Hardening Firefox's Privacy

Firefox Oct 21, 2020
⚠️ This article is no longer updated.

I've re-written this post since its original 2018 incarnation (including the torrent of updates I added to it in the years since) so that it reads a bit easier from the start. Also, unlike other articles on this site I won't add a note at the top of the page to denote when I've updated it, largely because I update it too often for that to be feasible but also because I'm a lazy sod. Anyway before I begin let me just say that I've used Firefox since 2005 and I've seen it improve tenfold in that time, but unfortunately Mozilla seems intent on running it into the ground. They advocate user choice and privacy and yet seem to be increasingly keen on collecting user data, removing useful features and royally fucking things up more and more often.

Firefox in my opinion hasn't been the best browser you can use for quite a while now but if you're intent on using it, I do recommend some changes. There's a selection of configuration strings in Firefox, though the usual steps of simply editing the main options to your liking is always the first thing you should do and after that you should probably install at least two extensions; uBlock Origin and Decentraleyes. As for advanced tinkering of Firefox, to do this you have to access the settings by typing about:config in the address bar and accepting the warning. You can then start typing in a string to search for it:

Editing configuration strings in Firefox.

Once you find a string you simply double-click on it to set its parameter. In nearly all cases I'm mentioning here they have a true or false value and to turn them off you simply set them to false. Anyway, let's start with WebRTC:

WebRTC

media.peerconnection.enabled

WebRTC is a framework for 'Real-Time Communications' inside a browser, i.e. video chats. One aspect of WebRTC that it's infamous for is the fact it will literally bend over and let any website fuck it for your IP address, even if you're behind a VPN. Privacytools.io (a handy website I suggest you have a look at) have a section about dealing with WebRTC, though ultimately I recommend you just use the above setting and turn the bastard thing off.

Doing so however comes with some caveats (rather big ones too), as disabling it will obviously prevent various services that use it from working either fully or at all, including but not limited to Google Hangouts and Zoom. At the end of the day though it's not too difficult to re-enable if you plan on using services that need it, then you can just disable it again when you're done. Hopefully sooner rather than later Firefox and other browsers (or at least the ones that don't already) will offer a much simpler toggle switch in the regular options area to turn it off without the need for advanced configuration editing. Or better yet have it off by default until it's actually needed, then provide you with a notification to turn it on if desired.

There are a multitude of extensions available for Firefox at least that provide this sort of functionality so you don't have to fiddle around with the advanced settings yourself. The aforementioned uBlock Origin has a setting to prevent your IP address leaking with WebRTC for instance, but that will still break some services that use it.

Telemetry

browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.telemetry
browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry
browser.ping-centre.telemetry
toolkit.telemetry.archive.enabled
toolkit.telemetry.bhrPing.enabled
toolkit.telemetry.firstShutdownPing.enabled
toolkit.telemetry.newProfilePing.enabled
toolkit.telemetry.shutdownPingSender.enabled
toolkit.telemetry.unified
toolkit.telemetry.updatePing.enabled

Mozilla have always said they're very much in favour of user privacy and the transparency of how they operate. And yet as I said above, they keep on fucking up. Although they do give you the options to turn off their myriad of data collection systems, there are still some things that get sent even with it turned off, which seems somewhat counter-intuitive to their own apparent goals for privacy. They really do like knowing the ins and outs of a ducks arse when it comes to usage of their browser, all in the name of making Firefox better (supposedly). Aside from turning off the settings in the regular options section, I suggest you take the time to go through these strings and disable them too, as that cuts mostly everything off.

toolkit.telemetry.enabled

If you did turn off data collection in the regular options, the above string should already be set to false so leave it as such, but for the final nail in the proverbial data collection coffin:

toolkit.telemetry.server

This string is a URL, which is where Firefox sends all it's shit. Just double-click and delete that URL and Firefox won't be able to send anything anywhere because it won't know where to send it. Anyway, aside from the above settings there are a lot of others you may see if you merely search for 'telemetry' which might or might not be worth altering. Generally speaking the above strings are the meat and potatoes of the telemetry system Firefox has and turning them off should be enough to cripple the whole thing.

