Firefox is one of the best cross-platform open-source web browsers.
Not to mention, it is the only viable alternative as a Chromium-based replacement. Or, is it?
LibreWolf is yet another interesting option, which is originally a Firefox fork that attempts to do better than Firefox to enhance privacy/security right out of the box.
But, is it really useful to choose LibreWolf over Firefox? What are the differences? Let us take a look.
The User Interface
Considering LibreWolf is a Firefox fork, the user interface is the same with a few subtle changes.
For instance, it does not feature the link to the Firefox website in the bookmark menu and gets rid of the “Add to Pocket” button.
Instead, you can find the icon to an extension, and the download manager to the right of the address bar.
Yes, you no longer have to head to the menu to access the downloads.
If you consider the extras in Firefox as annoyances, LibreWolf should be a clean experience.
By default, Firefox utilizes Google as its search engine, considering they are official partners, i.e., Google pays to be the default search engine.
While you can easily change the default search provider to DuckDuckGo, Startpage, or anything else, the default remains a big deal for most users.
When it comes to LibreWolf, the default search engine is DuckDuckGo. It is known to be one of the best privacy-friendly search engines out there.
It should be noted that the privacy-focused search engines may not be as good as Google for some use-cases. So, if the search engine choice does not bother you, Firefox can be just fine.
However, if you want to keep your search history private to yourself, LibreWolf’s default search provider can prove to be a better option.
Mozilla Firefox is incredibly customizable. If you want to put the effort, you can enhance the digital privacy on Firefox.
However, if you want to avoid investing a lot of time tweaking the Firefox experience, LibreWolf can be a good pick.
LibreWolf features some of the best settings out-of-the-box to ensure you get rid of the trackers online and have a safe online experience.
For instance, it features the UBlock content blocker by default to eliminate trackers/scripts that track your online activities. The default search engine as DuckDuckGo also helps to an extent.
Furthermore, LibreWolf enables the Strict mode of Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection. In other words, it blocks trackers aggressively, which might result in some web pages not working as expected.
While LibreWolf recommends not changing these settings, you can choose to use Firefox if you notice web pages breaking with the settings.
Firefox uses the basic protection enabled to get rid of common trackers without breaking the user experience on web pages.
In addition to these settings, LibreWolf also deletes cookies and site data upon exit by default. This can be annoying if you want to stay signed in to websites and resume your browsing session quickly.
When it comes to Firefox, it does feature the same option, but it remains disabled by default. So, if you want to avoid tweaking built-in settings for a convenient experience, you should pick Firefox.
No wonder why Firefox is still one of the best browsers available for Linux. Most of the users prefer convenience to enhance privacy while still being able to use the browser cross-platform.
Google Safe Browsing
Google Safe Browsing is a useful service that warns/flags suspicious websites for malicious activities.
Most browsers use it to enable a safe user experience. You do not need to be an expert at spotting sites with phishing/malware, Google Safe Browsing helps you detect them.
Mozilla Firefox uses it with a different name “Phishing Protection“, which is enabled by default.
However, with LibreWolf the Google Safe Browsing service comes disabled by default to avoid connecting to Google services. You can enable it, but it is not something that users look for when setting up their browsers.
So, if you want additional help in avoiding malicious sites, Firefox should be a good out-of-the-box solution. And, if you know what you’re doing, you can go with LibreWolf, and enable the setting when/if required.
LibreWolf gets rid of any additional offerings on Firefox.
For instance, LibreWolf does not have any connections to the Mozilla server by default. This also means that LibreWolf gets rid of Telemetry.
Some of the changes that it reflects include:
- You do not get the sync/sign-in functionality with LibreWolf.
- No Add to Pocket button
- You do not load the Mozilla add-ons/themes on the extensions page.
If you want to use the Mozilla account to sync your history/bookmarks and browser data, Firefox is the best bet. There’s also Firefox VPN, if you prefer using it.
However, if you do not trust any of the Mozilla services and prefer to sever any connections to them on your browser, LibreWolf is your friend.
Firefox is available for Android and iOS, and works well with a wide range of screen sizes and devices.
Unfortunately, LibreWolf is limited to the desktop platforms like macOS, Windows, OpenBSD, and Linux.
Community-Based vs Backed by Organization
LibreWolf is a community-powered project maintained by a few passionate contributors to promote privacy, security, and user freedom.
If you prefer what LibreWolf has to offer, it should not be a problem to go with it. Even with a small team, they follow the latest Firefox releases and push an update as soon as possible.
In contrast, the Mozilla Foundation is a much bigger organization and has been setting extraordinary examples to promote customizability, privacy, and security.
You will be receiving updates faster than LibreWolf, which is an important aspect if you are worried about your browser’s security.
There are no critical downsides of Firefox being a part of something bigger, but there may be some future decisions (or changes) that you may not like, put forward by Mozilla for its users.
But, LibreWolf as a community project will keep user preferences as its priority.
If convenience is your thing where you require sync/sign-in account features, Mozilla-specific offerings, and essential privacy protections, Mozilla Firefox should suit you better.
In case you do not want cloud-sync features, extras, and hardcore privacy-focused settings out of the box, LibreWolf will be the perfect solution.
Performance-wise, both should offer similar experiences. The benchmarks test (Basemark 3.0, Speedometer 2.0) didn’t work with LibreWolf for some reason, so I did not include any performance comparison chart.
I prefer using Firefox because I need the convenience of account-based sync without aggressive blocking capability. However, LibreWolf is a solid alternative for those who want to switch away from Firefox or just want to try something that’s laser-focused on user freedom and privacy.
What will it be for you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.