Libre Browsers Libre Formats

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These days there are several free software browsers available. It's important to use browsers which support media formats not encumbered by patents. This page documents browsers which are highly featured, have graphical interfaces, and support free formats.

Free browsers, caveat free

GNU IceCat

GNU Icecat is a free browser based on Mozilla's Firefox. It contains several privacy enhancements and includes extensions like LibreJS turned on by default.

It is sometimes a bit behind Firefox in releases.

Free browsers, with caveats


Iceweasel is really just Firefox, but rebranded by Debian to be free of trademark issues. It shares some similar issues with Firefox, that of recommending non-free software via add-ons. If you use Iceweasel it's important to be careful. The Trisquel project maintains a listing of free add-ons that can be used in place of the one provided by Mozilla, which is where Iceweasel sends you:

Browsers that might or might not be free


Chromium might or might not be free. During the last review, the copyright or license of some code was unclear. It also has a similiar problem to Iceweasel and Firefox in which it links to proprietary plugins. (Chromium should NOT be confused with Google Chrome, which shares a codebase with Chromium but is not free software.)

Browsers that might seem free, but are not


Copyright isn't the only thing that can be used to grant or take away the four essential freedoms.

Mozilla has found a clever way to take away freedom 2 ("The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor") using trademark law instead of using copyright law. The Free Software Definition says that, in order for a software package to be considered free, it must embrace all four freedoms on both a commercial and noncommercial basis. Mozilla's trademark policy limits freedom 2 to gratis distribution, making the software nonfree.

It is as if Firefox were under a non-commercial license. It's achieved through means outside of copyright, but the net effect is the same and it still has the force of law behind it. Fortunately, their method leaves a loophole open for derivative works such as GNU IceCat to escape this and this is exactly what they do.

In addition, non-free software is recommended to people using Firefox in the form of add-ons. The Trisquel project maintains a listing of free add-ons that can be used in place of the one provided by Mozilla:

Finally, Mozilla has implemented support for Digital Restrictions Management inside Firefox. This makes for a good read:


Palemoon has a similar problem to Firefox in which Freedom #2 is restricted to non-commercial distribution only:

Browsers to avoid

These browsers are entirely nonfree. You may hear recommendations to use them. Please avoid them, and instead use one of the above browsers.

  • Google Chrome
  • Safari
  • Internet Explorer
  • Microsoft Edge

This page was a featured resource in February 2016.