The Firefox Fluster

When people speak about successful Open Source projects, what tops the list is the famous Open Source browser that’s been used by people not only on GNU/Linux, but on Windows and Mac as well. Firefox has always been the one prime example that OSS projects can be successful and famous. But no project is without problems, especially when the number of people using it and thereby the expectations on it from different kinds of people keeps growing.

This is not the first time that a GNU/Linux distribution is facing a problem with people behind the brand Firefox, indeed many distros took the decision to denounce the brand name Firefox and stay as Free as possible. But there were other distros which managed to get into an understanding and could keep the Firefox ball rolling.

What has happened over the recent past is that Firefox has come up with a requirement that when the distribution makes it’s own changes to Firefox and still want to use the branding of Firefox have to display an EULA when it’s users start Firefox the first time. As the distro chose to bundle Firefox as the default browser, this means that when you install this distro and start the browser the very first time, you have to face an EULA and agree to it to continue using the browser.

The second wave of problem associated with this is that it is conspired that the distro chose to implement this without consulting, debating and discussing with the community. A recent thread started in its bug tracker, lead to a long discussion (which many felt should have happened in a mailing list and not in a bug tracker).

The possible outcomes can be,

  1. Firefox again agrees for Ubuntu to use it without EULA being thrown to its users, hence the problem ends, at least for now.
  2. Ubuntu decides to still have Firefox with EULA but somehow get the permission not to throw on its users at first start (i.e. meaning all users implicitly agree to EULA when they start it first time)
  3. Ubuntu, following Debian and other distros, decides to denounce the Firefox brand and go for a custom brand or use Icedove (or similar browsers)

A lot of people support solution #3, especially those who want Ubuntu to strongly adhere to being like a Free Software distribution. My knowledge is very limited to the legal fundas behind it, but lots of people like me are also concerned. At one side, it’s about the philosophy of freedom which had been keeping us with FOSS. On the other side, it might be losing a well matured and powerful browser like Firefox. But we all hope that the final decision taken by people behind Ubuntu will be to the best interests of its community and something a major portion of the community can accept.


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