Updated: January 19, 2016
I thought making a punny joke combining words cyber, sex and fox. Instead, I will just ask, what does the fox say. If you feel like kicking me in the face, I probably deserve it. Anyway, Cyberfox is a Windows-only derivative of Firefox, designed to address a variety of real and perceived gaps in Firefox, available in stores near you.
Indeed, if you've read my Firefox diatribe, which includes the article on its future, the Australis and Firefox 29 fiasco, as well as the directory tiles thingie, you must have noticed that I'm not quite pleased, however with a very happy development that brings hope to the game. But alternatives are far and few in between. Which is why we must gaze upon Cyberfox the way Sauron gazed toward Shire.
I decided to try Cyberfox in Windows 10, which runs as a test operating system on my G50 host. Until recently, Cyberfox could be installed alongside Firefox, but it shared its profile, allowing you to run only one of these two at any given time. Newer versions offer a full separation. Moreover, you can also set the browser up with both the Australis interface and the classic theme, which is very similar to the Classic Theme Restorer (CTR) addon for the original browser, apres Mk.29.
The installation wizard isn't the most intuitive. The Australis UI comes with an X or Y question, to which the answer is always yes. It sort of reminds me of the movie Dictator, where the main character tells the guy at the clinic, if he wants Aladdin or Aladdin news. And that he is HIV Aladdin. That kind of thing. I wasn't really sure what kind of interface I'd be getting until after the installation.
Yes, I did get the CyberCTR addon, and the interface had a classique air about it, although the tabs are positioned on top by default, something you can easily tweak. Overall, it feels and looks very much like Firefox, and most people would not be able to spot any big differences. Truth to be told, most of the changes are under the hood.
Cyberfox claims to be optimized for AMD or Intel architecture, and comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit builds. Plus it has a bunch of other little tweaks and options that could be of great use to power users and nerds.
I've noticed that Cyberfox uses a RAM cache, supposedly for improved performance. Moreover, its tab context menu is richer and more practical than Firefox's, and the options menu also comes with some extras. Most of the time, you won't notice or need these perks.
I liked the fact you can copy all tab URLs, but then you can achieve the same with a greasemonkey script in Firefox. You also get a longer, more detailed list of search engines, but again, the same way they have been added to Cyberfox, you can configure Firefox to list and use them in about two minutes. The same applies to a dozen other fixes.
Not to be bested by the likes of Palemoon and friends, Cyberfox offers full or near as makes no difference compatibility with Firefox extensions and plugins, so in theory, anything that works with the original version should also work in this browser.
The two programs also come with different mouse-grab focus and color accent. But again, for most practical purposes, they are identical. They also behaved in much the same way, and there were no issues with page display, codecs, plugins, or anything.
Cyberfox works well. It's a solid browser, and it comes with tons of tiny tweaks that improve the basic Firefox experience. No complaints. But then, if the two are so close, and you can achieve all of what you need in Firefox in the first place, why bother? Or let's rephrase it. What guarantees Cyberfox will actually continue working once Firefox changes and updates its core functionality yet again? What guarantees that users will be able to continue enjoying a seamless, unbroken experience?
And this brings me to the fundamental problem that affects all Firefox clones. I am truly grateful they exist, I love the effort, and Cyberfox is as good as any. But then, these projects so heavily depend on Mozilla, and they don't have its development pool or monetary depth to survive the next big revolution. In fact, the current team behind the browser could simply walk away one day, and Cyberfox is no more. Almost like the quintessential existential threat hovering above any Linux distro.
There is no dispute that Cyberfox fixes the ailments of the post-Australis trauma disorder. It's a great product, and all that. But I have this horrible feeling that two or three years down the road, the project folks will get bored and abandon it. Because there's no crucial strategic advantage that Cyberfox may have over Firefox. Just like Waterfox or Pale Moon. What is there to cardinally differentiate their products, and guarantee absolute survival, once Mozilla decides it's time for a change? Answer me this, and I will gladly adopt any one of the alternatives. Till then, I'm skeptic. And yes, a Linux version, please. Finally, thanks to Mehdi for the suggestion. Bye bye.