Pale Moon Survey 2017

In Feb/March 2017, we opened a usage survey for anyone to fill out, which was a public request to users, past and present alike, to indicate which parts of Pale Moon should have focus, and to decide in part on development direction. This was done in the spirit of "Your Browser, Your Way"™ -- you, the user, should have a say in what your browser will be shaped like!

This page provides an analysis of the results, and provides our (dev) response to some of the comments our survey respondents left.

Total survey validity

chartDespite clear indicators of what would be considered a valid survey response, no less than 8% of the respondents still saw it necessary to provide duplicate responses, use anonymizers, use throwaway e-mail addresses and other behavior that invalidated their response.

Sorry folks, but we've been very clear about this in the survey: any responses that were either clearly made to skew the result, troll the developers or otherwise can't be verified were removed from the survey. The results of those entries did not count, and comments attached to such responses have been discarded.

Operating system distribution

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Among our users responding to the survey, we've seen a very big percentage of people primarily using Linux. This may be a sign of the general shift in our population, or an indicator of more people starting to use Linux overall. At any rate, it will mean that we will most definitely provide ample focus on Linux-specific improvements going forward.

Primary browser distribution

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About 80% of the respondents use Pale Moon as their primary web browser to surf the web. The other 20% uses either a different browser or multiple (other) browsers to varying degrees. Of course it is fantastic to see so many users using Pale Moon as their main (or only) web browser of note.
Among our users responding to the survey, the main reasons for not using Pale Moon as their primary browser have been:
  1. Extension compatibility with Firefox extensions. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to provide exact compatibility with Firefox extensions because we are not Firefox. Because of our different application code, we are also not able to provide compatibility with WebExtensions at this time, because those use HTML for user interface elements instead of XUL. We are, however, working on providing an as broad as possible support for the three main extension formats in use: XUL, bootstrapped and SDK (in the form of PMkit); the technologies that Mozilla is going to completely abandon in November 2017 with Firefox 57.
  2. Website compatibility. As long as websites keep specifically checking for and catering to (specific versions of) only 3 or 4 "mainstream" browsers, you will always have some sites that will not cooperate with using an independent alternative. On the browser side, there is very little we can do to prevent this. As a user, however, you have the power to convince websites to give this attention by contacting webmasters of troublesome sites and making them aware of their restrictions.
  3. "Firefox is more secure". There is still a percentage of people that take arbitrary version numbers as a criterion at face value to determine what is, in their opinion, "outdated" or "insecure". Once more here the affirmation that Pale Moon is most definitely as secure, if not more so, than the current mainstream browsers. Our versioning is also independent of the versioning used by Mozilla. Security vulnerabilities that become known in the Mozilla platform code ar evaluated regularly and ported across if applicable.
  4. "Chrome is faster". This may be, depending on what you use to measure "speed"; in our experience though, there is no significant difference between any of the modern browsers when it comes to real-world speed. In fact, Pale Moon has regularly shown to perform very well in comparison on lower-end computers. Your Mileage May Vary in this respect.

Importance of browser technologies and components

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The main part of our survey consisted of a number of questions, asking our users to indicate to what level components and technologies are important to them in Pale Moon. This was scaled from 1 to 5, where 1 (dark blue) means "not important at all" and 5 (purple) means "this is essential".

Most of these graphs will speak for themselves, so they won't have any additonal comments and will just serve as a general guideline for development and what we'll give more priority.

graphWe will soon extend our already broad image format support with JPEG-XR (Extended Range JPEG), an ISO-standardized image format with JPEG-alike compression but support for more features like alpha transparency.
We already support WebP images (and have so for quite a long time).
This in addition to the standard image formats supported by the Mozilla platform: GIF, (A)PNG, ICO, BMP, JPG.

graphAs part of our work on the media back-end, we are giving audio formats plenty of attention. Our support for audio formats is already broad and should cover all commonly-used formats on the web.
Depending on adoption on the web, we may add more formats in the future seeing as this is considered an important feature.

graphVideo playback is one of our main development focus points at the moment. We are working on improving general parsing and handling of both normally-served and streamed video; be aware however that this is a complex task and a large amount of work and as such will take time - expect gradual improvements here, though!

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graphA slight surprise here, considering people regularly asked for ways to synchronize bookmarks and tabs in the survey comments. Pale Moon Sync is available exactly for that purpose!

At the same time, a lot of people found it not important at all to have, as the graph shows...

graphA very clear result: plugin support is considered essential by a vast majority of our users. It is still surprising that the mainstream browsers are insisting on removing support for plug-ins when there are so many uses for them, beyond Flash (the most well-known one): e.g. authentication plug-ins, control plug-ins for hardware, banking/card reader, etc.

Pale Moon as such will continue to support NPAPI plug-ins.

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chartPretty much a unanimous vote here (even among the 20% who don't use Pale Moon as their main browser) that extensions are essential to the browser. Totally expected, and maybe Mozilla can draw a lesson from this.

