The State of the SeaMonkey Union!

Hello fellow users and supporters of the SeaMonkey suite!

The important part first: SeaMonkey is alive and we do not plan to discontinue it. But in continuing to deliver the best and only suite based on the Mozilla Gecko web engine, we need your help.

Lets first start where we are.

SeaMonkey 2.46 was released in late December after struggling for months with infrastructure and build issues. While still using the Mozilla infrastructure, we are mostly on our own here. We plan to release a final 2.48 based on the level of Firefox 51 soon. Again this  is late due to infrastructure and build issues, but not so much as 2.46. Being based on Firefox 51 means that security patches are again not up to par with current Firefox. Believe us, we dislike this as much as you do.

The SeaMonkey project is entirely driven by volunteers working on it in their free time. The current members of the core team (count up to 7) are committed but, with all the changes, are getting slowly overwhelmed. This means bugs do not get fixed as fast as we would like. With an aging infrastructure becoming more and more abandoned by Mozilla, due to switching Firefox building to the cloud, releasing builds does not become easier. It also means that if even one of the current key people quits, the project is in danger of becoming un-maintainable which is even worse. Also keeping up with Firefox is becoming difficult at best. Mozilla plans to discontinue classic extensions and themes with Firefox 57 which is right around the corner. XUL, one of the key technologies of SeaMonkey, is also on the chopping block and will be discontinued in the near future. The replacement technologies, based on modern web standards, are immature and still under constant development. In the end, an almost complete rewrite of the current program will probably be needed. If it weren’t for our friends from the Thunderbird project, we would now have even bigger problems.

The good news is that financially we are a little better off than last year.
DuckDuckGo is now the default search engine of SeaMonkey. Every time you use
it for searches in SeaMonkey we get paid. For the conspiracy seeking people
out there:) Not being able to easily set the search engine in 2.46 to another
provider was a genuine bug with a workaround documented in the release notes
from day 1. It has now been fixed.

What we plan:

After releasing SeaMonkey 2.48 we will switch to the Firefox 52 ESR source code for 2.49.x releases. This means that the code base is more or less frozen for a few release cycles and only security updates and bug fixes will be in the releases.

The infrastructure issue has been discussed. While critical, there are no final plans yet (also thanks to lack of manpower). Thunderbird is in the same boat and we hope to work out something together. If worst comes to worst, we could ask our team member Adrian Kalla to produce our regular builds. This had been discussed earlier. It was dismissed, for now, as no crash symbols for builds would be available on the Mozilla servers.

Switching to ESR means we can work on bugs in the current tree for a while longer without having to fear that they are carried over into a release. They need to be fixed for the next ESR of course.

The most critical issue is to support web extensions in one of the next
releases. It is unclear how long we will be able to support classic extensions.

There are a number of Gecko Forks in the wild. We do not plan to switch over to one of them as the basis for SeaMonkey. We think that they currently do not have enough developers themselves to cope with the changes Mozilla plans. Web technologies are also evolving all the time and we fear that they are not able to keep up.

Also, we are not planning to support any abandoned stuff like classic
extensions and NPAPI plugins on our own. We will try as long as possible. But when they are gone, they are gone. The current developer base is much too small to do our own fork.

Based on how successful Mozilla is, or if one of the forks gain ground, this might change in the future.

What we need:

Setting up our own infrastructure, potentially in conjunction with Thunderbird, will cost. If you feel you can contribute towards future releases in this way, please consider donating:
https://www.seamonkey-project.org/donate/

But what we need even more is people to help out. Even if you are not a developer, you can help. For example, writing a document such as this takes time. Also, maintaining a website is not done by staring at it all day.

So if you want to help, these project areas are looking for a few good
contributors:

  • Development. Most code is either JavaScript or XML/CSS mixed with C++ and Mozilla technologies based on XUL and friends. In SeaMonkey not so much HTML right now, but this might need to change. The build environment makes heavy use of Python.
  • Graphics: Icons and symbols need a face lift for HiDPI screens. There are plans to switch everything over to svg files in the backend which would mean a massive effort to convert existing files. With a sometimes extremely conservative user base when it comes to changes in the interface, not an easy job
  • Website: Some areas are severely outdated and things like release notes need to be written too.
  • Bug hunting and triaging: We could use a few more people to check out bugs and try to reproduce and categorize them in Bugzilla. We are especially short on people doing this on macOS. While we are on it. Writing lengthy threads in the news and support groups is fine but if no one actually reports them as a bug in the end they usually won’t get fixed.
  • Everything else not covered above. If we forgot something you can fill this slot too. Just think about it.