Now, you may be wondering why I'm keen on preventing data collection when all it appears to be is Mozilla trying to collect usage info purely to improve the browser. Well, aside from the fact that in a perfect world user anonymity no matter how insignificant should be a user's choice, above all else I simply don't trust them and no one should trust them purely as a matter of course; don't trust companies, no matter what they say their intentions are. Companies are not your friends, they don't care about you as a person and brand loyalty will get you nowhere.

I really dislike the way Mozilla has been acting lately too. You only have to look at their recent handling of the new version of Firefox on Android to see how they're taking an increasingly condescending view on what their users 'want'. Also before you call me out on my above 'don't trust companies' statement not being seemingly applicable to Firefox, because Mozilla Foundation is the developer and is a not-for-profit organisation, allow me to direct your attention to Mozilla Corporation, which is essentially their commercial arm and also helps to develop Firefox. So yes, there is a company involved in Firefox's design and build and as long as there is, I won't fully trust them.

Moving along, now for the following options, which are less about privacy and more about removing annoying and superfluous features:

Pocket

extensions.pocket.enabled

Pocket's usefulness entirely depends on the type of person you are. If like me you've been using the Internet since the mid 90's then things like this are going to come under the 'superfluous bullshit' banner, plus harking back to what I just wrote about not trusting companies, Pocket in my opinion can be considered among the untrustworthy. Firefox itself might be free and open source software, but Pocket's server-side software isn't and although they've claimed to be going to make it open-source some day, that is yet to happen. Why stall though, are they hiding something they know people won't be happy about?

Given that Pocket went from an extension the user could choose to install, to being implemented directly into Firefox with very little in the way of actually being able to turn it off and the fact the service is now owned by Mozilla Corporation, the commercial arm of Mozilla Foundation, I really don't recommend using Pocket even if you do think it would be useful to you. Unfortunately even turning it off at the advanced level with the above string doesn't actually fully disable it, probably because it's completely integrated into Firefox now but is still technically an extension. Either that or as I speculate above, they're hiding something untoward and don't want you to turn it off…

Top Sites Search Shortcuts

browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.improvesearch.topSiteSearchShortcuts

I liked the old Top Sites layout, but then they made it look small and dainty in Firefox 57, though you could revert to the old version until they completely removed it in Firefox 60. They have made a habit of fixing what isn't broken, either replacing features with slightly crap versions or just removing them altogether because Mozilla developers seem to think the standard user is too thick to use them.

While I've got used to the new layout over the last couple of years of having to put up with it, one thing I don't like is the fact they implemented a new search shortcut feature. This yet again mostly falls under getting rid of superfluous shit rather than being privacy related, but what it does is detect websites that have search boxes (Amazon for example) and sticks a blue spyglass icon over your top site tile, meaning you can search directly from there, or something.

Whoop-de-doo, a feature I will never need, or in fact wanted. This is how feature creep starts to set in; gut out the useful stuff and put in the bloat. Truly, the greatest minds of our generation certainly do not work at Mozilla. In fact I think my generation's greatest minds are all fucking dead now. How depressing.

Top Sites Sponsored Content

browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showSponsoredTopSites

If you start seeing top site thumbnails that look slightly different and notice the word 'sponsored' appears under them, you've been struck by Mozilla Corporation; the commercial arm of Mozilla Foundation whose only interest is to make money out of you. It's a bit of a dick move because it doesn't just add a new thumbnail to your existing list of top sites, but it will actively change one of the existing thumbnails too if it's for a site they have an affiliation with.

Some might say they're happy to support Mozilla and that sponsored top sites is an unobtrusive way to do that. However I'd counter that by saying you can support Mozilla Foundation by donating to them directly. Don't support Mozilla Corporation and its advertising because that's a slippery slope (here's looking at you Google).

Anyway, you can turn this 'feature' off in the settings under Home once it's activated but I'm providing the string as well, just in case you can't see the option to turn it off in settings (because if you have the latest version installed the string will exist and it will be set to true regardless of if the option is in the settings or not).

