Should You Use Firefox Forks?

Firefox Featured

Mozilla Firefox is an open source browser which allows anyone to modify the code to create a “fork” browser. Some of the popular forks include Waterfox, Comodo Ice Dragon, Pale Moon, Basilisk, Swiftfox, and TenFourFox. These forks, however, do not carry the seal of approval of Mozilla.

If your only purpose is ordinary web browsing, there is nothing wrong with these alternative browsers. After all, Chromium forks are extremely common, and Google Chrome itself is one among many “forks” based on the original Chromium Project. However, with Mozilla it is different. That is why you have to ask the following questions before proceeding with another browser inspired by Mozilla Firefox.

1. Does the Fork Support All Extensions?

Mozilla Firefox has a rather extensive library of extensions which are really useful and often not found on Chrome. One such example is “Bypass Paywalls for Firefox” which can bypass several news websites. After trying with Comodo IceDragon browser, I was able to install the precise extension and achieve the same objective – bypassing news websites. It also supports the adjunct extension “ublock” which helps override paywall access permissions.

Comodo Icedragon Extensions

Clearly, with Comodo IceDragon, almost all Firefox extensions enjoy support across the new browser. With a Firefox account, one can seamlessly transfer all their add-on information and privacy settings. It is also true for Waterfox, which imports the Firefox extensions without any difficulties.

Waterfox Importing From Firefox

2. Does the Fork Support Firefox Configuration Tricks?

New Boolean Icedragon About Config

Firefox allows cool configuration tricks, such as handling JavaScript pop-ups or opening a new tab for search box results. We checked some of these configuration tricks with IceDragon as well as WaterFox. In the following screen the extensions were checked for compatibility with browsers. The configuration was set up without any problems, and it is safe to assume that IceDragon and WaterFox are compatible with Firefox configuration tricks.

3. Does the Fork Support Mozilla Security Updates?


This is one of the drawbacks of the fork browsers. Mozilla periodically introduces security updates and patches in Firefox. These are useful in preventing denial of service attacks, spoofing, and discouraging websites which track your browsing. While the forks support many of the older security features common to Mozilla Firefox, they cannot always keep with updates. Mozilla’s security updates are timely, and the forks might lag behind a bit. But they have their own security updates which may or may not be based on Mozilla Firefox.

4. Does the Fork Support Mozilla’s Privacy Measures?

Firefox WebRTC

Some privacy measures of Mozilla Firefox include preventing WebRTC attacks, disabling WebGL, allowing NoScript and self-destructing cookies. The commands and techniques work just as easily with forks including IceDragon, Waterfox and TenFourFox. You can enable almost the same degree of privacy controls with the forks as with Mozilla Quantum.

5. How Stable Are the Forks?


Some of the complaints about Mozilla Firefox were the frequent crashes and the browsers hanging up quickly. Luckily, with Quantum, many of those problems have indeed become a thing of the past. Comodo IceDragon and WaterFox are extremely stable browsers which are no more likely to crash than other browsers. Their recent versions import some of the scripts from Quantum which render greater stability and clear page downloads.

In Summary

We saw that at least a few forks which are based on Mozilla Firefox are really good browsers. Comodo IceDragon and Waterfox can be safely used as alternatives to Firefox. The only drawback is that you have to wait for the security update which may be delayed compared to regular Mozilla updates.

At the same time, a few forks, including Pale Moon and Basilisk, are somewhat outdated versions of Firefox and do not give the same results.

Are you using any of these alternative browsers, and do they satisfy you? Please let us know in the comments.

Sayak Boral
Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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