the dinosaur (ze_dinosaur) wrote,
the dinosaur

The Ghost of Browser Past

Even though Iceweasel has been a reality since November, it seems that there is still some backlash about the rename. Thanks very much to Andrew for jumping to my defense (and also for organizing dinner the last time I was in Mountain View, it was a fun evening). Nothing he said was fundamentally incorrect, but it doesn't paint the full picture.

Once upon a time (somewhere around Firefox 0.9) we happily shipped the fox hugging the globe icon. Then it was pointed out the copyright license on that piece of artwork wasn't DFSG free (and probably wouldn't be free under any reasonable free software or even open content license), so we removed it and used the plain globe icon they shipped in the tarball instead. Eventually the Mozilla Foundation asked us to remove mozilla- from the package name (it was mozilla-firefox at the time) which we did, and the issue of the icon and trademark came up. After explaining why we couldn't ship the icon they gave us permission to continue to use the name. They said they would periodically check up to make sure we weren't shipping crap that would harm the brand. This seemed a fairly good compromise and we accepted.

This situation persisted for a year or so, in both Debian and Ubuntu, but then the Mozilla Corporation (who was now in possession of the trademarks) insisted we couldn't use the name without the non-free logo. They also wanted to approve any changes made before they were uploaded. They are certainly within their rights to do this, but to hear Mr. Fowler tell it we were on a crusade to purge the name from the distro. We were not, we were content with the status quo. I also must take exception with Mr. Fowler stating: "They've persisted, despite the best efforts of the Mozilla project team to engage with the Debian packagers to resolve the situation." I think from the discussion we were trying our best to reach some sort of compromise and the Mozilla side seemed firmly entrenched in their position, not offering us a lot of alternatives. The non-free nature of the logo and the unprecedented "control-freak" review process didn't leave us with a lot of alternatives.

Ubuntu does ship the officially branded version of the Firefox, but they have a weaker set of freedom guidelines than Debian. Whether you think that is good or bad is personal choice, but one of the reasons I like Debian so much is its commitment to free software, even if that means not everything is as easy or expedient as one would like.

With respect to the new name and icon, this is again a matter of personal taste. I do tend to think "Iceweasel" doesn't have that much sex appeal but it was a popular choice and had the benefit of having already been used to refer to a potential name fork of Firefox. And BTW this is really only a name fork, the amount of changes we've actually put in to the tree (beyond renaming ones) are minimal. In fact the last time it was checked, our patches were a strict subset of the patches Ubuntu uses in their Firefox package. So Iceweasel is in fact functionally identical to Firefox with what I like to think are some minor improvements from upstream.

As to your other points, I will admit to being poorly-socialized, but I think most who have met me wouldn't call me self-obsessed, egotistical or a moron.

I think Debian is developing a bit of a bias against it where we're assumed to be a bunch of crazy Free software nuts, and the presumption is anytime we act against the grain we're the ones being unreasonable despite any evidence to the contrary. I don't know how we can fight this perception, but I think we should.
Tags: debian, en, firefox, iceweasel

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