Epiphany (Web) is very crashy on my new Librem 5

[ this might be a PureOS topic rather than a Librem / Phones (Librem 5) topic, but I don’t use epiphany on anything else. ]

had my librem 5 for 4 days now. one of the most significant observations i have is that epiphany (“Web”) is extremely crashy. this includes when a page crashes but epiphany itself doesn’t, and also what appears to be the entire epiphany running app crashing (at least all of its windows disappear and i am thrown back to the phosh app grid). for example, trying to read topics on this forum is a nightmare because i often have to tap on the “Reload” button that shows up when a page crashes 5 or 6 times before it actually loads the page long enough for me to read a few posts in the topic, at which point the page crashes again.

does anyone actually find epiphany usable?

i was able to install chromium in the pureos store after turning on the option to show incompatible apps, but chromium doesn’t even launch (which is probably why it is not marked as compatible). firefox doesn’t show up at all in the pureos store even with incompatible apps shown.

is there any alternative to epiphany that is usable?

long live free software and free hardware!

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I have the same experience. And not only on Librem 5, but also on a live USB with Pure OS.

Yes, we have “inherited” a crashy security update from Debian recently. Until it’s resolved, you can downgrade to an older version:

sudo apt install libjavascriptcoregtk-4.0-18=2.34.6-1~deb11u1 libwebkit2gtk-4.0-37=2.34.6-1~deb11u1 gir1.2-javascriptcoregtk-4.0=2.34.6-1~deb11u1 gir1.2-webkit2-4.0=2.34.6-1~deb11u1
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sudo apt install firefox-esr

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I recommend installing Firefox:
sudo apt install firefox-esr firefox-esr-mobile-config

It is better than the other web browsers in my opinion, although there are still a few things that annoy me when trying to use it on a small screen.

Edit: Oh I see that @amarok beat me to it.

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Thanks for reminding about the mobile-config piece.

If websites do not display the mobile version, try setting

general.useragent.override

to something like

Mozilla/5.0 (Android 12; Mobile; rv:68.0) Gecko/68.0 Firefox/99.0

in

about:config

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  1. @dos thanks much for the explanation that the epiphany crashiness is due to a recent update! how will i know when it is fixed? can i presume if there is any update to the packages you mention that this means the problem is fixed?
  2. would it make sense for new users to be warned about this epiphany problem until it is fixed? when i received my new librem 5 my experience was that web browsing was extremely unreliable. that’s not a nice experience to give to new librem 5 owners.
  3. @amarok @amosbatto thanks very much for referring me to firefox. i had presumed that firefox not showing up at all in the pureos store even when “show incompatible applications” is enabled meant that it was unusable. it turns out that it is currently much more usable than epiphany on the librem 5 even though there are many problems using firefox on the small screen.
  4. can anyone explain why firefox is not in the pureos store even when “show incompatible applications” is enabled? in particular, why is it okay for new non-computer-expert users to get an extremely crashy web browser and have a much more usable one hidden from them? i can install firefox-esr but needing to use the command line to get a usable web browser is a bit much to expect from some new users.
  5. @amosbatto thanks very much for pointing out firefox-esr-mobile-config. it turns out that this package is preinstalled on recent librem 5 shipments, even though firefox-esr is not. it is still helpful to know of the existence of this package.
  6. @t0m thanks for mentioning the general.useragent.override firefox pref. just curious, would it make sense for something like that to be in the firefox-esr-mobile-config package? for example, i’d like to be able to give a librem 5 to my partner (who is quite computer naïve) and have a chance for things to work right for her without needing an expert to configure her librem 5 for her.

thanks to all of you for your time in answering!

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When you see an update arrive that is labeled “epiphany-something,” that will probably be it. Maybe someone from Purism will mention it here, too, but not necessarily, because they’re likely very busy.

PureOS is forked from Debian. The reason it’s forked is to provide a set of specific applications that adhere to Purism’s goals. As such, it doesn’t include every software package in the Linux world. The PureOS store only finds applications that are part of the PureOS distribution; Purism also fork Firefox and relabel it as PureBrowser. Theoretically, PureBrowser should be available in the store, but I see that it is not. I don’t know the reason for that.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PureOS and https://puri.sm/posts/what-is-pureos-and-how-is-it-built/

The terminal has the ability to find and install packages outside of the PureOS distribution. (Edit: by adding additional repos, which would also add them in the store app, or by using wget to download a package directly from the internet, etc.)

I recommend filing a report about it:

I’m pretty sure that the firefox-esr-mobile-config package already does configure the useragent for “Android” and “Mobile”. What are you seeing, that needs to be changed?

Ephipany is crashing too because still using a old engine. Purism it has a WIP to top engine version, then crashing will stop. I using newer a gtkwebkit Engine and Mesa ATM.

Also i am confused because if Pure OS it is a GNU System why it including original Firefox?