Accessibility Service

accessibility.force_disabled

To turn this thing off you need to set it from 0 to 1. But what is it? Well, the accessibility service allows third-party software on a device to "inspect, monitor, visualize and alter web page content hosted within Firefox" according to Mozilla. It's mainly used by people with some kind of impairment, so unless you're in need of the service there's not much point having it turned on and it can in fact be a security risk or just outright slow the browser down.

While the option to disable it was added to Firefox's settings in Firefox 57 as far as I can tell making it simple to turn off, in a recent update to Firefox that option has now been removed, meaning you now have to go into about:config to turn it off. Once again Mozilla demonstrate their contradictory nature by claiming they're all about user privacy then deliberately making it more difficult to turn something off that by their own admission can be a privacy concern and a resource hog. Brilliant.

Push Notifications

dom.push.enabled
dom.webnotifications.enabled

Push notifications are a way for websites to send notifications to users when they're not actively using the website in question, which could be anything from alerts to new content, sales and breaking news, or just a way to annoy you by 'notifying' about useless shit you didn't care about, depending on the site of course. Because you can also get notifications while on the websites in question, only turning off the first option isn't enough, you also have to turn off the second to achieve notification-free browsing.

Most people probably consider these useful and won't want to turn them off, plus there's not much reason to do so from a privacy standpoint either; I only do so because I have yet to give enough fucks about whatever a website might want to tell me either when I am or am not actually using it. That and the permission pop-up showing up every time you visit a new website is annoying.

Originally you could only disable these manually with the strings I mention above, but as of Firefox 59 they added an option in the settings to block any new requests. While this doesn't actually turn off the system like editing the strings does, if a site doesn't have your permission to send notifications it can't and won't, so blocking the permissions pop-up is essentially like having it turned off.

After clicking on the settings button for Notifications you can choose to block notification requests.

Location

geo.enabled

Location sharing was mostly an advent of 'smart' mobile devices, but it inevitably carried over to desktop browsing. I've never much cared for telling corporations where I currently am in the world when I'm using the Interweb, though in a lot of cases they can get a rough geological location simply from knowing your IP address, which unless you use a VPN is easy as pie for them to do (try it yourself), but even IP-based location sniffing can be wildly inaccurate, unless of course your browser snitches on you.

That's what this setting is for and by default it's enabled, however it won't just willingly give out your roughly calculated location to any website that wants it, you need to grant the website permission first.

When I originally wrote this article in January 2018, you could only disable the request for location permission by turning this setting off in the advanced configuration, but since presumably Firefox 59 released in March of the same year, like push notifications you can now just change the setting in the main options to block the permission request pop-up, effectively turning it off.

Studies

app.shield.optoutstudies.enabled

A while ago Mozilla ended their experiments program, which would install little projects they were testing in certain people's Firefox installations. However unsurprisingly they've brought it back with a new name. Unlike the old system though you can turn this off in the options if you want, though I've identified the advanced config string here for the sake of it.

Note that despite the wording used for the string suggesting otherwise, 'studies' are switched off when this is set to false. To me, the way it's worded suggests the opposite but maybe I'm just being thick.

External Protocol Permission

security.external_protocol_requires_permission

If you click on a link on a website that defaults to opening an application on your computer (a torrent magnet link that opens a BitTorrent client for example), Firefox will, if it didn't already recognise the protocol, ask you initially what application you wanted to use to open the link and then save that for future occasions if you choose to have it do so. Most if not all existing browsers offer this functionality, but recently Mozilla went a step further by turning on a security check in Firefox.

Now if you click a link that opens an external application, even if you've already set it up in Firefox, you'll get a further pop-up every time you click that link asking you to grant the website you clicked the link on permission (and you can choose to have it always allow that website permission to open links, but you'll still get the pop-up on other websites). Changing the above string to false reverts the behaviour back to the prior functionality in so much as when you click a link it just opens it and doesn't bother being a patronising cunt. I mean, you clicked the link didn't you? So you would know if you wanted to click it or not.

