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:
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
- 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
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