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6 Alternative Browsers Based on Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is an open-source web browser, so anyone can take its source code and modify it. Various projects have taken Firefox and released their own versions, either to optimize it, add new features, or align it with their philosophy.

These projects all have to release the source code to their browsers and can’t call them Firefox or use official Mozilla branding, such as the Firefox logo.

Waterfox

Mozilla doesn’t provide official builds of Firefox compiled for 64-bit systems yet. Waterfox takes Firefox’s code and compiles it for 64-bit Windows, without adding additional features or making other changes. Many plugins, including Adobe Flash, now have 64-bit versions, so using a 64-bit browser for day-to-day browsing is very possible. If you’ve already got Flash installed, you may need to download its installer to get the 64-bit version, too. The current installers come with both 32 and 64-bit plugins.

Waterfox uses the same profile data Firefox does, so switching to Waterfox is easy. If you decide to uninstall it, don’t select the “Remove my personal data” option unless you also want to delete your Firefox data.

Pale Moon

Pale Moon is another “optimized” build of Firefox for Windows, but it also has a 32-bit version. Pale Moon diverges from Firefox in removing accessibility and parental control options, while modifying the default interface settings to be similar to earlier versions of Firefox — it has a bookmark toolbar and status bar by default. It also uses its own configuration directory, unlike Waterfox.

SeaMonkey

SeaMonkey isn’t technically based on Firefox, but it’s closely related. Firefox was the evolution of the “Mozilla Application Suite,” which also contained email, IRC chat, HTML-editing, and newsgroup capabilities. These features were ripped out of Firefox to make it a more focused, speedy Web browser. If you long for the days of Mozilla, you can use SeaMonkey, the successor to the full Mozilla suite. It’s also got an integrated feed reader.

Iceweasel

If you’re using Debian Linux, you probably have Iceweasel installed instead of Firefox. Mozilla won’t allow Debian to package and tweak their own version of Firefox without calling it something different, so Iceweasel was born. Iceweasel is functionally identical to Firefox; it just has a different name and logo.

IceCat

IceCat is the GNU version of Firefox for Linux and other free operating systems. Mozilla Firefox is free software, but it recommends non-free, closed-source software such as the Adobe Flash plugin. The Free Software Foundation didn’t like this, so they released their own version of Firefox, which doesn’t recommend installing non-free plugins. IceCat is identical to Firefox beyond not recommending proprietary software and changing the branding, although it also includes an extension that makes a few privacy tweaks.

Wyzo

Wyzo is optimized for downloads and online media. It includes multi-source download capabilities and an integrated BitTorrent client. Its start page contains links to easily search torrents videos, TV shows, and music. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated in a while and is still based on Firefox 3.6.4. You can get many of its features in Firefox by installing extensions, such as FireDownload and FireTorrent – but these extensions also don’t support newer versions of Firefox, either. Still, it’s an interesting concept.


You may also have heard of SwiftFox, an optimized build of Mozilla Firefox for Linux. It hasn’t been updated since the Firefox 3.6 series, so it won’t offer you improved speed. Linux distributions package their own builds of Firefox, which are optimized for 64-bit operating systems.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/16/12

Comments (23)

  1. tripplecurl

    You forgot to mention “Timberwolf”, AmigaOS 4.x port of Mozilla’s Firefox browser.

  2. Jehanne

    Don’t forget the Tor Browser.

  3. superfahd

    people still use Amiga?!?

  4. Doug Harding

    What about Nightly? I got it via Firefox and it is reported to be 64bit.

  5. gowtham

    Hi friends!!! Which browser will be optimized and faster one ..

  6. cam2644

    Interesting article.Firefox is as good as you’ll get with a browser but for special needs this is a good list.

  7. UltimatePSV

    Don’t forget, Waterfox’s update checking is messed up; there’s an about:config tweak on the project’s main page that fixes it.

  8. Chris McBride

    Do not forget TenFourFox.