By my reckoning what Mozilla have in fact implemented here is not the handy second layer of security they make it out to be, but rather a patronising message of the 'reading between the lines' variety that essentially says: "are you sure you meant to click that link or were you in fact being the retard we think you are and randomly smashing your face against the mouse?" — Yea, thanks Mozilla.

The 'New' Print Dialogue Box

print.tab_modal.enabled

Mozilla continues their trend of fixing what isn't broken by replacing the print dialogue box with their new deteriorated version, which might seem like a snazzy modern update on a classic staple but in reality it's further evidence that the Mozilla developers are degenerating into a cesspool of complete and utter morons.

My main issue with this supposed UI update is the fact the 'Page Setup' option is now removed from the file menu and you can no longer change the page header or footer content that gets printed out with a page. If you don't want the URL, Page number or time/date stamped on your printout then fuck you, they're Mozilla devs and they know best. Disable the above setting however and you get your old print dialogue box back as well as the page setup option in the file menu.

Mozilla started to push this alternative UI on new installations of the browser since at least October 2020 and now it seems with the latest version of Firefox they've turned it on for everyone. How long they'll leave the option to turn it off in there is anyone's guess but I doubt it'll be forever. Hopefully they'll pull their finger out their arse by then and have implemented the missing page setup content. I won't hold my breath though, since they should have implemented that content before pushing the feature out to stable to begin with, but they didn't, which goes a long way to show what kind of idiots are currently developing Firefox.

Proton UI

browser.proton.enabled

Oh dear. Mozilla are at it again, along with a lot of other tech companies come to think of it:

It's not broken? Let's fix it anyway!

I don't even know what sort of bullshit excuses the Mozilla developers have come up with to explain this travesty as I can't even be bothered to look into it. I bet it'll just be a bunch of guff about optimisation or streamlining anyway, packaged in a condescending "we know best so fuck you" monologue on one of their websites and written by someone with his or her head firmly implanted up their own arse. In reality they're just dumbing everything down because (as I've stated before) they think their userbase are morons and of course they're a bunch of lazy cunts who'd rather remove useful features rather than maintain them.

It appears you can't revert the browser back to a pre-proton interface completely without using an older version of Firefox, so if you update to version 89 you're going to lose some features whether you like it or not. At the very least you can turn some of the proton interface styling off with this string but, it appears they're only giving you this choice until version 91 rolls out after which time Proton will be forced upon you if you like it or not. You can still mess around with the browser's styling using CSS but that's beyond the scope of this article.

The 'New' New Tab Page

browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.newNewtabExperience.enabled
browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.logowordmark.alwaysVisible

Don't ask me why they've done it, because they already fucked around with the new tab page a few years ago, but they've gone and done it again. Now the icons are even smaller and they feel you need to know you're using Firefox by having a gigantic logo at the top of the page. Fuck knows what else they've done that I haven't immediately noticed but regardless, the first string reverts the icons back to how they used to look (i.e. visible) and the second string fucks off the logo.

Further Reading about Firefox Alternatives

To finish off this article I shall sum up what I think of some of the more popular browsers out there, even though I've barely used any of them (so do only take this as an opinion piece and not as cold hard factual recommendations of anything in particular unlike what I've written above).

What is probably a good place to start is the fact that you may (or may not) be surprised to learn that quite a lot of browsers these days are actually based on Chromium. But that's what happens when some of the most popular browser platforms are free and open source software. It's very easy for even a novice developer to start his or her own browser project based on the source code of one of the other browsers, call it something catchy, give it a snazzy icon and stick a load of privacy keywords in the description — the Google Play Store on Android is rife with the fuckers.

That being said, I'm not even giving this one a title header because it's so obvious; don't touch Internet Explorer with a ten foot barge pole. But anyone that wasn't born yesterday already knows that.

Chrome

Chrome is Google's implementation of the Chromium web browser (of which they also developed) and I'll include Chromium in this summary as well seeing as they're largely the same browser. I have used Chrome very briefly and while it's often considered a very good browser with a large extensions library similar to that of Firefox, it's also often accused of being a ridiculous memory hog and more notably has got all of Google's shit under the hood. Google is not a search engine, they're an advertising company that happens to have a search engine that they use to generate revenue; that should always be at the forefront of everyone's mind when their name comes up.

