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If FOSS isn't your number one concern, why use IceCat?

From: Haniho Dude
Subject: If FOSS isn't your number one concern, why use IceCat?
Date: Sat, 16 Nov 2019 00:16:59 +0000

Hello everyone,

First of all, thanks for your hard work on IceCat. It's one of the few good browsers left. I hope that my question doesn't offend you. As much as it comes from a place of love, it also comes from a place of concern.

I'll begin by giving some context. FOSS is not my number one concern. I like FOSS and prefer it to many other things, but if I have to pick between FOSS and security, or FOSS and privacy, I'm not going to pick FOSS. Personally, I use IceCat because I find it to be the easiest and most trustworthy way to get a privacy-focused browser if you're someone who does not have the time to learn about the ins and outs of configuring Firefox. To be blunt, it is easier to remove the functionality-breaking components of IceCat (e.g. LibreJS) than it is to privacy harden Firefox. This bring me to my main point of concern. In recent years it has become clear that I can no longer trust IceCat for privacy. It has been 6 months since the last build and if my experience with the previous build is anything to go by, this means that IceCat will be behind Firefox ESR in terms of security updates. It is impossible for any such browser to be secure and therefore I cannot believe that IceCat protects my privacy. This would already be good reason to abandon the browser, but it appears that recent privacy efforts have completely superseded IceCat in terms of tweaking Firefox for privacy. In this day and age, it appears that one can read a Reddit post, copy and paste some text, delete a few bits, and soon have a privacy-focused version of Firefox. This also skips over the issues that one may find when installing IceCat on a distribution that does not have it packaged (e.g. getting it on Ubuntu was a pain, but you can't be blamed for that) and will make for much faster updates because said updates will not have to be filtered through IceCat development.

This finally bring me to my question: Aside from the components that exist only to make IceCat FOSS, what does IceCat offer that cannot be trivially obtained from a copy and paste job like what I have suggested? This page and your settings.js offer some insight, but I want to be sure. Finally, I am aware that there exists a script that will make IceCat from any build of Firefox, but if I do not prioritise FOSS (or rather, I prefer security to it), is there any reason for me to run it on a Firefox that has been modified in the ways that we are discussing?

Thank you for your time,

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