A grid of four app icons: Cliqz, Pale Moon, Tor Browser, and Waterfox. 🄍

Four interesting Firefox-derived web browsers

The Google led Chromium browser toolkit project is poised to take control over the entire web platform with its 72 % marketshare on desktop devices and 56 % of mobile. Firefox is Chromium’s main competitor on desktop computers and you should consider switching to it if you care at all about maintaining some competition and innovation in this market.

Firefox itself might not be the perfect web browser for you, however. Here are four other web browsers built on top of Firefox that you may want to consider to stave off the looming Chromium web-monoculture.

Most web browsers of today are based on either Google Chromium, Apple WebKit, or Mozilla Firefox. There are very few vendors crazy enough to attempt making a web rendering engine, let alone a full web browser. Microsoft recently abandoned their EdgeHTML engine in favor of Chromium and thus further reducing competition in this space.

But what does it mean to build a web browser on top of another web browser? It can mean many things to many different developers and therein lies the possibilities for neat new features that can delight users and make them more productive.

Without any further ado, here’s my list of the top four Firefox-based web browsers and some points on what makes each of them innovative and interesting:

Tor Browser

This web browser bundles Firefox with all its privacy enhancing settings set to maximum and the network-anonymizing Tor software. All traffic is routed through multiple nodes on the encrypted Tor network to help keep your internet service provider and any malicious actors from spying on your web activity. Picture it as how you sometimes see hackers in movies being depicted as hiding their place of origin by connecting through a series of other computers.

Tor Browser resists browser fingerprinting, attempts at uniquely identifying your computer and software, by attempting to make all of their users indistinguishable from other Tor Browser users. The browser doesn’t remember your online activities from use to use so you’ve got to write down and remember important addresses and passwords on your.

Tor will use more bandwidth than other browsers as it doesn’t store any temporary files or allow different websites to reuse common images and scripting libraries between them.

Tor browser follows Firefox’s extended support releases (ESR). This means it doesn’t have the latest features, but it still receives seucrity updates from Mozilla. The Tor Project focuses almost exclusively on privacy and security.

It’s the browser of choice for those who need online privacy (assuming you use it correctly) but it can also be incredibly frustrating to use as online services may question whether you’re a human or a bot every few minutes.

Pale Moon

Pale Moon has a focus on maintaining what was good about older versions of Firefox and mixing in some of their own unique innovations.

It has its own tweaked version of the Firefox web extension architecture, maintaining some backwards compatibility with older Firefox extensions. All the other web browsers mentioned in this article get their Firefox-compatible web extensions from Firefox’s own AMO portal but Pale Moon has their own unique selection of extensions.

You’ll also find support for other deprecated Firefox technologies like live bookmarks (news feed bookmark folders) and a visual overview of all your open tabs. Pale Moon’s developers must spend a lot of time maintaining these features outside the main Firefox project.

Pale Moon also have an interesting per-site permission settings that let you quickly grant or revoke permissions you may have mistakenly granted a website: such as the ability to annoy you with notifications or see your location. This feature makes me kind of nostalgic for old OmniWeb browser for MacOS.


Waterfox is Firefox sans all of Mozilla’s value-added services (except for Sync). There’s no automatic usage telemetry data sent back to Mozilla or no prompts to use their Pocket reading list service or their Sync service (although it’s present if you chose to use it). The user assumes all responsibility for security of their own browser as Waterfox won’t even block known malicious extensions or require a Mozilla-approved digital signature before you can install an extension.

This is the browser for you who does like Firefox but doesn’t like Mozilla’s experiments with ways to monetize the browser. If you find yourself turning off a lot of settings after you’ve installed Firefox, then you might want to give Waterfox a try.


Update (): The Cliqz browser has been discontinued.

An interesting experimental browser and search engine combination that collects anonymized search and browsing data from their users to build a kind of socially driven search engine. This strategy is similar to how Microsoft used Internet Explorer to collect data on people’s Google searches to build their Bing search engine.

Cliqz also contains a few different experimental privacy enhancing features, and they’re working on blocking “unfair ads” while allowing “fair” ones to be shown. They don’t appear to be entirely sure themselves what that means yet but it may be an interesting feature to keep an eye on for the future.

The user interface is very similar to Firefox but some people may appreciate their slimmer toolbars compared to other web browsers. The esearch field is an aquired taste, however.

If none of these seem like they may be the thing for you, then maybe you’ll want to have another look at Firefox after all? In my opinion, it’s the best web browser there is!