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Installing Firefox

From Debian packages

On DebianStable, Install the firefox-esr package.

This installs the Extended Support Release of Firefox. ESRs are not updated with new features every six weeks. They are instead supported for more than a year, updating with major security or stability fixes.

Support for languages other than English is available in packages named firefox-esr-l10n*.

On DebianUnstable, to install the Release version of Firefox, install the firefox package.

From Mozilla binaries

Mozilla distributes ready-to-use Firefox binaries for Linux on their website:

To install any of them on DebianStable:

From Flathub

Mozilla provides an official FlatPak at FlatHub.

If you haven't already set up flatpak, run

sudo apt install flatpak
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

Install it:

flatpak install flathub org.mozilla.firefox

Run it:

flatpak run org.mozilla.firefox

If you have added /var/lib/flatpak/exports/bin to your PATH, you can also run it with the command

org.mozilla.firefox

Flatpaks don't support native messaging. Therefore, add-ons which rely on it such as KeePassXC Browser don't work. A workaround for KeePassXC is described in the Flathub forum. Since the KeePassXC's socket has been renamed in KeePassXC 2.6, for this version you need to tweak the solution as described in comment #3

Using snap

Mozilla provides an official Snap package for Firefox:

If you haven't already installed snapd, run

sudo apt install snapd

Install it:

sudo snap install firefox

Run it:

snap run firefox

Snap packages don't support native messaging. Therefore, add-ons which rely on it such as KeePassXC Browser don't work. Since KeePassXC's server socket has been renamed, you need to tweak the workaround as explained in https://discourse.flathub.org/t/how-to-run-firefox-and-keepassxc-in-a-flatpak-and-get-the-keepassxc-browser-add-on-to-work/437/3?u=jro

Migrating from Debian's Firefox to Upstream's

First install Firefox as described in the chapter Installing Firefox -> From Mozilla binaries.

Upon first starting the new upstream Firefox, the new upstream Firefox will start with a new, fresh, empty profile. If you do not want that, but want to keep using your previous bookmarks, settings, extensions and so on, then terminate Firefox and start it like this:

./firefox --ProfileManager

You'll be presented with available profiles. The new, fresh profile will probably be named default-esr-1 (if you are using an ESR release Firefox). The profile that you were using before, with Debian's Firefox, will probably be named default-esr (if you had not renamed it in the past). Select the default-esr profile. Now check that everything works fine, because it might be that a new Firefox will not be able to cope with the profile of an old Firefox. If you are happy, then next time you start Firefox, then do it again by running ./firefox --ProfileManager and make sure your old profile is selected as the default one.

Attention: when terminating Firefox cleanly, Firefox will ask you if you really want to close the N currently open tabs. If you confirm then on the next start Firefox will have lost your currently open tabs. What you can do instead to terminate Firefox and preserve your session - that is the currently open tabs - is to look up the main Firefox process and to kill it. That way Firefox will ask you next time, whether you want to restore the session and tabs it had before it was killed. All this might be not clean and you might loose data that you were entering in forms before you killed Firefox, so think about it before killing Firefox this way.

Hardware Video Acceleration

This is for Debian 11 / Bullseye

Setup your system and install required packages: https://wiki.debian.org/HardwareVideoAcceleration

Starting around version 95 firefox has enabled hardware video acceleration via VA-API but still needs to be manually turned on. firefox-esr is projected to be updated to version 102 sometime in 3Q 2022. Until then, you must use mozilla binaries, flatpak, or snap if you want hardware video acceleration.

For version 95.x:

Enter about:config in address bar:

media.ffmpeg.vaapi.enabled

true

AVC/h.264 HEVC/h.265 works

media.ffvpx.enabled

false

disables firefox internal software decoding of VP8/VP9 and forces hardware decoding

Then launch firefox based on whether you use X11 or Wayland:

X11

MOZ_X11_EGL=1

Wayland/Xwayland

MOZ_ENABLE_WAYLAND=1

e.g. .desktop launcher command for X11 and Mozilla binary:

Exec=env MOZ_X11_EGL=1 /home/user/firefox/firefox

For version 96 and above, the above settings may change.

Intel

intel-gpu-tools

# intel_gpu_top

intel_gpu_top will show the video engine being used if hardware video acceleration is working. So long as it is above 0%, it is working.

Disable AV1 codec

If vainfo shows your hardware supports AV1 decoding, leave this enabled.

