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IceWeasel — Why Closed Source Wins 551

Posted by kdawson
from the some-say-the-world-will-end-in-fire dept.
engtech writes, "There's been some hype about the Debian fork of FireFox called IceWeasel. Politics aside, this is a bad idea because it fragments the user base, divides the focus, and opens the path for Microsoft and Internet Explorer 7 to regain marketshare."
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IceWeasel — Why Closed Source Wins

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  • Seamonkey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <<elmuerte> <at> <drunksnipers.com>> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:27PM (#16414169) Homepage
    Just like how Firefox fragmented the Mozilla userbase?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:33PM (#16414269)
      Linux users talking about fragmentation? Never heard of that before. Anyway, I'm off to distrowatch to download my 643rd distro. See you guys later.
    • Re:Seamonkey (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:35PM (#16414331)
      But Firefox is installable on a ton of platforms.

      Ice Weasel sounds like it will be only installable on Debian, perhaps Debian-descended platforms like Ubuntu. Of course, since it's open source, anyone can port it to other platforms, I suppose. But why bother, all Ice Weasel is, is Firefox devoid of any nonfree trademarked art. And any updates to Firefox will be bought to Iceweasel.

      But there are already other variations of Firefox, like Swiftfox. Firefox will be the main flavor for a long time.

      The only way a fracture in the community will happen is if the releases are not compatible with each other, but the projects don't sound like they will develop on their own, but always staying with the main branch of Firefox. They can't really afford not to.
      • by BKX (5066)
        Port? Debian is Linux. I see no reason for it not to run on any other Linux of similar Glibc (in other works, practically all of them since three years ago.). Shit, I run software "for Redhat" and "for Debian" all the time on my Gentoo system and have never had any problems. (In case you wonder, the printer and scanner drivers for my Brother MFC-7420 are "for debian". I extracted them using Knoppix disc and copied them to my Gentoo box. My Counter-Strike Source dedicated server is "for redhat", as is VMWare
        • Re:Seamonkey (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:59AM (#16419213) Homepage
          Port? Debian is Linux.

          This isn't the 1990s. The "Linux distros" are now quite different from each other, and often binary-incompatible in some ways. Granted, it's very easy to port software between them (if you have source code, which you usually do), but they are most definitely different OSes now.

          There are (or will soon be) more similarities between e.g. Debian GNU/Linux and Debian GNU/kFreeBSD than between Debian GNU/Linux and Mandriva Linux or Fedora Core.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by garcia (6573)
        Ice Weasel sounds like it will be only installable on Debian, perhaps Debian-descended platforms like Ubuntu. Of course, since it's open source, anyone can port it to other platforms, I suppose. But why bother, all Ice Weasel is, is Firefox devoid of any nonfree trademarked art. And any updates to Firefox will be bought to Iceweasel.

        Then, if everyone is so fucking concerned with "unity" in the userbase stop using vi, vim, Emacs, pico, nano, joe, and echo and instead just come up with a standard editor and u
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by djimi (315208)
          Interesting analogy, but I think it's a bit off. Text editors "create" text -- which all of them will see. There really isn't variation in the grand scheme of things. The differences are the keystrokes & interface that people like one way or another. On the other hand, a web browser is a content viewer, and the web is forever changing what we can and will see & hear. Text really isn't changing is it? Web "Compatibility" & standards of experience across platforms is the debate.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by quanticle (843097)
            No, the analogy isn't off at all. As long as this "IceWeasel" or whatever uses the same Gecko rendering engine as Firefox, it'll be able to display all of the same things that Firefox does. Unless the Debian folk deliberately go and screw with the rendering engine or the plugin manager, IceWeasel will maintain perfect compatibility with Firefox.
      • Re:Seamonkey (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Firehed (942385) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:27PM (#16415071) Homepage
        IceWeasel is only Firefox without the logos. The guys at Debian don't want anything that's not completely Free (as in speech), and Firefox's logos are copyrighted. Mozilla says you can't create a Firefox distro with the same title if it doesn't have the logos. So they changed the name.
        • Re:Seamonkey (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:37PM (#16415195)
          How are sites slashdotted when nobody reads TFAs?

