The Pale Moon Project - Custom-built and optimized Firefox browsers for Windows Operating Systems

History of the Pale Moon project

This project started off as merely fiddling with the build process on Windows, seeing first off if I could manage to make my own Windows build of the Firefox browser and then seeing how my own builds compared to official ones. Finding the difference significant, the resulting browsers (simply "my own Firefox builds") were given to a number of friends to use, with very positive results.
This was back in the time when Firefox was still in its 1.5.x stage.

I have since built Firefox, Thunderbird and Seamonkey specifically for different systems, gaining experience, learning the quirks and following code development. Eventually, with Firefox 3.5.2, I settled on what I found was an optimal compromise between speed, features and useability of the browser. At that point in time, the Pale Moon project was given shape, releasing the highly optimized browser to the public from Oct 4th, 2009.

Since its release, it has become rather popular, with no less than 15,000 visits to the home page just in the first month of release. With many downloads from a wide range of locations, not all of them monitored or counted, it is anyone's guess how many people are actually using it, but it has surpassed anything that was initially expected.

Feedback has been positive, and as a result of several requests from people, a second build version was created of Pale Moon, to cater specifically to the capabilities of Athlon XP and Athlon MP processors, still extremely popular processors for currently used systems. Later on, a portable version was also created to allow people to take Pale Moon with them on USB stick, removable drives, or to simply have a self-contained environment for the browser.

As the source code developed, so did Pale Moon, and a few major changes have been made with the transition from 3.5 to 3.6 versions, and later on to separate Pale Moon installations from Firefox ones. Always attempting to strike a balance, some minor features were removed, and later added again; feedback from the users has always been taken into account, and the development of Pale Moon has therefore been given shape, in part, by its users.

When version 4.0 of the Firefox code arrived, after extensive betas, Pale Moon deviated further from its sibling by also making changes to the standard UI (User Interface) layout. UI design choices made to "innovate" the user interface, removing quite essential user feedback and changing the layout of navigation controls were considered to be poor choices, and have been altered to provide a more familiar, and also more intuitive, interface to the browser.
At this point it was also decided to keep developing the 3.6.x branch separately, while version 4 and later became the "next generation" branch.

An accelerated major version release scheme was started on in early 2011, with ambitious plans by Mozilla to make faster changes to Firefox. When version 5.0 arrived, though, it turned out to be a release that could just as well have been numbered 4.1 or similar, as there was surprisingly little that had changed, apart from correcting some mistakes made in the implementation of 4.0. 5.0 can therefore best be considered a "bugfix release" of 4.0, and not really a new product.
Version 6.0 saw a similarly small amount of changes and both 5.0 and 6.0 have been considered to be a continuation of the "next generation" branch of the Firefox product started with version 4.0. As such, 4.0 and 5.0 were discontinued for Pale Moon. This trend was continued for later versions.

In Oct 2011 a new milestone was reached with Pale Moon 7: better resource use, faster code, and maturation of the code base to a level where 3.x now became depreciated in favor of this version - still, the old branch continued to be supported and developed because there was still a clear need for it, and remained the browser of choice for "special needs" environments.

From this point on, development on the Next Generation (versions 4 and up) branch continued, following Mozilla Firefox for most major releases, while the 3.6.x (Legacy) branch continued to see patches for bugfixes, security issues and some performance improvements, including continued support beyond Mozilla's EOL (End Of Life) date for the 3.x branch. Inevitably, though, the older engine stopped falling short of its intended purpose, and as more and more sites became problematic, the legacy branch was discontinued in the summer of 2012.

April 2012 saw another milestone with the release of version 12, at which point the release schedule stopped following Mozilla's rapid release schedule of Firefox. From this point on, development of Pale Moon became fully independent and more specifically aimed at refining the engine and features and implementing additional, Pale Moon specific features. From this point forward, Pale Moon diverged from its sibling with each release into a separate, independent browser not longer necessarily tied to Firefox code development, although a close parallel was maintained for extension compatibility.

Future directions

The outline Mozilla has sketched seems to be to make Firefox more than a browser, and to spread thin across different disciplines and platforms in an attempt to make a web-OS or swiss army knife out of it. These plans may look nice on paper, but would most likely see a vast amount of practical issues when trying to implement them – on top of requiring users and add-on developers to change their way of working every six weeks or so with the current plans. With the rapid release of 6 weeks, this means even less support for "release channel" browsers that are practically abandoned the moment they are published in favor of the next one in the mill. This approach seems to favor a slightly faster release of new features but any major bugfixes have to also get "in the back of the queue" and won't see rapid implementation. This is not an approach Pale Moon intends to follow.
In addition, Mozilla touting minor bugfix releases of Firefox as "major" releases (for the inherent buzz as many review sites feel compelled to write an article with each major version release) and constant changes in the browser (best left to beta channels) being forced upon everyone has clearly led to "user fatigue" and even more so "developer fatigue" where both users and extension developers get tired of constantly having to change way of working and coding, respectively.

Australis

Pale Moon will continue to use the well-known fully customizable user interface, and will not be following Mozilla's move to the "Australis" user interface (by a number of people dubbed "FireChrome" because of its likeness with Google's Chrome browser interface) introduced in Firefox 29.
Instead, the current plan for Pale Moon is to stick to a stable, solid, and easily maintainable base code of Firefox 24 ESR (with a number of reverted changes to keep maximum configurability as well as important updates ported back from later Firefox versions) and to maintain this code base for as long as it is feasible. If a later version of the code base will eventually be switched to, it will only be done on the premise that current configurability and customization capability is retained.

Bottom line

Pale Moon aims to remain what it is: a fully customizable web browser.
"Added tools" are nice, but may be removed or disabled by default in Pale Moon if they go beyond what should normally be part of a web browser for general use.

[<-back]
Firefox, Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla are registered trademarks of the Mozilla Corporation.
Site and contents © 2009-2014 Moonchild Productions - All rights reserved
Pale Moon's distribution is subject to the following redistribution policy