Everyone knows Firefox. It's an extremely popular browser known for its versatility and a bit of a focus on privacy/security. Just a bit because Mozilla made the news with some questionable things, especially the Sponsored Tiles may have surprised some regular users. Still, Firefox is on top of everything since it's (mostly) open source and very extension-friendly - something other browsers just can't say about themselves (if they could talk ).
- The Chromium part of Chrome might be open source, but Google built in many proprietary parts.
- Opera is just based on an open source renderer, the rest is proprietary.
- Internet Explorer, or Edge, is proprietary software in its entirety.
Every other browser you might have heard of is likely to be based on the Firefox codebase, so you don't have much options if you are looking for a FLOSS browser on your PC - it will be some flavor of Firefox, where every flavor alters/hardcodes something else in comparison to the original.
Waterfox is no exception: It's based on Firefox. It's even so much based on it, you could think this is Firefox. So what does Waterfox change, and why am I writing about it?
One of the annoyances of Firefox is that Mozilla doesn't offer a 64-bit version officially, there's only a beta. Waterfox is designed to run on those systems, even on 64-bit versions of Windows XP. Also, a few benchmarks have shown that Waterfox increases the browser's performance.
But I wouldn't write about Waterfox if there weren't changes related to your "sense of openness" or privacy. So, in comparison to Firefox,
- there are no Sponsored Tiles - they were completely removed.
- all Telemetry/data collection things were removed.
- Encrypted Media Extensions (the proprietary DRM part) are disabled.
- the Pocket integration (also proprietary) was removed.
- the plugin whitelist was removed, containing mostly proprietary plugins (on install, those plugins will be enabled without the user explicitly enabling them; I think this tech is no longer used in Firefox, anyway, but stlll). As a result, unsigned extensions are allowed to be installed again. Less secure for normal users, but gives you back your freedom of plugin choice AND your ability to run older plugins
Want to test it out? Just install it. It uses your existing Firefox profile, so when you launch it you will find everything right where you left it. You can independently uninstall Firefox or Waterfox without issues.
-- Update 01.01.2017 --
As of Waterfox 50.0, it is possible to build Waterfox on Linux, making Waterfox available for all major platforms. I'm now considering Waterfox again.