An Epiphany regarding Purebrowser – Purism


The success of Epiphany depends on extensions.


If I understand the situation correctly, Purism doesn’t control either browser - not Firefox and not Epiphany. It is unlikely to be practical for Purism to “make” extensions be compatible. Either they are already compatible (or will be) because Firefox and/or Epiphany between them choose that to be the case or they aren’t compatible. (Even if they are compatible at one point in time that is not an absolute guarantee that they remain compatible.)

More problematic is whether the full generality of the extension interface is compatible with privacy and security. That would require detailed study.

In my opinion there is some functionality that is much safer being integrated directly within the browser - even if that ultimately restricts your choices - because the alternative is opening up parts of the browser to random extensions. Extensions are good and all but they might not be smart from a security or privacy point of view. The attack surface is greatly expanded by extensions.

Notwithstanding any of the above, it is not as if a decision to provide a default browser of Epiphany prevents you from installing and using Firefox, with whatever extensions you must have. The “power of defaults” remains only a default. Open Source is all about choice. You may even be able to choose Chromium or Chrome instead.

As an alternative approach, for some types of extensions you may alternatively be able to use a local web proxy and implement the extension in a web proxy. That completely separates and isolates the functionality from the web browser.

To be fair … first and foremost it depends on compatibility of the core browser with popular web sites. If the browser itself does not work well in practice then people won’t use it even if the extensions are fantastic.

However in a situation like the above, it may be helpful for you to identify which are the “must have” extensions for you.

I’ll start the ball rolling with: something equivalent to Flagfox (in address bar show IP address and flag of country where web server is) and Privacy Badger.


that could be implemented inside the “site information” to the left of the URL … for a more clean look …


Purism is upstreaming code to epiphany which is kindly appreciated by the maintainers. So, they can be part of it. On the other hand is firefox which is not so open and busy with itself.
Regarding the extensions: The epiphany team didn’t decide against exstensions. They just prioritize other things but would be willing to accept support/MRs. This is where Purism can come in…


What I read said that extensions are a planned featured for Gnome Web. As soon as they are, I’ll switch to it. Right now Brave with extensions is about as good as it gets. (In terms of privacy, security, and web compliance)


Of course, I said that assuming we already have a decent browser.


After reading the article and this thread, I was looking for a bit of clarification. I realize the plan is to shift towards Epiphany as the default browser, and that Purebrowser should still be available in the repos. However, how will the team approach updates to Purebrowser going forward? Will it continue to be updated and maintained?


When I read it, my interpretation was that they were planning to change it so that Purebrowser would at some point in the future be based on Epiphany instead of being based on Firefox as it has been previously. So then the package would still be called “purebrowser” but it would be Epiphany-with-modified-defaults instead of Firefox-with-modified-defaults as it has been before.

But I am not at all certain that my interpretation is correct, it’s just what I was assuming. Looking at the text again, I guess it does not really say that, but it could be what is meant. I don’t know.


My interpretation would be “no”. Purism would not want to maintain two browsers, one based on Epiphany and one based on Firefox. So if you want to use the one based on Firefox, you might instead have to use Firefox itself (which would continue to get bugfixes from Mozilla).

It would be relatively dangerous to continue to use a browser derived from another browser where the former is no longer being reissued (and hence is based on a quite old version of the latter). Sooner or later a significant security issue will be discovered in the latter, and it will continue to be exploitable in the former long after it is fixed in the latter - as we saw with attacks on TOR Browser.


And does anyone was able to install firefox?

Last time I checked I did not found the libstdc++5 for firefox binary build to run.


I read the post a few times these past several weeks, and I found it could be interpreted the way you described as well. I knew the gist of the post was to announce Epiphany as the new default browser, but I didn’t get a sense of PureBrowser’s fate as a separate (optional) browser.

Anyway, I downloaded and ran the Byzantium live ISO this morning, and found no sign of PureBrowser when searching the repo via apt. That appears to suggest that it’s completely out going forward. However, Firefox ESR is currently available in the Byzantium repos in its place.