I've only recently found out about their Manifest V3 plans for Chrome, which will undoubtedly bugger up everyone's favourite content blocking extension uBlock Origin, among others. If you're big on content blocking or just ad and tracker blocking in general then the simple answer is don't use Chrome and if you were to take any of my advice I've given in this article with more than a grain of salt, you should really be untrusting of Google (he says, even though his website actually has Google Ads on it, although there's a note about that on the about page).

As for Chromium, which is what Chrome is built on, it's still a Google project. However like Firefox it's more capable of being scrutinised by the general public due to its open source nature. The only downside is that it lacks a lot of features that make Chrome a go-to browser for many, but if you wanted an alternative to Firefox that was simplistic and perhaps not as feature rich but also potentially lacking a lot of Google's insidious advertising company bullshit, then Chromium would probably be the way to go, especially seeing as it supports the same extensions Chrome does. Beware though as they plan on implementing Manifest V3 into that too (so again, if you're a fan of content blockers, you're options will become rather limited).

Microsoft Edge

Edge is the replacement for IE, which people have been touting as a good browser for several years. I've never been all that bothered by it, but it did work sometimes when Firefox didn't. However most of this is now moot because Edge was usurped by a new version that Microsoft began rolling out this year which is now entirely built on Chromium. I can't imagine it's going to be all that bad if it's running on Chromium and indeed it has a lot of beneficial features, such as extension support (either from Microsoft's own web store, or anywhere that offers Chrome extensions if you allow it).

Edge is pretty nifty and has a lot of what makes Firefox 'good' built-in too, but is it an ideal replacement? Well until Google's Manifest V3 bullshit came to light, if I was to suggest an alternative to Firefox this would be it believe it or not, even with recent suggestions that Edge's privacy is the worst of the lot — personally, I don't think it does anything any worse than Firefox or Chrome in that respect. However they recently decided to start testing an implementation of Google's Manifest V3 which just like on Chrome and Chromium, doesn't bode well for content blocker extensions.

Added to which, much like Chrome is infested with Google's presence, Edge will have Microsoft's shit burned in there too. Given Microsoft are arguably even bigger cunts than Google when it comes to harvesting data and flouting user privacy (based on what they've done with Windows 10), I can't even begin to think of the shenanigans Edge might get away with in secret. There's also what some would call the insidious way Microsoft went about getting the new version of Edge on Windows 10, essentially forcing it on people in sneaky updates, which once installed cannot be removed. I've even seen some people claim the default browser was magically changed to Edge after it got surreptitiously forced on them too.

Despite all this I'd actually been using Edge as my main browser on my laptop for several months and had been keeping up with the development and the way they communicated that development, giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately though I realised they are just as snide and toxic as they've always been. With Edge at least they're trying to make themselves come across as all happy and fun; the caring developer that listens to user feedback and implements it in a timely fashion — but judging by how many people complain about bugs and missing features and get outright ignored or have their feedback brushed aside like yesterdays cat shit on the carpet, they clearly have their own ulterior motives.

The Manifest V3 announcement was the final nail in the coffin for me and I've now switched back to Firefox on my laptop.

Waterfox

I'm only mentioning this as from around May 2018 to sometime in early 2019, I used Waterfox exclusively instead of Firefox on my two Windows PC. This was mostly because it still had the old top sites layout which for reasons best known only to myself I rather preferred to the new layout Firefox had implemented around that time. It was also touted as being a much more privacy focused version of Firefox, with all telemetry and other settings (such as those I've brought up above) turned off by default or just outright removed.

I stopped using it and begrudgingly went back to Firefox however because I got fed up with how inadequate its development was becoming. It was mostly a one-man development team (a teenager in fact) who rarely communicated with anyone about what was going on and updates (including security fixes) were ridiculously slow to release. The browser could easily suffer security problems that got fixed in Firefox quite a while beforehand.