          It's not that nobody reads them. It's just that the intersection of (dotters who read the articles) and {dotters who post} is the empty set.

        • Re:Seamonkey (Score:5, Informative)

          by zsau (266209) <slashdot.thecartographers@net> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:04PM (#16417721) Homepage Journal
          Actually, the Debian version of Firefox contains various patches which the Mozilla people aren't happy about (including security patches--Debian wants to keep versions in Debian/Stable secure, but Mozilla wants everyone to use the latest version). Iceweasel is a fork that doesn't intend to diverge very far from the original codebase, but a fork it is nonetheless.
          • by deek (22697) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:35PM (#16418587) Homepage Journal
            With such a wide discrepency in intentions between forked projects, it seems we need a new word to adequately describe things. Something that would describe forking a project, with the intent of keeping it close to the original project.

            Maybe something along these lines:

            • spoon - well after all, it's not really a fork.
            • spork - continuing on the theme of almost being a fork.
            • prong - I enjoy the idea of describing a project as "pronged".


            Any other suggestions? Any preference from the above? This clearly fills a need that I see in the community, so I shall leave it to the community to decide what they want.
      • by bhmit1 (2270) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:16PM (#16417825) Homepage
        Ice Weasel sounds like it will be only installable on Debian, perhaps Debian-descended platforms like Ubuntu.
        With the exception of a few Debian native packages, everything in Debian is a fork that is designed to only be installed on a Debian or a derivative distribution. The source of a Debian package is the original source files and a diff (aka fork) of everything needed to make that software bug free, comply with the packaging standards, and work with other packages on the system. The only difference here from every other package is that Firefox doesn't want to allow Debian to distribute with the same name and logos if it's not released by them, and that's their right. The Debian developers will keep the changes to a minimum to reduce their work, so this will still be very similar to firefox, and I expect the developers to continue using updates from firefox and sending patches and bug reports, where appropriate, back to firefox. The whole thing would have been a lot easier if firefox just made some unofficial branding that could be applied to their product so that people know they are still using firefox that's been modified by a 3rd party vs the real firefox.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fordiman (689627)
      Ah, correct me if I'm wrong, but IceWeasel is just Firefox with different branding, ne?
      • Re:Seamonkey (Score:5, Informative)

        by Arker (91948) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:32AM (#16420727) Homepage
        It's a little more than that. Debian maintains a stable branch, and when firefox (or any other app) releases a new version, debian stable sticks with the old one, but backports any security and stability work. This appears to be what the mozilla folks have a problem with - when they release a new version they want everyone to move to it. Debian just doesn't work that way though. They maintain their stable version independently, and do a damn good job of it - security work gets backported, but new features (statistically suspect to introduce new issues that won't be discovered or fixed for awhile) don't. Mozilla says they can't use the name and logo, so they're going to call it iceweasel now. But other than that, it's really a continuation of what they've *always* done with this and every other upstream package. You can call it a fork if you want, but if it's a fork it's a parrallel fork and it's not starting now, it's been going for many years.
  • Err (Score:5, Insightful)

    by republican gourd (879711) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:28PM (#16414173)
    Exactly *how*, is Microsoft going to capitalize on a fracture of Firefox... within *Debian*? This doesn't touch the userbase that is competing with IE etc whatsoever.
    • Basically I guess it would allow them to play more numbers games with webstats, which are pretty meaningless as recent slashdot stories have demonstrated. Furthermore, we are talking a small percentage of a small percentage, I doubt it will have any longlasting effects.
      • Does Iceweasel even send a different UserAgent string? I thought the only alteration was to remove the trademarked portions of FF, and I presume no one was asinine enough to trademark the user agent ...
        • by Intron (870560)
          "The Mozilla trademarks include, among others, the names Mozilla®, mozilla.org®, