Cyberfox Post-52 ESR... Some suggestions.

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Shadow Warrior
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Cyberfox Post-52 ESR... Some suggestions.

Post by Shadow Warrior » Sun May 13, 2018 4:59 am

Dear Toady, dear Cyberfox community,

we all have heard of the news that a great Gecko-based browser are coming to an end... I talk of Cyberfox, one of the most customizable browsers ever. This development of events deeply saddens me, especially since health issues on Toady's part appear to be a the reason for its demise. I really hope that we will see its return, and I have some suggestions to make in case of this still being on the table.

There can be no doubt when it comes to Cyberfox's current status: It is secure, but can't stay as it is today. It is falling behind in terms of web standard support, and Firefox 52 ESR only has so long to go (EOL: September 2018).

There are to viable ways to go forward which immediately present themselves, and I am going to elaborate on both of them hoping that a decision (should it still be on the table) is well-thought out and balanced.

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(I) A few days ago Mozilla has published Firefox 60 ESR. If Toady decides to use it as a base, he could keep Cyberfox in low maintenance mode after initially putting in some effort to keep all the features going in Firefox 60 ESR. As you all know, Mozilla has removed the ability to run legacy add-ons as of Firefox 57 (which in turn affects Firefox 60 ESR), so embedding CyberCTR as is the method today is completely out. Luckily though, Aris (developer of CTR) has created a GitHub repository that contains the CSS code and is updated to work with newer Firefox releases:

https://github.com/Aris-t2/CustomCSSforFx

This issue has been opened, concerning Cyberfox:

https://github.com/Aris-t2/CustomCSSforFx/issues/116

Therin Aris has stated that it would be possible to add his CSS code to the internal browser.css:
This is definitively possible. Everything called from userChrome.css could just be added to the internal browser.css for example. One problem would remain though: the ability to customize all available features. Meaning someone would have to decide what gets hardcoded into the project. Setting where you want your tabs or whether you like default tabs or classic squared tab would not be possible, if Cyberfox does not add own settings for stuff like that.
I assume that he means to say that we have to set up some checkboxes on the Customize mode, which are then checked to enable the options.

I don't know how workable this would be and would like to hear Toady's response to that. If it can be done, Firefox 60 ESR would present us with the following advantages:

1) Huge initial leap when it comes to web standard support. Another huge leap is to be expected whenever a new ESR comes out.
2) Low maintenance burden after the initial implementation of all Cyberfox features is done. Only small security fixes being easily applied.
3) Great add-on database to choose from, big Firefox support community working in our favor.

The following disadvantages work against it:

1) Mozilla is unpredictable when it comes to user-hostile stuff as of late. I don't know who would like to have Activity Stream, Shield studies, FF experiments, sponsored tiles etc. in the browser. All this on top of the Pocket and telemetry stuff that has been present since forever. Expect the annoyances to grow in future releases, both in number and code complexity (baked deeper into Firefox). Frankly, it's a pain in the ass to remove it all.
2) userChrome.css and interface customization via CSS might be on the chopping block, rendering Firefox unfit for our purpose at some point:

https://www.reddit.com/r/firefox/commen ... chromecss/

(II) The second great option I'd to present here is Basilisk:

https://www.basilisk-browser.org/

Basilisk is a Austrlis-style Gecko-based browser developed by the team behind Pale Moon. It is a close twin to Firefox 52 ESR, that is the current base of Cyberfox, and has been created with the goal in mind to keep legacy add-ons going, as well as being a private browser respecting user privacy.

Basilisk would present us with the following advantages:

1) CyberCTR could be kept as is, in its embedded form. The official CTR has received updates which support Basilisk. Other Cyberfox features could be kept, possibly without the need to even modify them.
2) It is telemetry-free, Pocket-free etc., user privacy is a central focus of the team. The plain contrary of today's Firefox, which sadly gets developed into the opposite direction.
3) Low maintenance due to its slower release schedule and relatively stable codebase (in terms of major rewrites).
4) CSS modifications will be kept for sure.

The following disadvantages need to be kept in mind:

1) Its adoption of web standards is slower than in Mozilla's case, but the overall state of things is still solid.
2) Far fewer add-ons, smaller support base.

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I am a bit torn between the two options. On the one hand, the add-on support, support base, development leaps of Firefox are superb. But it doesn't have a focus on privacy (anymore) and without CSS modifications, it might spell the death sentence to Cyberfox. Without CTR customization options, it would end up like Waterfox - needless to say, there is already Waterfox and nobdody really needs a Waterfox 2. Don't get me wrong, Waterfox is perfectly fine, I am just saying that there is no need to needlessly replicate it.
Basilisk on the other hand has far fewer add-ons, and a smaller support community. On the other hand, its focus on privacy is appealing. It won't destroy CSS modifications. It adopts web standards slower (due to its smaller development team), and might face difficulties as the Mozilla base is developed in another direction. It is and will remain fit for our purpose though, which is to create and keep a heavily customizable Firefox fork.

I hope you find my thoughts and suggestions useful. I would like to hear Toady's opinion on them for sure. I hope he continues the Cyberfox project in spite of all odds, but I wish him all the best and hope he keeps himself healthy throughout his way.

Shadow Warrior

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