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Pale Moon Devs Ponder Dropping Current Codebase And Starting From Scratch (softpedia.com) 167

An anonymous reader writes: The developers of the Palo Moon browser are thinking of scratching their current codebase due to the fact that it doesn't support many of today's current Web standards, and because future Firefox plans will introduce incompatibilities within its codebase. The team plans to build a new browser from scratch, which they'll use to replace Pale Moon when it reaches a stable version. As with the old Pale Moon, the browser will keep Firefox's pre-Australis interface and still support many features removed in Firefox, like Tab Groups and full themes.
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Pale Moon Devs Ponder Dropping Current Codebase And Starting From Scratch

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cuz that's a damn crazy undertaking

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ""This re-forking would be done on the last stable version of Mozilla code that hasn't had a sledgehammer put to it yet"

    And that would be . . . Firefox 24 ESR, the version that Palemoon is based on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    sounds familiar
    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000069.html

    who needs another browser anyway?

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday March 20, 2016 @07:37AM (#51736225)

      sounds familiar
      http://www.joelonsoftware.com/... [joelonsoftware.com]

      who needs another browser anyway?

      Just to be clear... this is not Pale Moon writing their own web browser. This is Pale Moon reforking from a newer Firefox branch and reimplementing the features that distinguishes them from Firefox. So, the article and summary says "from scratch", which is misleading because it's not "from scratch" as most people understand the term (writing a new browser yourself from the ground up), it's modifying the newly branched Firefox code, adding their own new features or stripping out crap from Firefox. It's the Pale Moon features only that would have to be rewritten "from scratch".

      Joel's advice doesn't account for this scenario, in which you're building new code on top of an existing forked codebase that is lagging behind modern web standards. There are only two choices: Moon Child can try to integrate massive amounts of Mozilla developer changes back into an older fork (impossible, really), or he can refork and redo his own changes. Given that undoubtedly Firefox's changes have been far more numerous and substantial, it probably makes sense to re-fork and rewrite the Pale Moon code.

      Honestly, I'm not sure how this is really sustainable, as the same thing is bound to happen again in the future. And I've never figured out how anyone can be assured that Pale Moon is at all secure, either. I have a sneaking suspicion it's "secure" in the same way Macs (and Linux, actually) used to be secure - too small a target for anyone to bother with. I mean, I love the guts of these guys trying this, but... well, I wish them the best.

      I also really hate whenever someone trots out this article of Joel's and presents it as gospel, because while it's a good rule of thumb, it's foolish to view any particular development rule as 100% inviolable. I've personally been involved in several highly successful near or partial complete rewrites of very large codebases. I'd say it's certainly a good default position to take - you'd need to convince me before tossing code and starting over. But there are times when doing so would actually be more damaging and end up compromising your new design too much in order to maintain compatibility. Often, it's far better to simply put in a compatibility shim, leave the old code behind, and build a new module next to it, switching over when backward compatibility is needed and slowly depreciating required dependencies.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I actually read the article. I know it's bad form but I was bored. I already knew Pale Moon was the work of a single developer, so he/she couldn't seriously be thinking of starting from scratch. It turns out that he/she/they are just going to re-fork Firefox from a new version of the code base.

    • Maintaining EOLed technology as complex as a browser is a big ask, when the Web itself evolves rapidly. Interesting to know the fate of the project if Mozilla divests itself entirely of Gecko, XUL and related technologies as early as 2018.

      Buy a book on Rust and send your CV into the Servo team... Or become just another Chromium fork.

  • Actually I like the whole idea of diversity -- especially if it includes the ability to opt in where I want and opt out of any standardized way of tracking me. I'm going to take another look at pale moon now. I hope they follow through with what they are thinking. Anything but more Google/Microsoft/Safari consumerism.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @10:36PM (#51734871) Journal

    To see what Firefox has became from what it was 10 years ago

    • by NormHome ( 99305 )

      Yeah, it really is!

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Someone need to repeat Phoenix with a brand new web browser!

      • I think the codebase was just not flexible. A LNG time ago I had lunch with one of the engineers at Netscape with the Linux users of New York. IE just was accelerating faster than they could keep up as more bugs kept hitting the rendering engine as features were added. IE 6 being better and less buggy should say alot right there??

        A little late now as WebKit is accelerating

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Look how many years late they are with the Electrolysis project, which sums them up: they've been doing fluff instead of serious features. I switched to Chrome three or four years ago because I got so fedup with their memory leaks and poor performance. Now that I've used a browser where I can figure which tab is draining my battery or using all my memory, I won't switch back until Electrolysis is deployed. And then there are the security benefits.