This also underwrites the need for what we've been working on to restore: as much compatibility with Jetpack-style extensions as possible through PMkit.

chartAnd last but not least in this section, as expected, people find the ability to use a gamepad to control/interface with the browser absolutely not useful or desired. As a result, we'll be removing this feature from Pale Moon.

Of note, it's decisions like these that lower our "score" in things like HTML5 tests. That doesn't mean we don't properly support the standard, but rather that "gadgeteer use" of the browser is kept under control. It's part of the standard, but it's not useful for our audience and eveything like this added to the browser makes the code more complex and potentially more vulnerable to attack. For example: CVE-2014-1543

What if: media sites use restrictive methods for media playback?

What if your favorite Media Streaming site would stop working completely with Pale Moon, because they require their preferred DRM to be baked into any browser?
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The message here is clear: users have no issue using a different browser to get their media just from that website (and probably would be just as happy with a desktop application specifically for the streaming site IF executed properly).
Of note: a good 1/3rd of our users would stop using the Media Streaming site altogether if it's not kept open/accessible. I hope site owners become aware of these numbers and act accordingly if they don't want to lose their customers.

What if: extensions start using incompatible technologies?

Your favorite browser extensions decide they are going to switch to a different technology not supported by Pale Moon. You have the choice to keep using an older version of the extension, or to switch browser. What do you do?
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This one speaks for itself, really. With a percentage of people willing to fork extensions (if allowed) and others clearly in favor of staying with Pale Moon despite the extension being unmaintianed or unsupported by its author, there's a good base to continue growing our Pale Moon extensions ecosystem. As such we'll make sure to make it easier for extension developers to distribute extensions compatible with us.

What if: web sites no longer work?

What if your favorite websites or social media sites completely stop working in Pale Moon, because the webmasters decide they want to use a very specific combination of (non-standard) features that are only supported by 2 or 3 browsers they specifically wrote for, instead of making their site broadly-accessible?
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No less than 30% would solidly choose to stop using the website and move to alternatives that provide similar features or content. So, webmasters, beware: making your site less accessible to an audience choosing a non-mainstram (one may say; non-commercial) web browser will make people leave for greener (more open) pastures! It's better to focus on being broadly accessible than having the latest "shiny features". Even among those that would stay loyal to the site or can't live without its functionality, people would rather use a dedicated browser for it than abandoning Pale Moon. A very positive approach from our users - thank you!
Of course we will continue to be reactive to demand and implement features as-needed, but since it relies very much on the involvement of community members (unfortunately only a very small percentage wants to get actually involved according to the survey) some of these may take a long time before they make it into the browser. Getting involved in our development is essential to make the browser work long-term for everyone.

Our audience

Since more than 95% of our respondents chose to tell us these optional things, we have some idea of our general browser audience, which, in short, amounts to experienced to very advanced computer users from all ages, but mainly over 20 (millennials seem to prefer different browsers), with a large percentage using the browser for a (very) large part of their day.

The charts with details:

Age:
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Experience level:
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Browser usage:
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Selected comment responses

All comments submitted (in valid responses) have been read and taken along in our evaluation of this survey. We thank everyone for taking the time to write down and submit their thoughts and comments; of course it's not possible to provide a response to all of them, but responding to a few comments and concerns here:
  • DRM: We're aware that in-browser DRM is being pushed pretty hard by several big players (who, not-so-coincidentally, are also involved in editing and publishing the very HTML specifications that make this possible in-browser) and our approach is that "black-box" DRM content decoding modules have no place in an Open Source browser. It is even debatable whether DRM actually does anything to combat what it is supposed to be designed for.
    In light of this, and also following the results from this survey, we remain firm in that, out of principle as well as our users' desire, we will keep the browser completely free of DRM. People who have commented that this approach was (one of) the main reason(s) to choose Pale Moon as their browser can rest easy in the knowledge that it will not find its way into this browser.
  • Extensions: We are working on making things as compatible as technically possible with Firefox extensions; the threshhold for extension developers to switch target application to Pale Moon should, at this point, be sufficiently low for any dev to start or continue to support us or for others to (license permitting) fork for us. We are also working on improving the Pale Moon add-ons site to become a more full-featured publishing platform for developers. All of this will be given shape as this year progresses, and we hope to be able to offer a comfortable environment for extension developers to continue their work in for Pale Moon in light of the demise of "legacy" extensions for Firefox.
    However, of note: we are not Firefox and our compatibility mode can only go so far. it will require some work to target Pale Moon. If you are a user looking for certain extensions, you should visit our add-ons site and see if anyone has made a Pale Moon specific version/fork. Most of the most popular extensions for Firefox have alternatives on our site.
  • Security, privacy, stability: These have always been and will always remain very important points for any incarnation of Pale Moon. We will continue to strive to be ahead of the curve in terms of security, and striking a sane balance as regards privacy vs. usability. Expect us to continue to evaluate and implement fixes for any known platform vulnerabilities that become known at Mozilla, as well as individually-reported Pale Moon specific issues. And above all, remember: while our version number may not be a runaway train, we are most definitely up-to-date and at least on-par with current "big" browsers in terms of keeping our users safe.

Once again, thank you all for your feedback!

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