Although it didn't affect me by that point as I'd already gone back to Firefox, the developer sold the browser to a company called System1 at the end of 2019, which he claimed meant would give him the funding for a proper development team and presumably bring with it an end to the slow as shit update cycle, but also potentially posing some other moral implications; namely the fact System1 is an advertisement company.

Once again the big corporation and greed moniker makes an appearance in my article, perhaps you've started to notice a theme? I mean sure, you can form your own opinions on the good or bad points about an advertising company having control over a web browser (no matter how much they proclaim to be putting user privacy first), but if you were to use Google as an example, Chrome always seems to be at the forefront of someone's complaints about privacy or limiting what users can do to prevent advertisement encroaching on their browsing time.

It's worth noting that System1 are also the reason I stopped using Startpage, the privacy focused search engine. Basically you only need to look at what ended up happening with that infamous ad-blocker to see how something like this probably isn't going to turn out all fine and dandy. I stopped using Waterfox because, for all intents and purposes, it was shit. But now, it's shit for an entirely different reason. Funny how things change.

Brave

Brave is another Chromium-based browser and has most of the benefits that comes with it, such as Chrome extension support. I've never used Brave, but I mention it here as it's got an odd mix of privacy-touting and advertising leniency to it. Released by a company founded by an ex-CEO of Mozilla Corporation, Brave supposedly supports some weird crypto-currency revenue-sharing advertising scheme thing with something they call Basic Attention Tokens. It's claimed it has an ad-blocker built-in and is 'privacy-respecting' — from everything I've read about it they actually still serve adverts in some form or another, or are at least making money off users of the browser somehow. Perhaps I'm completely wrong in that assumption, but as soon as I see a phrase like 'revenue sharing' I flag the whole thing as a 'fuck that' and move on and I suggest you do to.

Opera

Oh my. Opera is still a thing? Well, yes, unfortunately. I have used Opera a handful of times over the years, but I realised quite quickly it was shit. Like Microsoft did with Edge, a while ago Opera was switched over to become yet another Chromium-based browser with, yet again all the benefits that brings such as extension support. So it probably isn't all that shit compared to the days of yore, but having said that the company that develops Opera, Opera Software, is itself now owned by a Chinese investment company. And we all know that according to popular Internet opinions, if the Chinese have anything to do with something then it's bad. I am of course joking about that last part.

Or am I?

Pale Moon

Yet another browser I've never used, but from what I've read it's a heavily diverged fork of Firefox, but similarly to how Waterfox started out life and apparently very quickly became a victim of its own slow development cycle, Pale Moon doesn't get the sort of security updates as quickly as you might like. On the other hand like Waterfox it fucks off telemetry and all that stuff I've systematically shit all over in this article and it focuses on being very customizable; it even supports older types of Firefox extensions, though it has been made clear this may not be the case forever.

If you were adamant on using something related to Firefox without actually using Firefox and the latest security updates weren't necessarily that important to you (for some reason), but customisation and the use of old types of extensions were, then perhaps Pale Moon is the best alternative out there.

Safari

Ah yes, Apple's own browser running their own browser engine, WebKit. I've used multiple versions of Safari extensively over the years, as I do use Mac as well as Windows PC's, though to be honest my use of Apple Macintosh computers was for a long time limited to the PowerPC's built before Apple's transition to Intel's x86 architecture in 2006, so I was out of the loop for donkey's years. I also had an iPhone (well, have, but I don't use it any more) so I'm well aware of Safari's use on that too and given all browsers available for iOS have to use WebKit as one of Apple's stringent limitations, I never bothered to use anything other than Safari on it.

Safari wasn't and probably still isn't perfect, but it did things I quite liked before Firefox did them. And to be honest, if you have a Mac for some reason then using Safari is probably as good as anything. If you're a Windows user though, look elsewhere, as Apple seemingly stopped updating their Windows version of the browser in May 2012, leaving it at version 5.1.7. Though I don't think you're missing much as if memory serves me correctly the Windows version was never particularly well received either for its stability or functionality.