  9. SpinDrift

    I couldn’t download the Waterfox browser from their own page, but I got it from CNET. Hope their browser works better than their website.

  10. Chris Hoffman

    Thanks for the info, everyone! Timerwolf and TenFourFox are interesting alternatives for other platforms (TenFourFox is for PowerPC.)

    @Jehanne

    I looked into the Tor Browser Bundle — cool stuff, but it looks more like a Firefox beta with a bundled extension, no? Not quite what I was looking for for the list, but it’s interesting.

    @SpinDrift

    I’ve heard good things about Waterfox recently.

  11. Wolf

    You forgot Cometbird as well. I will have to try out some of those other browsers you mentioned.

  12. Dark Reality

    Pale Moon has another cool feature: It can be opened at the same time as another Firefox-alike that is not Pale Moon. Profiles can be the same or different. The former is pointless but the latter affords certain opportunities (rare but neat). I admit, I use it because the colors are nicer.

    I use Pale Moon and I have used Firefox and Waterfox. The optimized ones do not really offer real performance benefits.

  13. Martin

    Wow. Thank you for the article. I’ve just installed Waterfox.

  14. Sperrin

    Quote: “Mozilla doesn’t provide official builds of Firefox compiled for 64-bit systems yet”.

    I don’t understand!

    I’m using Firefox 10.0.3 with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit without a hint of any problem.

    So what is How-To Geek’s angle? Please explain.

  15. Pancho

    @Sperrin
    What they say is that there’s no official 64-bit version of firefox. The browser is 32-bit but still it can run without problems in 64-bit Windows because Windows can run 32-bit applications.
    Hope this answer helps

  16. gamatthews

    Long time Firefox user, but REALLY enjoying Google Chrome..

  17. Chris Hoffman

    @Wolf

    Thanks, I didn’t know about CometBird! There are so many options

    @Sperrin & Pancho

    Yup, that’s correct. You can run the 32-bit version on 64-bit Windows, but — in theory — a 64-bit build will be faster. Mozilla will probably provide their own one day.

  18. ukinuj

    @Chris Hoffman
    Correct me if i’m wrong, but the Nightly build of Firefox already has a 64bit version here: http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-trunk/

  19. Dark Reality

    There are memory issues as well. 64-bit apps can use more memory than 32-bit apps. In practice, Waterfox is no faster than Firefox. It’s just an additional pain in the neck of getting Flash in 64-bit flavor. I use Ninite to update Flash (and a ton of other stuff) so updating Flash the old way for a 64-bit browser that offers no real-world benefits is unjustifiable work for me, haha.

  20. Chris Hoffman

    @ukinuj

    You are correct! However, that is a Nightly build and not a Stable build. Nightly versions are liable to break occasionally and most users would like a stable build.

    @Dark Reality

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve not used Waterfox much myself, but I’ve heard good things about it from others. Personally, I can’t say either way how much it helps.

  21. bartman2589

    Weird, you say Mozilla won’t allow Debian to package and distribute it’s own version of Firefox, but apparently it’s ok for Debian based distros like Kubunut, Ubuntu, Mint, (and just about all the other ‘buntu distros) to do it??

  22. Mrwirez

    -I’m running Waterfox 11.0 with 13 add-ons right now and here is what I found.

    -I built a new Windows 7 64bit machine last month [z68 motherboard, core i5 2500k, 8GB DDR3, 128GB SSD] and I must say with my old PC, I didn’t notice much of a difference. However, with my new rig, Waterfox loads much faster than Firefox 11.01 [32bit] and ZERO addons… I suppose it is all relevant.

    - I had NO idea that there were that many Mozilla builds out there.

    -BTW… -How To Geek RULES!

  23. Chris Hoffman

    @bartman2589

    It’s weird political stuff. Apparently Mozilla doesn’t feel that Ubuntu is diverging as much, for whatever reason. Debian used to call it Firefox, but Mozilla asked them not to.

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