Those with grey hair might remember how browsers used to work back when the two mainstream choices were Netscape or Internet Explorer -- even on the Mac! A radical faction then split away from the Netscape team to form Firefox, and if you’ve ever wondered what happened to the venerable Netscape then we’ve the answer: It became SeaMonkey. And, perhaps astonishingly, it’s still being developed after all these years, with a new version released in March 2016.
On the top side of the SeaMonkey coin is the browser itself, which is actually just one component of a bundle of apps that come under the SeaMonkey heading. As with the original Netscape, you also get an email and newsgroup app, news/feed reader, HTML editor, IRC chat, and more. Here we’re looking only at the browser component.
On the other side of the coin, however, the HTML rendering engine is taken from the latest Firefox release. Thus, we end-up with a perfect anachronism – SeaMonkey looks, feels and largely operates like Netscape in the year 2000 but it performs like a totally modern browser, and is fully compatible with modern web technologies. Although the lowest in our testing here, the JetStream benchmark score of a respectable 196.57 reflects this, as does its pretty good Octane benchmark score, and we weren’t waiting around for pages to load. Scrolling was less than silky smooth, but not quite as jerky as when using Firefox. Battery power consumption was also on a par with Firefox, if a little worse.
It’s not hard to see the age-related wrinkles, though. For starters, SeaMonkey doesn’t appear to be compatible with Retina displays. This is probably because it uses its own text rendering system that simply hasn’t been updated. The result is that fonts look blurry. And the interface really does look like Netscape from the early years of this century. There’s even the same progress icon at the top right. It’s no longer the Netscape logo but that of a small bird (canary?). However, it animates in the same way while a page is loading.
Rather irritatingly, gestures don’t work, so you can’t swipe left or right on a trackpad or Magic Mouse in order to move back or forward in your browsing history.
Other than what’s mentioned earlier, in terms of features things are fairly standard: syncing of bookmarks and other browsing data (via SeaMonkey’s own server), regular tabbed browsing, support for extensions (again, SeaMonkey’s own rather than Firefox), and some useful older features long-since lost from most modern browsers, such as the ability to block images from a particular site.
If ever you’ve been faced with a new “modern” look and feel in an updated app, and then wondered why things can’t just stay the same as they ever were, SeaMonkey is for you. However, it’s pretty hard to recommend for anybody else – especially if your Mac has a Retina screen.
Get SeaMonkey here.