It doesn't end there though because users of macOS 10.12 or lower will be stuck on older versions of Safari as well, due to Apple's habit of releasing newer versions of the browser only for newer versions of macOS. For instance macOS 10.12 only officially supports Safari up to version 12.1.2 which was released in 2019. As such and fairly obviously, I don't recommend using Safari on older versions of the Mac operating system that don't support the latest and greatest editions of the browser, just so you don't open yourself up to security vulnerabilities, but of course that is true for any software really.

If you still have a PowerPC Mac like I do and run at least 10.4 Tiger then your best bet, aside from not using the Internet at all on those ancient systems, is to use TenFourFox, a Firefox 45 fork. Safari on those older versions of OS X hasn't been updated for even longer than the Windows version (the OS X Leopard release is stuck on 5.0.6 for example), so it's probably not wise to access the web with it.

TenFourFox still did at least get security updates backported to it from newer versions of the Firefox source until very recently, though as of mid 2021 the developer has decided to jack it in and won't be guaranteeing any new updates after October. An important note is TFF only supports PowerPC's, so if you have an early Intel Mac (namely anything that can only run up to 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion) the best you can probably do is use Arctic Fox.

Anyway, despite having used it for years on my various Mac computers I don't actually know much about what Safari gets up to behind the scenes. But Apple is of course a company, so no trusty, but they've supposedly been more keen on user privacy over the years than most I could and have mentioned. Then again, they do like their 'anonymous' statistics as much as the next guy and there's no point pretending they aren't any better than Microsoft or Google when it comes to data mining. I don't actually remember if Safari does data collection and if it does whether you can turn it off or not, because I haven't used it for years.

Meanwhile along with various other browsers, you can get the latest versions of Microsoft Edge on macOS 10.12 or later and of course Firefox, which currently supports macOS 10.9 and up. If you did have a Mac with a more recent version of macOS and wanted an alternative to Safari then you've got plenty of options for the most part.

Seamonkey

What a stupid name.

To be honest I haven't got much of an opinion on SeaMonkey, as I've never used it nor ever wanted or needed to. All I know about it is that it's essentially a continuation of the old Mozilla Suite, which itself was a continuation of Netscape Communicator, both of which I once used in days gone by. I remember I used Mozilla Suite up to version 1.2.1, but after that they they dropped support for Mac OS 9 which is all I used at the time and I ended up being forced to switch to a less buggy fork called WaMCom. WaMCom itself eventually got succeeded indirectly by Classilla which to date is about the only thing that still works on OS 9 and connects to the Internet. It was created by the same fella responsible for TenFourFox, though development has now ceased. Anyway I digress.

I won't go so far to say that SeaMonkey is pointless in this day and age, as some may consider having a whole suite of applications in one convenient place still a perfect way to access all things Interweb, but the concept to me does seem extraordinarily dated by today's standards. I really don't even know why I added it to the list here. Perhaps it just fascinates me in so much as it's a remnant of a bygone era of the Internet that I was once a part of. Or perhaps I just wanted to say how stupid I think the name is.

What about Android & iOS?

I used Firefox on Android for donkey's years, but they recently broke the shit out of it with a new not-ready-for-primetime update that's been in the pipework for months. If you can get over the fact they're now actively limiting what extensions you can install and refuse to let you use about:config to configure the behind the scenes stuff (unless you use the beta or nightly versions), then by all means use Firefox. Hopefully one day soon they'll pull their heads out their collective arses and stop being a bunch of fascists about it.

The alternatives to Firefox are numerous, but the majority of them are shite. Chrome of course is the standard for Android browsing thanks to Google being Android's purveyor, but it lacks extension support unlike the desktop counterpart and likely won't ever support them. Most other browsers available on Android are Chromium based as well, so they all suck just as much as each other and also lack extension support. The only two browsers available on Android that are based on Chromium and also support extensions fully are Kiwi Browser and Yandex Browser. Yandex is basically Russia's answer to Google, so given how I've already explained that you shouldn't trust an advertising company, if you want to trust a Russian advertisement company is entirely up to you.