As a final statement, we do not think that SeaMonkey will take over the
browser world any time soon. SeaMonkey is a niche product and will stay that
way. Too many people are not interested in a classic suite anymore and most
users are happy to use what is hip. That is OK with us. It’s all about choice.

We would like to continue supporting the power users like ourselves and those
who are looking for something different and flexible without reinventing the
wheel with every release. We try to listen to you, our user base, for
advice/orders/demands/suggestions. Of course, we won’t be able to implement
everything under the sun. But we would still like to implement something and
stay current. It’s your call now.

If you would like to support us, either send a mail to us, the SeaMonkey
Council (seamonkey-council at mozilla dot org), ask for guidance in the
official support groups or just pick your favorite unassigned bug from
Bugzilla and start. Or just leave your comment below 🙂

We are looking forward to hearing from you.
The SeaMonkey Council

21 Responses to The State of the SeaMonkey Union!

  1. Keep it up, you guys! It’s sad to see Mozilla abandon everything in favour of Firefox… I hope you can keep the spirit of Netscape alive for years to come!

  2. First and foremost, thank you for this status report. It is most welcome. Please do it again, as much as time and content allow.

    I understand the constrains and issues you describe, and have followed the IRC meetings from time to time, so I know it’s been going on and not getting easy for a while.
    I am also a SeaMonkey user since the days it was called Netscape (1996).

    However, with all that said, it will break my heart when / if you’ll turn away from the classic extentions.

    That will leave only one option, and I will be very sad to use it, but I will be forced to change my defauly browser to the one that promisses to keep using the classic extentions.

    I have encountered several issues during the years, which I consider bugs, and never reported. I didn’t think it was possible for the team to handle, knowing how few you are, and I coped. I did it by writing my own extentions, privatly, because my coding skills are medium at best.

    But this, future lack of extentions, for me, will break the way I am able to use the browser. So, I do hope things will not get to that point.

    Thank you SeaMonkey team for your hard work and beautiful browser.

  3. Pingback: Существование SeaMonkey в условиях прекращения поддержки XUL в Firefox — IT-News.club

  4. Palemoon user

    How about to connect to the Palemoon project?
    You can also to open alternative own store of extensions with XUL. For example store.palemoon.org

    I think that it’s good idea.

    • There wont be a partnership from what I’m hearing at their forums: https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15505#p112135 (at the end, read quote #2).

      Also read the bashing from LimboSlam: https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=14846&start=120#p113270.

      NOTE: Proper spelling of their browser is “Pale Moon.”

      • Par for the course considering that Pale Moon is another “I know better than you” browser just like Firefox (but with greatly different goals). I briefly considered it as a possible alternative, but after looking at their stance over features like PDF readers and the like (“luxuries you should not have” in their own words)… eh, I’ll stick to Seamonkey.

        For good or bad, SM is the one and only browser that actually respects the users, rather than trying to tell which is “best” for them. This is why I left Firefox, this is why I’ll not give a chance to Pale Moon anytime soon (unless if their devs change their attitude, something which seems unlikely), and this is why I’m sad to see the intense pain the Seamonkey Council is traversing right now trying to ship a useable product.

        I like the idea of using Adrian’s builds as the regular ones – I use them as my daily driver on my workstation with no issues (not even a single crash!), aside of having to deal with GTK3 (ugh… not your fault guys!)

        Anyway, let’s hope for the best. Joining forces with the Thunderbird guys is a great move, at least.

        Greetings from Soviet Venezuela!

      • A partnership with Pale Moon was not ruled out outright in the future. Not sure why the posting states otherwise. But definitely not now. That is correct. The council would like first to see what TB does come up with. With the few people currently working on SeaMonkey trying to cut loose from Mozilla, building a complete infrastructure and at the same time also take over a fork of the mailnews part really would be stupid. I can tell you what the outcome would be: not a new SeaMonkey with a future that is for sure. Others can bitch and moan that we are still sitting on the outlines all day long but with the current setup we are still having almost year until a final decision needs to be made. The council article was also written to get more people on board and the community behind. You can’t make plans if you have no time because of other more pressing needs.