Do we need to add repos to apt sources or is there another way you have in mind?

Sorry… Yes, I suppose you have to add additional repos or use wget, etc. (Fixed my comment above.)

BTW, an apt search firefox-esr reveals that firefox-esr is contained in the byzantium-security repo as opposed to byzantium, so I wonder if that’s why it doesn’t show up in the store.

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I just tied Firefox instead of the default browser and I am pleased to share the subjective experience that on Librem 5 with Firefox, YouTube is running much better than on Raspberry Pi4 8GB with Raspberry OS 64-Bit (any browser).
I was very worried that Librem 5 might have the same problems as RPi4 as YouTube is important to me and the bad RPi4 YouTube experience is a huge hurdle towards using RPi4 as a daily driver for browsing and e-mail. I am very happy that Librem 5 works better.

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Has the upstream bug for Epiphany been fixed yet or do I need to apply the above downgrade after every L5 upgrade?

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@dos it helps and i have been running with the downgrades for a while, however the browser still crashes sometimes the following way:

  1. Load web page,
  2. select tabs load new webpage amd switch to that new page (could also simulate by quickly navigating back and forth on same page),
  3. while loading webpage start editing url and hit enter,
  4. repeat until it crashes,
  5. the same happens when adding bookmarks sometimes and editing the bookmark or bookmarks while page is loading,
  6. also when loading a page then another from external links in emails amd doing that quickly will crash it too,

Workaround: while one page is loading do not touch any controls on epiphany and wait until it completes before loading the next page,

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sudo apt-mark hold libwebkit2gtk-4.0-37=2.34.6-1~deb11u1 gir1.2-webkit2-4.0=2.34.6-1~deb11u1

not sure it prevents an update in system wide update but the available uodates at least dont show anymore when running sudo apt update

Thanks, will try that!

To me Epiphany is a very nice browser, in fact I can prefer it to Firefox (due to Google sponsoring which asks to check regularly after updates). The main reason I still prefer Firefox is :

  • smoother video on Firefox
  • no connection between Gnome Web & Secrets password manager (which is touch friendly and belongs to Gnome apps ecosystem). Currently, you can imagine how much you have to swipe up and left/right to copy paste ID & passwords.

I have read on their git that they don’t support anything related to webkit (ex : for video issue, and here another example with the main Secrets developer asking to make relation between Epiphany and Secrets (ex-Password Safe)).

While it is a good practice to split tasks into responsibilities, how can we expect to get issues to be solved if the team is not concerned ? I mean the end user make an issue due to video flickering on Gnome Epiphany repository (which sometimes is a kind of effort in an end user point of view) and the answer is something like “please open another ticket on webkit”.

I really hope they will consider both issues + the crashes as Gnome Web is really good for smartphone and tablet (I use it sometimes on my Surface computer).

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I interpret those bug reports as the GNOME Web developers saying that these are upstream bugs with WebKit, so it’s better to deal with them there. WebKit contains 19.7 million lines of code and web browser engines are very complicated, so it is hard for outside volunteers to fix bugs.

As I see it, the only viable choices are Google (Blink+V8), Apple (WebKit) or Mozilla (Gecko+IonMonkey), since they are the only web browser engines which are staying up-to-date with the modern web standards. I guess from a privacy point of view, WebKit isn’t bad, but we really need the web to not be controlled by the Google+Apple duopoly.

Browser engine + JavaScript engine Market share* Web Browsers
Blink + V8 76.67% Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Samsung Internet, Opera, UC Browser, Android Browser, Qihoo 360 Safe Browser, QQ Browser, Yandex Browser, Instabridge, Naver Whale, Puffin, Sogou Explorer, Coc Coc, Sony PS4, Maxthon, Chromium, Brave, Vivaldi, Avast Secure Browser, Torch, Comodo Dragon, Blisk, Colibri, Epic Browser, Iron Browser, Ungoogled Chromium, Amazon Silk, Falkon
WebKit (WebCore + JavaScriptCore) 19.16% Safari, Dolphin Browser, Otter, Orion, Midori, GNOME Web, all iOS browsers (Maxthon Mobile, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Yandex Browser, Naver Whale), DuckDuckGo Browser (for macOS/iOS)
Gecko + SpiderMonkey 3.56% Firefox, KaiOS Browser, IceCat, LibreWolf, Waterfox, IceCatMobile, Fennec, Tor Browser
EdgeHTML + Chakra 0.16% Edge Legacy
Trident + Chakra 0.39% Internet Explorer
Goanna (Gecko fork) + SpiderMonkey ? K-Meleon, Pale Moon, Basilisk
Flow engine + SpiderMonkey ? Flow Browser
KHTML + KJS ? Konqueror
NetSurf (Hubbub + Duktape) ? NetSurf Browser
Presto + Carakan ? Opera 7-12 (2003-2013)

* According to https://gs.statcounter.com/browser-market-share in April 2022.

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