      Before the Firefox fork, the Netscapd and Seamonkey people

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Well, it nicely shows that FOSS projects can be ruined by bad management and stupid "leaders" just as much as any commercial software project. I do not know what exactly went wrong at Mozilla, but they must have used really large buckets to carry the stupid in.

      • What went wrong is constant churn in mission:

        i) Create an open source platform for a commercial browser (Netscape) to sit on top off.
        ii) Create an alternative browser so that Microsoft won't be able to squeeze out AOL.
        iii) Create a lightweight version of the open source platform totally useless as a platform for commercial netscape.
        iv) Create a browser that people like that enforces web standards allowing for web applications and thereby replacing Microsoft IE. Oh and make Google the default search eng

  • Not from scratch (Score:5, Informative)

    by PineHall ( 206441 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @10:45PM (#51734895)

    Moonchild's proposal involves creating a new browser from scratch, in a so-called "re-forking" operation, where the Pale Moon devs take a newer version of Firefox and rebuild Pale Moon on top of that.

    They are not building it from scratch. They will use a newer version of Firefox as a starting point. It is "re-forking". It is likely they will not use the latest version since they want to keep tab groups. Though it will be new code when compared to the old Palemoon.

    • Re:Not from scratch (Score:4, Interesting)

      by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @11:02PM (#51734953)

      This is basically what Debian does with Iceweasel (and Icedove). They pick a version of Firefox for the stable release (38 at the moment) and then just backport security fixes for it. For people that are just looking for a browser that doesn't change out from under them every time they start it, Iceweasel from debian stable is excellent.

    • Wasn't the functionality of "tab groups" moved to an extension?

      Look, clearly I've never used the feature, but what is the main objection to using the extension and pouring resources into that codebase rather than maintaining it as part of the core browser?

      Surely maintaining less code in the core browser is a good thing, if the modular replacement does the job and is supported adequately by an extension writer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    if Firefox didn't keep constantly breaking extensions, removing useful features, and generally pissing off users.

  • I hope the "scratch" version will support all of the add-ons that the current version supports.
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Saturday March 19, 2016 @11:46PM (#51735101)

    Netscape 4 sucks, so lets throw it out and start again. Back when Spolsky could write he bitched about this [joelonsoftware.com].

    Mozilla seamonkey sucks, so lets gut most of it and make Phoenix (now known as Firefox)

    And now this again?

    • Well MS is getting rid of IE in favor of Edge. Mozilla is creating a new browser after realizing how supperior webkit is for threading and process isolation and app integration compared to Gecko.

      Oddly Chrome will then have the most legacy and older code

    • And yet, the alternative would be to use the same thing forever. Was it a mistake for Netscape at that time? Arguably. Does that example apply to open source? Probably not, open source often doesn't (can't) "go out of business" the way a company like Netscape can.

      Any time there are 2 software products that solve the same type of problem, one of them could have just not been written because there was already something else. Is writing something new any different than re-writing something from scratch? Not if

      • The key difference is that in each of the examples where it worked, it was a different team doing the rewrite (and in the case of Phoenix, it wasn't really a rewrite, it was a code cleanup).

        The guys at Mozilla have been making lousy decisions for a while now, if they decided to rewrite, do you really think the result would be an improvement, or do you think they would just make the same mistakes?
        • Well, anybody that engages in as much feature thrash as those guys, no. I think they would make worse mistakes the second time, but clean them up faster. It would come out exactly the same, because they're engaging in so much feature thrash that they are rewriting the whole thing continuously.

          • I think that's a big part of the problem with doing a big rewrite: people who wrote lousy code will write lousy code. For most people, it's better off to learn how to fix things than to try to rewrite it perfectly from scratch.

            Imagine if firefox had been constantly focused on improving quality all this time. Right now they would have one amazing browser.
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        And yet, the alternative would be to use the same thing forever. Was it a mistake for Netscape at that time? Arguably. Does that example apply to open source? Probably not, open source often doesn't (can't) "go out of business" the way a company like Netscape can. Any time there are 2 software products that solve the same type of problem, one of them could have just not been written because there was already something else. Is writing something new any different than re-writing something from scratch? Not if it is open source and you don't really care about user numbers.

        The difference is natural and forced adoption. If you create something new, you don't have existing users and people would have to start using it because they find the pros outweigh the cons. If you see a massive voluntary migration it's pretty obvious you're doing something right. When you rewrite something you have existing users and features that used to work and when things stop working we call those regressions. Most are unintentional side effects that developers agree are bugs and should be fixed.