    • Right now, that is a bad idea, some of the core people involved in the Palemoon project are not to be trusted on a long term commitment.
      But they have some good ideas that maybe can be useful, like the store for XUL extensions.

      • Jody Thornton

        Where do you get the idea they aren’t to be trusted? Some of the lead people are stubborn and overly-idealistic. But I wouldn’t call them dishonest. Just saying. 🙂

    • I think it’s a good idea to consider as well.

  5. So, basically Seamonkey will become exactly like Firefox… a feature less browser with the removal of XUL.

    Well, that means i will freeze updating at the last update which has XUL.

    Too bad that Mozilla/Google/Opera will win the war against customization, and even more bad that Seamonkey will become another victim to this agenda 🙁

    Still, thanks for what you have done and what you do until the point where XUL dies.

    • Do not confuse XUl removal with classic extensions removal. XUL removal is still far away. Classic extensions and theme removal is unfortunately something which will probably be happen in the near future. But we will see if it can be delayed with a build option or a few source backouts. In the end SeaMonkey needs to either follow Firefox or rebase on a Gecko fork. Both options s*ck right now but so far SeaMonkey still has kept its identiy.. Todays Mozilla codebase is very very different from yesterdays and SeaMonkey still looks and acts the same. But it needs to adapt and modernize (web extensions, HiDPI, e10s) to not be swept under the rug. Adn this is not possible without people willing to help.

  6. With all those upcoming changes to Firefox, how would they impact the performance of Seamonkey in the future?
    There are still millions of people using 10-years old computers, that are able to still do a lot of things, except that browsing the net with the current browsers is getting more and more slower.
    Part of this is the fault of the websites, but another part is due to the browsers, don’t you think?

  7. Totally stoked about helping out in several areas as much as I can. Looking for where to register and stuff so I’ll be contacting you and, with this, you’ll have my contact info. I’ve loved SeaMonkey for years and can’t wait to give back!

  8. In my opinion this is really good news. Nice that SeaMonkey will at least try to keep up with Firefox.
    Really cool would be a Thunderbird which runs as WebExtension.
    So SeaMonkey could basically be a Firefox derivate, maybe with more or less modified GUI, which has “Thunderbird” preinstalled.

  9. Netscape and Mozilla user

    This is pretty much a list of personal preferences. But given the state Firefox ended up in, and that there may be some big decisions ahead for SeaMonkey, maybe now is really the right time for people who use SeaMonkey to say why do they do so, that way the project can at least do its best to avoid losing its users.

    Some context: I’ve used the suite a long time ago (Netscape and Mozilla). After some time with Firefox, the ongoing endless UI revolution was (recently) the last straw and I came back to find in SeaMonkey a home I now wish I had never left.

    I use normal extensions. Not as much as I’ve used in the past, but at least a couple of them (including OverbiteFF, an extension that will most likely not survive with the new extension system).

    It’s fun — as I recall, there was a time the main selling point of Mozilla software used to be the availability of extensions for everything.

    The interface: I prefer a stable, simple and consistent UI, with a menu bar and a button bar. No different button sizes, no hamburger menus. No huge URL bars. Think late 90s — you can call me an old man. If you want to do changes here, please don’t do it like Firefox. Allow users to choose (like with browser.preferences.instantApply), and don’t change everything by default in an update.

    In the end, I don’t want a webapp platform, a media player or a built-in PDF reader. I want a browser for browsing the web (and gopherspace), an e-mail and news client for reading e-mail and news, and so on. As I use Linux with GTK+2, longer-term (compared to Firefox) GTK+2 support would be a nice extra.

    Please take care with any change to handle “HiDPI”, make sure it doesn’t break things for people who don’t have such displays.

    Last but not least, thanks for this public statement on the state of the project!

    • left firefox for it going webextensions

      I cannot agree more
      please keep seamonkey as it is

      to put it bluntly, to hell with webextensions and “evolution” – please just NOT do it.

