This spec is intended to track whether or not it is worth changing the default Ubuntu browser from Firefox to Epiphany and, if yes, what must be improved and/or changed in Epiphany.


As we ship GNOME, it seems logical, in order to have a more consistent environment, to ship GNOME browser, namely Epiphany.

Having the default GNOME browser would simplify a lot of things in the long run : security, support, translation, desktop integration, artwork. Also, Epiphany is more or less independant of the backend engine. If, in a not so distant future, anyone release another html engine, Epiphany could be ported in order to use it. The use of the name and logo for "Epiphany" is somewhat less complicated than it is for Firefox.

Given that now Epiphany can be compiled against XUL-runner (see http://blogs.gnome.org/view/epiphany/2005/11/20/0 ) and that Edgy is all about taking some risks, it's *the* release to test Epiphany as the default browser. If it's a disaster, we could always back to firefox on Edgy+1

Use cases

  • Arthur has no computer experience. His friend installed Ubuntu and he wants to "surf the web" like everyone is saying. He look for something named "surf the web". He expect it to be simple to learn and to use.
  • Zaphod has little Windows experience. He knows that internet is the little blue icon named explorer. His friend, who installed Ubuntu, told him that, in Ubuntu, it's called "browser". Zaphod want his browser as simple and easy as the old explorer.
  • Trillian is an advanced user. She likes to install Firefox on new Windows systems. She wants to install Firefox on her new Ubuntu system but she wants to do it herself because "Firefox is only for supreme power users like me and I like the feeling of installing it where average users don't even know about it !". This is also a good way to learn how to install software on Ubuntu.
  • Marvin is a non-technical user but he likes to surf the web. He doesn't want to learn technical thing but he heard about "extensions to block popups", "extensions to blocks ads", "rss syndication". He wants to use that but without learning more than "where must I check the corresponding box ?".


This spec is only for Ubuntu and all Gnome Ubuntu derivatives.




Data preservation and migration

  • If you are using Firefox in Dapper and you are upgrading to Edgy, will you be forced to use Epiphany unless you explicitly say it otherwise? Or, to the contrary, only fresh install of Edgy will show the difference.
  • There must be a simple way (druid?) to import cookies, history, bookmarks, passwords from Firefox to Epiphany. Schalken: It appears that if your using Epiphany with Firefox's Gecko backend, then Firefox and Epiphany will share their cookies, history and homepage, at least. Assuming the rest is stored in text files, writing a script to transfer bookmarks and passwords between browsers would not be difficult.

    • jacobmp92: In the latest Firefox/Epiphany setup, Epiphany appears to use its own bookmarks, history, cookies, cache, etc. Bookmarks from Firefox can be imported via File > Import on the Bookmarks window.

Outstanding issues

  • Firefox has its own RSS managment. In epiphany we have four options:
    1. Disable the RSS extension by default
    2. Enable the RSS extension and install a compatible RSS reader by default (liferea)
    3. Create an extension to handle RSS the way Firefox does
    4. Create a separate "epiphany-rss" package that depends on liferea (which should also use XUL-runner as a backend), thus making RSS support both optional and simple to install.
  • Tabs suddenly disappear in a scary way in Epiphany, not very friendly to newbies or power users. That's a showstopper as far as I'm concerned.
    • https://launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+source/gtk+2.0/+bug/30749

    • http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=330676

    • http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=124068

    • The Tab Sizer extension has an interesting solution, as well, which resizes tabs to fit all of them on screen, such that the farther away ones are the smallest. However, the problem you mention is a problem in GTK, and should really not be tampered with by weird hacks. GTK's currently unfriendly tab bar should also not be a negative for choosing Epiphany at the default, but actually a big positive. Firefox does not use that tab bar, but one which looks and behaves completely differently. For a user still getting used to the desktop, that is an unnacceptable situation! Widgets such as the tab bar in the web browser should behave just like every other tab bar on the desktop, whether GTK currently has it right or not. The great thing about using the native UI toolkit is that this can change without Epiphany having to do any further work. As soon as GTK has a smooth tab bar, Epiphany has a smooth tab bar. Going back to Firefox, or Opera, on the other hand, if GTK's tab bar was to become significantly different from the norm, Firefox would be permanently left behind while every other tab bar on the desktop behaves in the new way. For the less knowledgeable user, this is confusing. For the more knowledgeable user, this is ugly. Consistent GUI behaviour, whether that behaviour beats another GUI or not, should always win over default applications whose behaviours and toolkits are out of place from the rest of the desktop. -- DylanMccall 2007-10-21 03:27:23

BoF agenda and discussion

A lot of discussions is available here : https://wiki.ubuntu.com/EpiphanyDefaultBrowserThoughts

* CelsoPinto: Choosing Epiphany as the default browser is a good thing because Epiphany supports ZeroConf bookmarks and Ubuntu is moving towards ZeroConf everywhere.


EpiphanyDefaultBrowser (last edited 2008-08-06 16:20:54 by localhost)