Waterfox: Firefox Fork With Legacy Add-ons Options

Brief: In this week’s open source software highlight, we take a look at a Firefox-based browser that supports legacy extensions that Firefox no longer supports while potentially providing fast user experience.

When it comes to web browsers, Google Chrome leads the market share. Mozilla Firefox is there still providing hopes for a mainstream web browser that respects your privacy.

Firefox has improved a lot lately and one of the side-effects of the improvements is removal of add-ons. If your favorite add-on disappeared in last few months/years, you have a good new in the form of Waterfox.


It’s been brought to our notice that Waterfox has been acquired by System1. This company also acquired privacy focused search engine Startpage.
While System1 claims that they are providing privacy focused products because ‘there is a demand’, we cannot vouch for their claim.
In other words, it’s up to you to trust System1 and Waterfox.

Waterfox: A Firefox-based Browser

Waterfox Classic
Waterfox Classic

Waterfox is a useful open-source browser built on top of Firefox that focuses on privacy and supports legacy extensions. It doesn’t pitch itself as a privacy-paranoid browser but it does respect the basics.

You get two separate Waterfox browser versions. The current edition aims to provide a modern experience and the classic version focuses to support NPAPI plugins and bootstrap extensions.

Waterfox Classic Screenshot
Waterfox Classic

If you do not need to utilize bootstrap extensions but rely on WebExtensions, Waterfox Current is the one you should go for.

And, if you need to set up a browser that needs NPAPI plugins or bootstrap extensions extensively, Waterfox Classic version will be suitable for you.

So, if you like Firefox, but want to try something different on the same line, this is a Firefox alternative for the job.

Features of Waterfox

Waterfox Screenshot
Waterfox Current

Of course, technically, you should be able to do a lot of things that Mozilla Firefox supports.

So, I’ll just highlight all the important features of Waterfox in a list here.

  • Supports NPAPI Plugins
  • Supports Bootstrap Extensions
  • Offers separate editions for legacy extension support and modern WebExtension support.
  • Cross-platform support (Windows, Linux, and macOS)
  • Theme customization
  • Archived Add-ons supported

Installing Waterfox on Ubuntu/Linux

Unlike other popular browsers, you don’t get a package to install. So, you will have to download the archived package from its official download page.

Waterfox Download Page

Depending on what edition (Current/Classic) you want – just download the file, which will be .tar.bz2 extension file.

Once downloaded, simply extract the file.

Next, head on to the extracted folder and look for the “Waterfox” file. You can simply double-click on it to run start up the browser.

If that doesn’t work, you can utilize the terminal and navigate to the extracted Waterfox folder. Once there, you can simply run it with a single command. Here’s how it looks like:

cd waterfox-classic

In either case, you can also head to its GitHub page and explore more options to get it installed on your system.

Wrapping up

I fired it up on my Pop!_OS 19.10 installation and it worked really well for me. Though I don’t think I could switch from Firefox to Waterfox because I am not using any legacy add-on. It could still be an impressive option for certain users.

You could give it a try and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • You may gain with Waterfox on possible use of the old extensions, but as Waterfox is based on older FF versions, you for sure will loose out on the latest security additions from Firefox.
    I vote for better security as I have all extensions working in FF version 78 without problems. You?

  • Ankush, thank you for the considerately-worded, non-biased addition to the post – “… up to you to trust System1 and Waterfox.”.

    I have an occasional Community Support role in the Waterfox support area. Elsewhere, some of the knee-jerk reactions have been quite poor.

    https://old.reddit.com/user/MrAlex94 for anyone who might like to read Alex’s comments over the past couple of weeks or so – 13th February onwards.


    FYI, my personal opinion (not intended to represent the Waterfox community) https://twitter.com/grahamperrin/status/1233608418667171840 concerns the unkindness, negativity and questionable motives of the privacy expert involved. I could easily link directly to what is, I believe, an uncharacteristically shameful episode however – among other things – we have #BeKind trending on Twitter.

    Drawing undue attention to her unapologetic promotion of misinformation – a false statement, an untrue quote – is ultimately not likely to benefit anyone.


    Off-topic from Waterfox, but in the spirit of being kind, let’s recall a 2019 comment about Startpage.com:

    “… it’s a shame that this company which has done such good work for users is being dragged through the mud.”



  • QUOTE: “While System1 claims that they are providing privacy focused products because ‘there is a demand’, we cannot vouch for their claim.”

    These attitudes and repeated misleading attempts to bad mouth Waterfox in a way that creates mistrust has been ongoing ever since the browser was introduced. This is cowardly. This is dishonest. Denegrating a product by saying that you can’t prove it’s not evil is like me saying don’t trust Ankush Das because I can’t prove he’s honest. See Anky? It cuts both ways.

    I’ve been using Waterfox almost since the beginning. It works. The product delivers on its promises. And for that there are a multitude of other browser products, namely the big guns, who use subterfuge to create distrust for products like Waterfox and while I can’t prove that MS and Google aren’t or are behind this smear piece, I will continue to stay with Waterfox and prove to myself every step of the way that it lives up to its promises.

    • The product delivered the promise, yes.

      The original Waterfox product was acquired less than a week ago by System1.

      If you go to the homepage of System1, you’ll understand that why an advertising focused company like System1 buying an open source project of a lone developer is not entirely a good thing.

      • Apparently there are two companies called System1. The one Alex sold Waterfox too is a Search Syndication company. The other one is a data collector and analytics company. So far Waterfox Classic is the only way for me to keep using Scrapbook X extension with is essential for my work online. For other things I’m using Chromium (the native one, NOT Google Chrome).

    • With respect: I see the phrase “we cannot vouch for their claim” as non-biased.

      Neither vouching for, nor disputing.