Kiwi Browser is a bit janky but it has a predominantly one-man development team so that is to be expected, though it recently went open-source, which is nice. It has bugs however and development seemed to ground to a halt last year with many people thinking it had been abandoned because of it. That isn't strictly true, as it has received several updates since but they're mostly maintenance releases. As it does support extensions though, next to Firefox it's probably one of the only other browsers on the platform worth using. until something better comes along of course.

Edge is also available on Android and it actually has quite a good user interface (in my opinion anyway), but although Microsoft pretend to be a caring developer listening to user feedback for their desktop version, they're not even trying to hide the fact they couldn't give a flying fuck about what people think about their mobile version. Extension support? Nope! Not unless you want one of three built-in extensions no one likely will ever use, including some shit coupon finder, a 'fake news' filter and one content blocker, which is… Oh what a surprise! It's Adblock Plus…

You have the other usual suspects in the Chromium camp too; Brave, Opera and a multitude of generic crap that's probably just copy and pasted Chromium with some kind of spyware built-in. The only other Chromium-based browser that seems to get fairly good reviews is Samsung Internet, which is largely because it often comes pre-installed on Samsung Android devices. Although it now has some support for extensions, you can only get these from the Galaxy Store (Samsung's version of the Play Store), so for one you can only get them if you have a Samsung device and the other thing is what you can get is extremely limited (and probably always will be).

Oh and I know that I haven't actually mentioned a single iOS browser yet. Want to know why? Because there's practically no fucking point. Apple has and always will rule iOS with an iron fist in terms of what software you can install on the phone you paid a ridiculous amount of money for. One such aspect of this is the fact that they will only allow browsers to use their browser engine, WebKit. This is what Safari runs on and on iOS it's also what every other browser you can download runs on too. So although you can download Firefox, it's basically just Firefox's GUI running on Safari's engine, meaning you don't get any of the benefits, other than a new look. You might just as well use Safari and put up with it, unless you really want a new user interface.

The Final Thought…

There's not really a lot left for me to say in terms of what browsers I recommend, but if privacy is your number one concern in this day and age, especially in regards to not just web browsers but what data all your software and hardware devices are collecting and sending back to their creators, then you can't go wrong by installing a Pi-hole on your network. It really is rather awesome.

Meanwhile as I've mentioned previously, I used to update this article on a semi-regular basis but didn't actually make a note of when I'd updated it or with what, due to the nature of the thing. Over the years I've mainly stuck with using Firefox as my main browser so this article has remained relevant, but Mozilla just keep on pissing me (and plenty of other long time users) off with their incessant feature gutting and increased tendency to replace what they take out with utter shite (this latest user interface design being a prime example of something that wasn't needed or asked for and yet it is quickly being forced upon us).

It's not just how they're slowly but surely massacring Firefox though. Their own attitude towards their users and the development of the browser is fast becoming hypocritical, cynical and outright rude. They have this really big-headed approach to the development of the browser, claiming it's the best you can use and the privacy focus is unmatched, while they continue adding rubbish features no want wants, gutting out genuinely useful ones because they can't be bothered to maintain them, calling their users idiots, then when they're criticized for it all they fall back on the old excuse that it's open source and to fork it and make your own browser if you don't like what they're doing. What a toxic attitude to have.

How much longer I'll continue to use Firefox for is unknown to me but I would say it's probably very much on borrowed time now on my computers. Once I switch again it's likely to be the final time I do and I won't eventually come back to it like I have in the past. I no longer recommend it to anyone and I sincerely hope that someone comes along one day and actually calls Mozilla's bluff (and all the shills and arse lickers who would literally bathe themselves in Mozilla's piss just to score virtual Internet points with them) and forks Firefox off and makes their own better browser that returns it back to that great browser it used to be about ten+ years ago when it seemed like it had everything going for it. If only I was a programmer, I would do just that.

Anyway, as you can probably guess from all this, I'm not going to be updating this article any more so there will come a point in the near future where sections of it (and eventually all of it) will become outdated and factually incorrect and only relevant for versions of Firefox up to a certain point which is currently 90. So,there you have it.

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