        Rewr

        • I don't care about users, most of the software I use is written so that I can use it, and the software I use wasn't written to maximize users. Proprietary software has more users, for example, and that was never a problem. Software I use is written so that I can use it, not so that I must.

          You just hand-wave and claim that "functionality" is improved by never throwing anything away. I disagree, and I challenge that that is some sort of given. I also challenge the absurd idea that somehow people who want high

    • Netscape 4 sucks, so lets throw it out and start again. Back when Spolsky could write he bitched about this [joelonsoftware.com].

      Mozilla seamonkey sucks, so lets gut most of it and make Phoenix (now known as Firefox)

      And now this again?

      Seamonkey's actually pretty decent. It's lighterweight than Firefox (!!!) and comes with tons more features and custimizability. The only thing you lose is the newer stuff like Pocket or the chatting service, and you have an older interface pre-Auralis (though I daresay many consider these features). The real loss is fewer extensions are compatible, but a decent selection of Firefox ones still are, and there's even a converter that can get solid results. I don't know if you'll like it, but I'd reccommend to

    • SeaMonkey doesn't suck! Others and I till use the suite bundled versions. Also, its GUI hasn't changed much for decades unlike Firefox's.

      • "seamonkey sucks" at the time of the split. I haven't used seamonkey since early Phoenix days. It may have shaken out a lot.

        The point is not whether i think it sucks, but whether the devs decided "screw it lets just restart everything" and rewrite basic code. again. for the third time.

    • by Rexdude ( 747457 )

      Mozilla seamonkey sucks, so lets gut most of it and make Phoenix (now known as Firefox)

      You've got that wrong. Seamonkey is the successor to the Mozilla suite (which was the successor to the Netscape Communicator suite), and it had browser + mail/news client + HTML editor and a bunch of other stuff. Firefox is the successor to just the browser component.

      Plus they haven't gutted anything. They chose to stick with the v 24 codebase and forked it from there because of how Firefox is slowly morphing into a pale

  • There is the issue of security too. One security question is whether it have "Slaughterhouse" (see https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/s... [mozilla.org] and http://bholley.net/blog/2016/t... [bholley.net]). This is not the only incident where Mozilla people have suggested hiding bugs until an old ESR goes end of life BTW.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      After reading that, I'm downright horrified. That further supports the common argument that responsible disclosure without a mandatory end date is irresponsible. If these people found those holes in Firefox, odds are pretty good that other people did, too, and that those people didn't have our best interests at heart.

      At least in my mind, it's really simple. If you agree to maintain something, you should maintain it. If you aren't going to maintain it, don't promise to maintain it. You may choose one o

  • Please provide the option to offer not just white background pages (the glare limits my browsing/web surfing in subdued ambient light conditions). I do not need the baggage of a "theme"; that would be excessive; just a light shade of gray would provide soothing comfort after long work hours in userspace. Opera has this out of the box fer chrissake, YOU ARE PALE MOON and white was the color the astronauts wore on the lunar surface, which had if I recall correctly from those photos some other color but definitely was not white at all.

  • I really hope they do this and are successful.

    If they get enough traction soon enough and have a strong enough core team, maybe they can pick up a few Mozilla devs when FF crashes and burns. The existing team will need to reign in the new Mozilla devs and totally squash that fucking "we know better than the users" craptitude that sent FF swirling down the drain - hence the need for a strong, established core of Pale Moon devs to establish, protect, and enforce the 'user requirements first' culture.

  • What a *(&)&*( &*( ( non story. The 7 people who use this browser don't even care.

  • I’ve tried to start codebases from scratch a few times myself. The same thing happened that happened with Gecko. I was not able to find a truly elegant solution that accounted for all of the requirements up front, so although I solved one set of problems better, all the later hacks I had to do to fix all of the oversights made the new codebase almost as crufty as the old one. All I really accomplished was to waste a bunch of time developing a new codebase with a whole new set of bugs to fix.

    On the

  • Remember when Netscape did this?

    The decision was one of the major reasons for the death of the Netscape browser. It was a terrible idea and led to Netscape (the leading browser at the time) disappearing from the market for all intents and purposes. The browser (and the company) sank like a stone, never to be a dominant player in that space again. Or ANY space as far as I can tell.

    Years later (during the Netscape post-mortem) everyone agreed that "redoing the codebase from scratch" had been a stupid and horr

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