I’ve recently migrated all my laptops to wayland+sway from x+i3 and I must say epiphany is absolutely not ready for mobile platform.
Memory footprint is slightly better than firefox or chromium - similar number of opened tabs (~ 20) consumes about 1.2G by epiphany and 1.4G by firefox.
The CPU footprint though is totally not suitable. My laptops are mostly sitting in passive cooling mode, and fans kick in only 3 times usually -

  • when I compile something for longer than 1 minute,
  • when I run system update which includes kernel update and thus rebuilding dkms modules and repackaging initrd images
  • when I open some yuge web page, eg kernel sources in gitlab (then FF eats 50-100% of single cpu core)

Now with epiphany more often than not (almost always) fans raving, battery status flashing (saying you have left 30min of time) and cpu load is about 200% (two cores fully busy) by epiphany. In other words on mobile platform this single application (which presumably will be used most often) will drain battery dry in no time.

Therefore I want to highlight that it seems maintaining secure firefox (pure-browser) looks like inevitable for mobile platform at least.

P.S> I’ve missed one sentence at the beginning: While migrating to sway i’ve also migrated from ff (on one laptop) and chromium (on another) to epiphany (on both).

Edit: Some real-world numbers:
Streaming music via GooglePlay on chromium

PID  USER      PR  NI    VIRT    RES    SHR S  %CPU  %MEM     ZEIT+ BEFEHL                                                                                                                                                                
1750 ruff      20   0 4857536 220336 100896 S   5,0   1,4   3:38.27 chromium                                                                                                                                                              
 618 ruff       9 -11  839136  13068   9320 S   4,0   0,1   2:41.21 pulseaudio                                                                                                                                                            
2499 ruff      20   0  470424 148944 104568 S   2,3   0,9   2:03.33 steam                                                                                                                                                                 
 624 ruff      20   0  400372  71164  54148 S   1,7   0,4   1:34.30 sway                                                                                                                                                                  
 711 ruff      20   0  488580  57340  47720 S   1,3   0,4   0:12.49 qterminal                                                                                                                                                             
1593 ruff      20   0  484296 160084 115200 S   1,3   1,0   1:44.22 chromium                                                                                                                                                              
2038 ruff      20   0  925804 101904  89628 S   1,3   0,6   1:00.28 chromium                                                                                                                                                              

then I’ve closed the tab with music (30th something tab in chromium) abd opened it in epiphany (8th tab), waitied for one song to pass to stabilize/even/balance caches/cores/threads and here we are

 PID USER      PR  NI    VIRT    RES    SHR S  %CPU  %MEM     ZEIT+ BEFEHL                                                                                                                                                                
1247 ruff      20   0   83,7g 158120 100328 R  38,4   1,0   5:06.36 epiphany                                                                                                                                                              
4705 ruff      20   0   85,1g 353720 125096 S  21,9   2,2   1:40.59 WebKitWebProces                                                                                                                                                       
 618 ruff       9 -11  839136  12952   9204 S   3,6   0,1   3:06.49 pulseaudio                                                                                                                                                            
2499 ruff      20   0  471452 149328 104560 S   2,0   0,9   2:19.14 steam                                                                                                                                                                 
 624 ruff      20   0  401580  71316  54292 S   1,7   0,4   1:58.76 sway                                                                                                                                                                  
4808 root      20   0       0      0      0 I   1,0   0,0   0:05.53 kworker/7:2-events                                                                                                                                                    
 711 ruff      20   0  489504  58128  47720 S   0,7   0,4   0:17.09 qterminal


Yesterday, I did more or less the same test, and I conclude almost the same thing as you. If I remember well and if I don’t mistake (because I did not take a screenshot), WebKitWebProces (Epiphany) RAM usage was a bit heavier than Web Content (Firefox). Maybe this is because I have disable browser cache in Firefox, but I am not sure.

In any case, with a few youtube web pages and news with pictures, I remember the RAM consumption was high and I thought “it is possible to fill Librem 5’s RAM with a few tabs”).

Also, on news articles with big images, I could not scroll smoothly in Epiphany (huge lags), while Firefox was totally smooth. Maybe, mobile pages are lighter, but on desktop, it was not a good experience.

Finally, still seeing the lack of WebExtensions feature was a No Go, so I decided to uninstall it from my computer so far. I hope improvements because I enjoyed the user interface.


I too think that Ephiphany really needs extensions. Not the easiest of things to add but a really important part of web browsers today.


This is definetly the case.