A lot of hardware does not support hardware decoding of AV1. You can disable the codec, so sites like youtube will fall back to h.264/h.265 or VP8/VP9 which is supported. This will save your battery and/or reduce power consumption/CPU load.

Enter about:config in address bar:

media.av1.enabled

false

Note: If the website only has AV1 video available, no video will be displayed at all.

Profile

Firefox user data (your home page, toolbars, installed extensions, passwords, bookmarks...) are stored in a profile folder. (See this Mozilla support page).

* If firefox refuses to start with the existing profile because the version of firefox launched is supposedly not compatible, you can try removing the file compatibility.ini within the profiles directory. You may want to back up the profiles directory first, in case of an actual incompatibility.

find ~/.mozilla.firefox/ -name compatibility.ini -exec rm '{}' \;

or, if you are using flatpak

find ~/.var/app/org.mozilla.firefox/.mozilla/firefox/ -name compatibility.ini -exec rm '{}' \;

Disabling automatic connections

Firefox makes a number of automated connections to Mozilla's (and other's) servers without explicitly asking the user for approval. Mozilla documents that list in the How to stop Firefox from making automatic connections page. Here is a table of the above parameters and how Debian diverges from the upstream default:

The table below may be out of date. It was created on 2018-09-23 from the upstream page by looking at an empty profile on Firefox ESR 60.2.1esr-1. Mozilla's documentation itself may be missing some parameters as well.

Feature

Parameter

Mozilla

Debian

Auto-update checking

app.update.enabled

true

false

Auto-update search engines

browser.search.update

true

true

Blocklist updating

extensions.blocklist.enabled

true

true

Anti-phishing and malware protection lists

browser.safebrowsing.downloads.remote.enabled

true

true

Tracking protection

privacy.trackingprotection.enabled

false

false

Secure website certificates (OCSP)

security.OCSP.enabled

1

1

Link prefetching

network.prefetch-next

true

true

DNS prefetching

network.dns.disablePrefetch

false (means enabled)

false

Speculative pre-connections

network.http.speculative-parallel-limit

6

0

Add-on list prefetching

N/A (can't be turned off)

enabled

enabled

Extensions update check

extensions.update.enabled

true

true

Live Bookmarks updating

N/A (user-enabled)

none by default

none by default

Downloads restarted

N/A (user-enabled)

N/A

N/A

Search plugin icon loading

?

?

?

Firefox Sync

? (needs user to opt-in)

N/A

N/A

Snippets

browser.aboutHomeSnippets.updateUrl

enabled

enabled

Geolocation for default search engine

browser.search.geoip.url

enabled

enabled

"What's new" page

browser.startup.homepage_override.mstone

enabled

enabled

Add-on metadata updating

extensions.getAddons.cache.enabled

enabled

enabled

Telemetry

browser.selfsupport.url

N/A?

N/A?

Telemetry

toolkit.telemetry.enabled

false in releases, true in nightly

false? there are other parameters

Telemetry coverage

toolkit.telemetry.coverage.opt-out

not present (means enabled)

not present

OpenH264 plugin download

media.gmp-gmpopenh264.enabled

true

false

WebRTC

multiple

enabled

enabled?

Send Video To Device

browser.casting.enabled

false

N/A?

Captive portal detection

network.captive-portal-service.enabled

true

true

Loopback connection

can't be disabled

disabled on Linux

disabled

Other projects aim at improving security and privacy in Firefox:

Plugins

The only plugin supported by Firefox is FlashPlayer (NPAPI version). Other plugins are no longer supported.

Plugins are found at /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins (system wide) or  ~/.mozilla/plugins (current user only).

Troubleshooting

Firefox is consistently crashing on a website:

No sound:

Go through the general Sound troubleshooting steps. If this fails, reinstall alsa and pulseaudio:

sudo apt remove --purge alsa-base pulseaudio
sudo apt install alsa-base pulseaudio

Iceweasel

From Debian Etch through Debian Jessie (9th June 2016), Mozilla Firefox was not available in Debian with the official name or branding. Instead, Debian shipped a free-software version rebranded by Debian, named Iceweasel. This fork was maintained because of a disagreement with Mozilla regarding backporting of the security fixes to DebianStable, and as the result could not use trademarked Mozilla artwork.

Starting from DebianStretch, the iceweasel package has been made a transitional package for firefox-esr. Normal Debian support policies, including patches for bug fixes, apply to the package.

Iceweasel used to require gstreamer1.0-libav gstreamer1.0-plugins-good packages for good video playback support.


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