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So seems that I am a creator… about open source. I have a podcast in Italian about that topic every week and a free ebook that you can download here.
I asked suggestion on my channels about what to write, and I got a request about the various Firefox forks. The real issue to me is that I never used them (except Iceweasel on Debian when there was the trademark issue) so I don’t have experience with those. After thinking a bit I said, well this doesn’t mean that I cannot talk about them.
I wrote years ago an explanation about the DRM process how works also if I wasn’t using anything with DRM at the time…
Also I tried to compile Firefox (qt) 9 like a decade ago!
This was a very license oriented fork, I mean this started because of the procedure of packaging in Debian.
Basically on Debian every package is not released as it is but often gets patches to fix bugs also just to get compiled and working on Debian itself.
At the same time, for the Debian guidelines, the whole project need to align to specific requirements included the logo. In Firefox case this is a trademark and the Mozilla license doesn’t allow changing the software and redistribute with the same name?logo. This was helpful against trolls and also people that were repacking Firefox with a different installer (with ads, for example).
So Debian created a different logo and changed the name to comply with the guidelines, but years ago this was resolved with an agreement with Debian and now there is only one Firefox!
It is a fork focused on privacy. Basically they removed all the third party services like Pocket, telemetry and profiler with support for unsigned extensions enabled by default. This allows to install extension from Chrome and Opera web store other than just Firefox.
There is also a classic version that still enables to use the old extensions pre-quantum, but uses an old Gecko version.
At the same time as Firefox gets a lot of changes, there are unpatched security bugs…
Anyway I think that now this can ignore because started to get more privacy, but few things are changed like the native Third Party protection in Firefox and is possible to disable the telemetry and those external services inside about:config.
I think that this one is the most famous.
It is more advanced to include a Gecko fork that let to use the old extensions pre-quantum and still uses the old aurora UI (that was more customizable) without telemetry. Still supports also Flash player and the plugins that were used at the time.
It is a full fork of Firefox with a lot of changes during the years, but the only reason I can use is that don’t use the Google API for geolocation (but if you don’t use geolocation on desktop is something that you can ignore).
As the previous fork suffer from the same security issues. With Firefox that get a new release very 1.5 month, it is difficult for a fork to keep up with the latest changes included security stuff. Also, this fork seems that doesn’t integrate the new features that are part of Firefox.
This one instead started as a ESR bundle with extension to arrive at a fork with more privacy features. I remember talking with contributors on these projects that it was difficult to keep up with Firefox changes, but they were using ESR, so it was more simple. At the same time, they contributed back to Firefox about anti fingerprinting and other things in a way that they were integrated in Firefox for everyone.
I think that is a good way, not just disable features and still keep old features not supported anymore but also improve Firefox itself.
Maybe this unknown, but it is a single person job. A Firefox version that still works on old OSX PowerPC, but recently there were an update about the slowdown. Can you guess why, too many Firefox releases and maybe also that there aren’t so many computers with that architecture around.
I know about it because it is in the Planet Mozilla every update.
This one is pretty new, but you can understand already what is the purpose. No telemetry, different search engine as default and with some privacy extensions already installed.
Reading the website it is easy to understand that they changed also some configuration by default.
The real question is “It is worth it to use a Firefox’s fork?”
Depends on what are your priorities.
- If it is to get by default different configurations, you can easily achieve with your custom user.js file
- If it is to use old extensions that still don’t have a replacement, let’s see if it is really true (too many years from this change)
- To use an old theme it is possible to do it with userChrome.css
- If it is to complain with Mozilla about their decisions, let’s talk
PS: Use Firefox Nightly with telemetry turned on also on your Android and contribute to Firefox just using it.