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Pale Moon: plans for 2017 and beyond announced

The lead developer of the Pale Moon web browser outlined a development plan today for the web browser for 2017 and beyond.

Pale Moon shares a lot of code with the Firefox web browser. As such, it is affected by Mozilla’s decision to cut classic components such as XUL or XPCOM from the Firefox web browser, and replace those with technologies such as WebExtensions or Quantum parts.

We have talked about the consequences of Mozilla’s decision already: classic add-ons will stop working when the switch is made, and that is probably the biggest impact for users of the web browser.

Developers who produce browsers that share code with Firefox, Pale Moon, Waterfox, Seamonkey, and also other programs such as the email client Thunderbird, face even tougher challenges.

While they might make the decision to simply use the new code that Mozilla puts out, it means that features will be deprecated in the programs as well.

Pale Moon 2017 and beyond

The Pale Moon team made the decision to avoid this route, and keep on supporting the classic Mozilla platform.

The team plans to create a fork of the Mozilla platform before Mozilla cuts the ties to XUL and other technologies completely with the release of Firefox 57. Since Mozilla will cut out some features early, plans are underway to create the fork at the right point in time; this means that the team needs to find one of the last versions that still supports the old platform to gain the most out of the fork.

Pale Moon’s lead developer notes that this fork will be open to anyone. He plans to build a Firefox-based browser from the code and publish it.

Long-term, it will be a different story for any XUL application (not just Pale Moon). Looking over our options, we’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to maintain a XUL-based browser in 2018 and beyond will be to create a separate (hard) fork of the Mozilla platform code close to the intended change-over — but not too close since there will be a gradual deprecation of features preparing for the main change — without Rust, Quantum or the new front-end, and keep aligning that with developments in scripting and rendering as an independent-from-Mozilla platform solution.

The platform itself will be open to other applications, including Pale Moon. Pale Moon won’t be switched over right away, but it could be switched over eventually. It is too early to tell if any of the existing Mozilla platform programs will use that platform eventually; seems unlikely at this point in time. It is open to new applications as well however, so that is definitely an option.

Cooperation talks with other application developers, Waterfox and SeaMonkey were named specifically, were not successful. A cooperation would have put more development resources behind the project.

As it stands right now, only the Pale Moon team will work on the fork unless another organization or team starts a similar project earlier, or joins the team after all.

So, this is where we will put in our long-term effort later this year: building a solid, maintainable platform that can serve as a base for a XUL-Firefox derivative, and potentially Pale Moon’s application code as well, depending on how things develop on the ‘net. It will be a challenge. It will be difficult, but rewarding; it will build something that can offer a future to several applications that are now in peril (even things like a XUL-based WYSIWYG editor, for example).

Most of all, it will be a lot of work – and I do hope that people will continue to help out and chime in with development to make this parallel development of the platform and browser feasible without burning our current developers out.

Closing Words

This is a massive undertaking for the team, and it will be time consuming and difficult to work on Pale Moon and the Mozilla platform fork at the same time.

It is too early to tell whether this will work out well in the long run or not. If it does, it could become the new home for Firefox users who are disillusioned by Mozilla’s current strategy for one reason or the other.

Anyway, I wish the team best of luck. If you are a developer and interested in joining the team, head over the Pale Moon site to do so.

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