History of the Pale Moon project

1.5/2.0 era

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.

3.x era

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 had 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 systems used at the time. Later on, a portable version was also created to allow people to take Pale Moon with them on USB stick or removable drives.

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.

4-20 era

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 started falling terribly 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 and release of Pale Moon became fully independent and more specifically aimed at refining the engine and features and implementing additional, Pale Moon specific features. Pale Moon diverged from its sibling with each release into a separate, independent browser not longer necessarily tied to Firefox code development or release, although a close parallel was maintained for extension compatibility by rebasing Pale Moon code on top of later Firefox versions.

24-26 era

With the release of Firefox 24 (and Pale Moon of the same version), Pale Moon's already divergent development direction started to more clearly separate from Firefox than it had already done before, by focusing much more strongly on individual development of interface, features and back-end, while adopting continued security updates through Firefox's ESR channel. After a year of this development (and turbulent times for Firefox with the growing dislike for the decisions made about the browser by their development and management teams), the decision was made for Pale Moon to completely and decisively break the existing direct ties with Firefox (in the form of how it identifies itself) and be a completely independent force on the browser market.
With Pale Moon 25 and later this brought us a fully independent browser product on a sharply diverging path.
With the 26.0 milestone, we changed to our own layout and rendering engine called Goanna, which has been forked off from Gecko, debuting in the Pale Moon 26 milestone release after more than 6 months in pre-release development. It should be noted that this was merely the culmination of on-going changes to the Gecko-named engine previously and that it had already developed in its own direction for some time (the first real split-off point of note was, in fact, with 24.6)

Future directions

With our independence in Pale Moon 25 and later, the future of Pale Moon is continued support for the existing extension ecosystem, a focus on desktop use, improving standards compliance and maintaining (and possibly extending) the flexibility of the XUL framework used to build the browser on.

Pale Moon will also continue to support:
  • Binary components in extensions
  • XUL (overlay) extensions, including XPCOM/XBL
  • NPAPI plugins
  • Complete themes
  • Lightweight themes


Pale Moon will continue to use the well-known, fully customizable user interface, and will not be following Mozilla's (and alternative rebuilds') 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.

More information can be found on our future roadmap.

Bottom line

Pale Moon aims to remain what it is at its heart: a fully customizable web browser.
"Added tools" are nice, but may not be adopted in Pale Moon if they go beyond what should normally be part of a web browser for general use.

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