23 Aug

Interview with Pale Moon's founder Mark Straver

DuckDuckGo's interview series with our browser, distribution and data partners.

An interview with Mark Straver of Pale Moon -- a DuckDuckGo partner .


1) Who are you, and what do you work on?

I'm Mark Straver, a Dutch-born artist, programmer and scientist/linguist. I currently live in Sweden after having spent parts of my life in various locations literally all around the world.

I work on the Pale Moon web browser (and other related projects that support it) since the fall of 2009. My other interests and activities revolve mainly around artwork at the moment, taking a long hiatus from my translating job to focus more on the browser and my creative skills.

2) Tell us more about Pale Moon. Who uses Pale Moon?

Pale Moon is a Firefox-based web browser for Windows. It has been built from the ground up using the Open Source Mozilla code to provide a more efficient and stable browser which has high level of customization and choice for the user.

Pale Moon is suitable for everyone looking for an alternative web browser, and users range from young to old, from computer-illiterate to technology guru. On average, though, Pale Moon users tend to be more well-versed in information technology.

3) Why did you decide to build Pale Moon? What is unique about Pale Moon?

I decided to build Pale Moon because I saw the Firefox browser, and I saw a lot of unused potential in it. At the base level, not catering to ancient hardware would allow me to make the program more efficient and run faster. On a higher level, especially in later versions, there was the potential to give users more choice and a more intuitive interface.

Pale Moon has a few unique features, some of which were retained from older Firefox versions (e.g. the status bar and a Safe Mode dialog box with more options to recover) and some are new implementations (e.g. the way secure web sites are identified and displayed). Overall, it's not a brand new product, of course, and for compatibility reasons a lot of the features are kept the same as its sibling browser.

Perhaps one of the more unique features is not found in the browser itself, but rather in the community behind it: a responsible and reactive group of people where development of browser features is as much directed by the actual users as it is by the developers.

4) What are your future plans for Pale Moon?

Pale Moon aims to keep giving users an independent web browser, focusing on usability, stability, efficiency and intuitiveness. With the pending overhaul of Firefox to a completely new user interface called Australis, Pale Moon will be even more a separate product than Mozilla's browser, since the new theme and user interface will not be adopted. People will therefore have an even clearer choice of preference from that point forward.

Of course, security is and will remain an important factor, and Pale Moon will continue to closely follow and implement relevant fixes for its users to keep them as safe as possible.

5) What tools do you use to build Pale Moon?

Pale Moon is built with a whole collection of tools (the Mozilla build toolchain), however, the heart of the building process is formed by Microsoft's Visual C++ compiler (currently using Visual Studio 2012). Of course I use some more advanced programming tools to manage changes in code, as well, like Mercurial, WinMerge, and Windows Commander. Invaluable for performing base testing the browser on different operating systems is VMWare, allowing me to test the browser on a wide range of different operating systems.

On the hardware side, building of the browser can be (and is) done on a regular, fairly powerful workstation PC running Windows, with a carefully set up build environment. It doesn't require anything out of the ordinary.

6) What recommendations and tips would you give to someone interested in building a browser?

I would recommend anyone interested in building a browser to carefully consider what browser engine (Gecko, Webkit, or another already established one) they want to go for. Building a new engine from scratch is really not something you can do anymore, unless you are planning to make it your life's work.

Apart from that: test, test, and test some more! Get help from your friends, too. Make sure it's something usable and at least decently stable before you publish your browser to the world, or you will never get a user base that will warrant the time and effort you put in.

You want to make sure you have a good idea of what your browser should do to distinguish itself from others and how it will improve the user's experience of the web. Try not to compromise on this idea once you've established it, unless it really is worth the change in principle.

7) What would your dream browser contain?

My dream browser would contain a pitch-perfect HTML-parser, scripting engine and renderer. It would contain freedom of choice in every respect and an easy interface for users to make these choices, as well as completely unbiased components and modules that neither favor nor oppose certain vendors.

I think this dream browser is possible - and I think Pale Moon is actually getting there, slowly.
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