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GNOME Web 41 Flatpak Review and Bonus: You MUST Have a Web Browser in Debian! (Is This a Bug?)

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

GNOME Web 41
GNOME Web 41 on Debian 11 GNU/Linux



Just several days ago, I gave a mostly favorable review of GNOME Web 3.38.2 as packaged by Debian 11 GNU/Linux.



While I think 3.38.2 was a good browser, I decided to move on and pull in the Flatpak version of GNOME Web 41.



"The YouTube Ad Block script mostly works. Sometimes you see a second or two of the ad, but it mostly gets rid of them, and they never interrupt a video."Visually, the two versions are pretty similar, but there have been some improvements to stability, performance, minor UI tweaks, and a new AdGuard script that complements the built-in Webkit Content Blockers-based Ad Block feature.



When I got started, I made the mistake of pulling in the Flatpak without removing the DEB.



When you bring in the Flatpak of Firefox, it can be installed side-by-side with Firefox ESR from Debian, but GNOME Web does not get along well with its Debian package cousin, and the Debian version takes priority in the GNOME Shell overview.



So I ended up purging epiphany-browser and epiphany-browser-data with apt, and then deleting the local config and cache folders for “epiphany” under my Home folder (which are hidden behind the Ctrl+H hotkey to toggle invisible items).



This made way for the Flatpak, which now started.



The YouTube Ad Block script mostly works. Sometimes you see a second or two of the ad, but it mostly gets rid of them, and they never interrupt a video. Which is nice, because Google has gotten totally carried away to the point of making it unusable without this.



"Bill Gates was a liar when he swore up and down that IE was integrated deep, deep, into the guts of Windows 98, in court, under oath. So why can’t I remove Firefox ESR from Debian?"Performance of GNOME Web 41 has been improved, due to improvements in both the browser and in the newer version of WebkitGTK it brings in from the GNOME 41 platform Flatpak.



Today, I decided that I didn’t really need two Firefoxes, Firefoxen(?), whatever. 😉



So I went to apt-get purge the Firefox ESR from Debian to keep the Flatpak, only Debian told me that it would remove Firefox ESR and bring in Chromium. At first I thought something was broken, but then I found out that several of the metapackages require a Web browser, and they don’t recognize browsers from Flatpak, and when I decided I’d get clever and apt purge firefox-esr chromium … It told me it would get rid of a bunch of stuff, including the X11 server(!!!!) and bring in the DEB package for GNOME Web.



But that’s when it gets really strange.



I told it apt purge firefox-esr epiphany-browser chromium and now it wants to bring in Konqueror and half of KDE, including its Dolphin file manager.



So at this point, I became intrigued and told it apt purge firefox-esr epiphany-browser chromium konqueror, and it agreed to remove all browsers and not put a browser on the computer, if I would remove the X server, some fonts, all of LibreOffice, and the GNOME and desktop metapackages.



I think that this has to be some sort of a bug, because nothing should force you to have a Web browser, plus I still have Vivaldi installed, and alternatives recognizes that as one of the options for x-www-browser.



So I searched the problem, and a suggestion for how to hack around it came up suggesting to build an empty package that lies and says it’s a provider for “chromium” and dpkg -i it, and it would fool apt so that when you remove firefox-esr it doesn’t try to install anything.



I’m just not that sure Firefox ESR bothers me that much, but the idea that we “must” have a browser in a GNU/Linux OS is a bit nuts, isn’t it?



When I was 14, I set up Windows 98 and then used an unofficial script called Revenge of Mozilla, written by Bruce Jensen, and the Explorer shell from Windows 95 OSR 2.1 (FAT32 compatible), and it gave Windows 98 an enema and got it down to less than 100 MB.



It turned out that it ran pretty well after that, and that many patches no longer applied to you because you didn’t have the bloated and buggy code on your computer.



Bill Gates was a liar when he swore up and down that IE was integrated deep, deep, into the guts of Windows 98, in court, under oath. So why can’t I remove Firefox ESR from Debian?



Lastly, I finally got around to installing the email client, Geary, out of Flatpak. For privacy, I won’t post screenshots of that, but it’s pretty much as pictured on Flathub, except I use Adwaita Dark.



There’s no pesky guessing at how to set this thing up if you use GMail or Outlook Mail, which you can log into via OAuth through GNOME, in the Settings application.



In fact, this is VERY nice because I use two-factor authentication on all of my accounts and making app passwords is a hassle.



Technically, GNOME already has an email client called Evolution, and it has been around for a very long time (originally from Ximian, then Novell, and now “The Evolution Team”).



But Evolution is a big “Groupware” suite, and Geary is just an email client. If you’re like me and just need email, and want a fast and efficient workflow and a performant client, Geary fits the bill.



Microsoft’s Outlook Webmail occasionally gives GNOME Web an outdated version that’s a holdover for Internet Explorer 7 and earlier, and it looks like Hotmail.



It’s pretty gross. I asked Michael Catanzaro to look into using User Agent tricks to make it work, but we never found anything that reliably brought up the “modern” version that other browsers get.



It’s interesting, because Microsoft doesn’t do this to Safari.



They have done similar nasty things to Opera, back when it was really a company in Norway with a real browser. They had a very good rendering engine, better than anything else out there at the time, and Microsoft sabotaged MSN. So Opera released a Bork Edition of Opera, which translated Microsoft’s website into the language of the Swedish Chef.



Regardless, since Geary does what I need it to, and pairs well with GNOME Web, I won’t have to be using Microsoft’s nasty webmail interface. Even if you do get the “modern” one, it will take up a bunch of the screen with “Are you using an ad blocker? Click here to pay us and we’ll give you part of the screen back!”.



I really need to get everything over to one email service that Microsoft has nothing to do with. That won’t be easy. *sigh*

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