Firefox vs Pale Moon browser – Which one is better?

Mozilla Firefox employs the usage of an open source code to provide you with all the features, it currently has and to enhance your browsing experience. Since the source code is available easily, there are many other browsers that use the same code, with little variations to focus on something or the other. In other words, these browsers are customized for a certain feature. Pale Moon browser too, like WaterFox or CyberFox, employs Firefox code to provide you with a better speed and private searches.

NOTE: Check out the two updates we have posted at the end of this post.

If I were to describe Pale Moon browser in a sentence, it would be, “Pale Moon browser is a stripped-down version of Firefox, that leaves out certain features, to focus on speed of browsing”.  Instead of default Google search that most browsers use, Pale Moon employs DuckDuckGo search engine, so that your searches are not stored anywhere.

Let’s take a look at Pale Moon in a little more details.

Features of Pale Moon

The makers of Pale Moon browser have left out some parts of the original Firefox code to remove extra features that people seldom use. Likewise, they’ve customized the code a little to add small improvements to the browser over Firefox. It supports almost all Firefox extensions and themes. As such, it does not come preloaded with any extensions and/or themes.

Default Page of Pale Moon & How to Change it

The default theme of Pale Moon browser is a Moon on a blurry, blue colored background. The default page of Pale Moon is that provides you with a number of options to start with. Examples of those options are Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn. In other words, it provides you with popular sites hyperlinked to the start page so that you can navigate using a single click instead of typing in entire URL in the address bar.

Fig 2 - Start Page of Pale Moon browser

However, you need not keep the same page as the default each time you open the browser. You can change it to anything else just like in Firefox. The Options menu is available under the top-left main Pale Moon button. In the Options dialog, the first tab allows you to set up a different default page or to load the pages that were open when you closed the browser last time.

You can also change the theme of Pale Moon using the Firefox method for changing themes.

User Interface of Pale Moon and Firefox

The user interface of Pale Moon matches that of Firefox – until Firefox 29. From Firefox 29 onwards, Firefox looks more like Google Chrome. Tab styles have changed in the latest May 2014 version of Firefox. The main menu and settings option has been moved to the top-right. The icon is three bold lines. The “Favorites” button moves out of the address bar and gets placed on the solid bar next to the address bar. In previous versions of Firefox, the favorite button was present inside the address box. I suppose the next release of Pale Moon browser will follow suit and look more like Firefox 29.

Features Disabled In Pale Moon Browser

There are many apps that contain too many features that just add up to the resources being consumed. For example, when you buy Windows, you get a Narrator or a Magnifier. How many of you ever used it? Few I guess.

Similarly, Firefox too comes with Accessibility, Parental Controls and few more features. These features are disabled in Pale Moon browser to reduce resource consumption and to increase the speed of browsing. It means you won’t be able to set up parental controls on the browser. You’ll have to provide them with an alternate browser like JumpTo, which takes care of parental controls. Using DNS blocking will block websites on Pale Moon also.

Firefox vs Pale Moon browser

Click on the image to see the larger version of the detailed feature comparison chart between Mozilla Firefox and Pale Moon web browsers. It compares the features offered by Firefox ESR, Firefox 28, Firefox Australis and Pale Moon.

Firefox vs Pale Moon browser


Pale Moon browser is built upon Firefox by removing unnecessary features and by tweaking certain parts of Mozilla code for better speed. If you are looking for a full-featured browser, Pale Moon might not be suitable but if you want speed over anything else, go for this alternative browser.

You can download it from its home page. It is available in 32-bit as well as 64-bit versions.

Read: Pale Moon and together bring new start page.

Any Pale Moon users here? We’d love to hear your feedback on this one.

UPDATE – April 26, 2015:

The Pale Moon browser now has its own GUID, also known as UUID that is different from Firefox. It is a global identifier for the program. This is to say that the browser does not depend on Firefox for updates. The developers of Pale Moon offer updates at regular intervals to make the Pale Moon further secure.

There are plenty of extensions available for Pale Moon – mostly usable with Firefox but do not slow down the browser. The browser’s main intention is to provide a better, secure browsing experience so you may find that unsigned add-ons may not work on Pale Moon Browser.

Among other changes to Pale Moon browser is that they now have a different start page from where you can control its behavior. The start page or rather, the entire browser is purely customizable to suit your needs and wants.

The Pale Moon Browser has now identified and removed more of Firefox code so that the browser is more secure and faster. Speaking of security, the Pale Moon comes with security for FREAK and similar vulnerabilities.

The new version of the browser has some of its own add-ons that can be downloaded from the Pale moon browser website and installed. These add-ons help you migrate or remove user profiles, use the Pale Moon Sync service for syncing the bookmarks, settings and history etc. You also get a Backup tool that allows you to back up your profile just in case you need to reset or delete it later. You can always restore the profile if you backed it up earlier to reset or deletion of the profile.

In short, the Pale Moon browser has undergone many changes since we wrote the article.

Update – April 30, 2016:

We thought of going back and checking how the Pale Moon browser still compares to Firefox, especially as the first comparison was done a while back.

Though initially built upon Firefox code, the Pale Moon browser does not need Firefox anymore. It can provide its own updates as any mainstream browser does. The base code of Pale Moon has shifted from that of Firefox to a significant extent. While that makes Pale Moon browser free of Firefox and brings it into the category of mainstream browsers, it still needs some work – on extensions. Goanna is the Open Source layout engine as used in Pale Moon and in the FossaMail mail client.

It is good at speed, no doubt. It is, in fact, faster than Firefox on my 1.6GHz computer. But I am not yet ready to replace Firefox with Pale Moon browser. It is a bit pale now, faded actually than when we compared to when we first reviewed the browser. The reason is pretty simple. In its attempt to become a standalone browser, which is a good thing, it seems Pale Moon has dropped support for most of the Firefox extensions. The individual plugin, etc, developers too seem to have not yet taken Pale Moon seriously. The lack of extensions makes it a bit weak as compared to Firefox.

As mentioned earlier, speed is good – probably because there are lesser extensions. But without the required extensions, I won’t make it my default browsers. At the least, I’d need my password manager, so that I can log into sites. I also need the download manager integration and my current Free Download Manager won’t support Pale Moon yet.

Things have not changed much since we first reviewed Pale Moon in comparison with Firefox. Just that some users like me who depend on extensions for their work may not find Pale Moon good enough. But since users love speed, it would be an obvious choice for streaming video and music. I did not check online games on it as I don’t play any. If you any of you have any experience there, please add it to the comments.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN