Revision 6 as of 2006-05-27 15:50:13

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The spec is EpiphanyDefaultBrowser

Characteristics of a default browser

  • simple to use for people new to Ubuntu as well as people new to computers in general
  • predictable behavior that is consistent with other Ubuntu applications
  • low resource requirements to ease use on a variety of hardware
  • active development to combat bugs, integrate new features, and refactor code for efficiency
  • supports open standards in web content
  • multimedia support for embedded audio/video content

Normal people's impressions of Epiphany or Firefox

  • do they notice a difference? **
  • ease of adoption?

Epiphany advantages


  • Epiphany has session management. When you log in, you see the same windows and Web pages as you did when you logged out. And when you log out, you don't get an error message complaining about Firefox not being able to remember its state.
  • "session saving" is built-in which means that if for some reason it does crash, it will ask "do you want to restore you previously open pages" when restarting. Although there is a Firefox extensions that does this, it is not installed by default.
  • well integrated with GNOME and follows the global theme and global options (like displaying text beside buttons, GNOME proxy settings, etc)
  • GNOME icons on toolbar
  • adheres to GNOME Human Interface Guidelines which helps it look and feel more consistent with the rest of the GNOME desktop. For example, the preferences dialog uses tabs and takes a more simple approach than that of Firefox.
  • On middle-config (between 600MHz and 1GHz), Epiphany is much faster and doesn't eat 100% of CPU when a website is not responding
  • Doesn't crash as easily as Firefox
  • seems to use less RAM than Firefox (possibly because it utilizes GTK+ without the overhead of XUL?)
  • The translations for Epiphany are done on l10n-status and as thus more consistent with the GNOME desktop than Firefox in most cases, this is important for adoptation in government, school and enterprise use.
  • Has proper focus integration with Gnome, new windows recieves focus when opened from Liferea etc.
  • At least, we can use the icon and the name as we want... (you know what I'm talking about)


  • Follows the GNOME/Ubuntu release schedule
  • Translations are easier because of Epiphany's l10n/i18n support
  • Integrates with desktop file type associations instead of duplicating functionality like Firefox
  • GTK+ themes work better (e.g. Clearlooks ring around location bar when it has focus)
  • Uses freedesktop.org bookmark storage standard (XBEL), which is also used in Galeon, Konqueror and some other browsers. There is a firefox "Bookmark Synchroniser" plugin that can import/export to this format but Firefox does not support it natively. Bookmarks can be imported from Firefox, Mozilla, Galeon, Konquerer or Epiphany to ease migration. They can exported to Firefox/Mozilla if the user decides to use Firefox instead.

Firefox advantages

  • well-known and has lots of "hype"
    • (well-known by whom? most "average" users I have talked to don't know what Firefox is, if they have heard of it. having Firefox as the default browser probably won't get anybody to switch, but having a simple, straightforward computing experience might. --Michael10)

      • although ~90% of windows users use IE, i'd imagine the type of windows user that is likely to try ubuntu will have also tried firefox --SamTygier

        • (Windows or Mac users who use Firefox HAD to install it on their other platforms, so there's not any real difference if they have to install it on Linux as well. --DanaOlson)

  • brings familiarity for users of Windows and MacOS that already use Firefox. However, Firefox has a few interface differences between platforms which can confuse users who expect Firefox on Windows to be identical to Firefox on Linux. (e.g. "Preferences" menu entry is under "Tools" in Windows but it is under "Edit" in Linux, clicking the URL entry area once in Windows selects all text but clicking once in Linux does not, etc.)
    • (but again, the average user has familiarity with Internet Explorer, not Firefox. and Epiphany is pretty darn similar to Firefox, anyways. --Michael10)

      (Why is a minority chance of browser familiarity important when we offer a very different desktop experience? Everything else is different, why is this a sticking point? --TomvonSchwerdtner)

  • Firefox extensions make it easy for users to customize their browser for a better surfing experience. Even if Epiphany currently has its epiphany-extensions package, Firefox has some widely-installed extensions that Epiphany has no equivalent for (yet). The most commonly referenced is Adblock, although Epiphany has a plan for an equivalent http://live.gnome.org/Epiphany_2fAdBlockExtension

    • (This is, IMHO, not an argument since it's only a power user tool. You cannot provide by default a browser that alter the web like AdBlock! So, the extension is not to be installed by default and must not be considered, like many extensions, as an argument. Same apply to webdev extension (wich is very cool, but is a no necessity for the Average Joe) or the Gmail Notifier (which is only useful if you do use Gmail).)

      As of 1.9.1-0ubuntu1 adblock is in epiphany-extensions (MadMan2k)

* Firefox is more of a "selling point" to Linux users than Ephiphany, for example, Distrowatch keeps track of a limited number of packages,and while one of them is Firefox, Ephiphany is not listed. Why is this relevant? Well I'm sure that if you asked Ladislav Bodnar he would answer you something like, those are the packages that in his opinion (and he's as close to an expert on the topic as your likely to get) are generally the most important when deciding on a distribution for certain groups of people.

General points

  • Firefox contains more "power user" features, which could be argued as being good or bad
    • (power users can install firefox later, if they really need to do DOM debugging. average users will stick with what they have, and they will be happy if they are given a simple, integrated browser. --Michael10)

  • Firefox supports keywords in the address bar "google search term" (use google to search for "search term") or "dict word" (to look up "word" in an online dictionary), whereas in Epiphany "keymarks / smart bookmarks" appear as a dropdown menu from the address bar.
    • Not any more!

  • Firefox has a search field in the toolbar, which can be configured to use different search engines. In Epiphany any 'smart bookmark' can be put into the bookmark bar, which creates an entry field - this allows users to have boxes for dictionary lookup, babelfish translation, etc.
  • Epiphany integrates RSS feeds with external reader (liferea) when Firefox manages RSS itself. They are opposite approaches.
  • Epiphany currently has some better tab handling features, such as re-ordering (although Firefox 1.5 gets some of these). Firefox's behaviour of shrinking tabs, when there are a large number, is generall considered to be better than Epiphany's behaviour of having scroll buttons (re http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=153792).

    • (but does the average user ever have enough tabs open to have this problem? --Michael10)

  • Firefox keeps bookmarks in a heirachy, whereas in Epiphany bookmarks can belong to a number of "topics" (like folders). In practice Epiphany's method lets you put bookmarks in several places so you don't have to remember exactly where you put it, but it can be awkward if you have a large number of bookmarks.
  • Firefox has been called slow, but it is only as slow as your ram.
  • (Personal experience) Epiphany took at least 2 minutes to start up before I (majikstreet) got a ram upgrade.

Outstanding issues with Epiphany

  • Epiphany currently depends on the Firefox packages, so to run Epiphany, Firefox needs to be installed. This could be dealt with by creating a seperate Gecko package, on which Firefox, Epiphany, Galeon, Mozilla, Thunderbird and all other Gecko-powered applications would depend on.
    • (doesn't it make sense to create a separate Gecko package regardless, for all the people who do use a different browser? --Michael10)

      (this has been planned for a long time by mozilla, and is starting to come to fruition. I wouldn't depend on it being done by Dapper+1 though. --DSas)

      (this has been implemented. Epiphany can be compiled against XUL Runner, making the "Firefox as a dependency" argument invalid: [http://blogs.gnome.org/view/epiphany/2005/11/20/0] --JeffFortin)

  • If we want to allow RSS feature in Epiphany, we have to ship by default a compatible RSS reader. Liferea along with epiphany-extensions will integrate both program very easily, allowing to subscribe from epiphany in liferea, liferea is thus a perfect candidate ?