  10. left firefox for it going webextensions

    I left firefox when I realized it will go webextensions.
    I do not want chrome neither webextensions.
    If you ask me I want SeaMonkey to remain with old extensions and never ever consider webextensions to begin with. Old extensions are what I switched from firefox to seamonkey. I used netscape back in the 90s. The reason I didnt use Seamonkey until now because I kept telling myself that mozilla wont do to firefox what it is doing now.
    Please do NOT follow under any circumstances.
    Let me give you an example.
    I use elinks still today quite often because it gets the job done. Does it support javascript-rendered web2 pages with flash embedded webm video? no. does it provide what it did 20 years ago? yes. would I mind if elinks implemented jsasm and whatnot? who knows, but I would NOT trade them for what it *already* does and has.
    I want to use seamonkey because I feel safe.
    I think I’ve never tried it since 2005 when I went firefox until now – and it strikes me. It strikes me all the stuff I ever wanted in firefox to evolve differently, like about:data or the options: privacy is right here. It’s like someone listened.
    Please, keep old extensions with SeaMonkey, and abandon webextensions like plague.
    The world has gone crazy – please just do NOT follow.
    I don’t want to dig my head in the sand – I just won’t pay the price of giving up what I like (old addons way) for a brand shiny new pile of shit (webext) that I neither trust nor care about.
    I don’t see a problem. SeaMonkey is niche. Just might be the niche that hates webextensions, tracking and anything coming from distrustful people who track and tell you bs (corps like goo).
    Anyway, that’s how I feel.

    • left firefox for it going webextensions

      also, kudos for letting us know what’s up with you and thank you for the seamonkey as it is today! incredible!

  11. You may not like this and you may already know it, but SM is standing at a cross roads. I have been a Firefox fan since my Amiga A500 days, but left it at around FF 24. The issues around Flash Player became too much. And, oh yes, Thunderbird would not link into websites. Some glicth between FF and TB. Seamonkey to my mind is the better browser. But that may just be an impression, since the FF woes may have been the result of them already taking on this current challenge.

    I left Windows about a year ago for the same kind of reason and now use Mageia 6. I suffer somewhat of future shock and am under the deep impression of new technologies taking over. One question keeps me awake; When and how will the 512-bit computer take over and influence our lives? Science fiction? I think not. The 8085 8-bit chip started things as recently as say 50 years ago. 64 = 8×8. Technology accelerates. Moore’s law. Intel was forced to solve the HiMEM problem by inventing the EFI system.

    In Linux you do things for yourself. I have now battled for three weeks to find out how to make Seamonkey see the H.264 or x264 codec without success. This is the real problem SM faces. It is the difference between Gates and Torvalds. Gates went commercial and Torvalds went academic.

    In the same vein Seamonkey will have to answer two questions. What do we want? and What are we willing to pay for it? I am all for SM as it stands now, but there’s a difference as mentioned here. The GUI is not the engine. As things stand now, there is too much work for too few people. Some things will have to go to keep the bigger benefit of the browser as a whole.

    Just came to realize this. H.264 is to Flash as EFI is to DOS boot. This changes the game. As to what I see on the net FF was in on it from the start, riding on Cisco’s coat tails. OK, so be it. Seamonkey needs to adapt or die. Literally. The need for a PDF reader-in-browser is not pressing. I use Foxit Reader and find even the free reader far better than Adobe. Now, to the chase. We are all very taken with our specific little customization of the browser and it works just so, but this is where we users will have bite the bullet and give a little. Maybe a lot. What are we willing to trade? Are we willing to lose SM? I, for one, am veeery reluctant to do so. I think we need to give the developers a break in our expectations.

    To the developers this. Strip, with a vengeance, all fluff. Adapt the technologies needed. Ignore other attitudes and make it work as it always has. Netscape is fine and it worked and they did a heck of a lot of very good work, but this is the future. Cut the workload to current capabilities. For now, develop just the core. An LSD researcher went on a trip over a five day weekend in the ’60’s and noted what he saw. Later he saw just one sentence; Think in new directions.

    People, change tack. This is, as we say in Africa, only the ears of the hippo. We may even see the face above water, but there is much, much worse under water.

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