dead webpage when you install it. I'd also have to try and figure out how to upload extensions. Uploading to AMO was quite straightforward and easy, but I can't really figure out how to upload them here.

The two extensions are Old Default Image Style, and View Image In New Tab. One was just putting the pale moon GUID in. The other, I had to change a single function. Both are minuscule extensions, small enough that I don't actually have to know how to make an extension to fix them. Old Default Image Style is slightly broken, though.

However, I can say I created the, "Reloaded", themes Moonfox3 and Aeromoon were based off of, so I at least didn't keep that to myself. Their continuation is less hackish than mine, though. :shh:

Thank you for all your hard work, though. I really do appreciate it! :mrgreen:

Also, would it be possible to put a label on extensions using FUEL, or would that require more effort than the notification is worth?

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Massacre » 2021-12-15, 05:25

Pale Moon is the best browser for running multiple tabs and using classic addons and plugins. Except for Google technologies (including Youtube for now), for which I recommend using a portable version of Chromium-based browser of your choice (I'm using Russian-repacked version of 360 Extreme Explorer 13 for now).

This recent "change in direction" is a good choice, because removing legacy support will only decrease the userbase, proven by Firefox. We definitely need the most compatible, stable and secure browser we can get, no matter if it cannot support yet all most recent Google additions to web technology.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by moonbat » 2021-12-15, 07:07

Moonchild wrote:
2021-12-14, 14:59
instead of its own
So it won't be the dual GUID system that was there earlier, and will exclusive extensions have to change to using the FF application ID?
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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by gepus » 2021-12-15, 08:37

Self-explanatory, dual.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by gepus » 2021-12-15, 08:54

Massacre wrote:
2021-12-15, 05:25
This recent "change in direction" is a good choice, because removing legacy support will only decrease the userbase, ...
Removing legacy support was never on the table!
However breaking some extensions without stringent need could have done more damage than benefit.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by Moonchild » 2021-12-15, 10:23

moonbat wrote:
2021-12-15, 07:07
Moonchild wrote:
2021-12-14, 14:59
instead of its own
So it won't be the dual GUID system that was there earlier, and will exclusive extensions have to change to using the FF application ID?
Indeed. However, since those have (presumably) maintainers, and the change will be mostly mechanical in nature (might even be done by us for those that are published on our add-ons site, at least for the transition of what's active when we make the change in the browser) and the number of add-ons affected is relatively small, I don't see that as a big problem, certainly not in comparison to the other way around which has clearly proven to not be "a thing". No more Pale Moon specific extensions in the future. It'll all be Firefox, and it does mean the waters will be muddied but got to do something when other efforts have failed.
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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by fifonik » 2021-12-15, 10:45

Wow. This is really impressive, but for me it is a bit too late. I left because of many extensions I used ro use stopped to work. I migrated most of them by myself (not published that because of really tricky rules), but not all. At the end I decided to migrate to another browser. Best wishes to PaleMoon.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by farneyman » 2021-12-15, 11:54

I'm not a coder, just an ordinary user, so being told simply: 'We broke all your extensions, so if that's a problem just write your own' was more than off-putting, that's the kind of arrogance I'd expect from Google, not people touting themselves as a 'community'.

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Re: A change of direction for Pale Moon in 2022

Unread post by sidology » 2021-12-15, 12:26

Any plans for going with version 28 under the hood? Is it even possible to identify to extensions as version 28, but to everything else as 29, 30, etc? That would surely "unbreak" even more extensions.

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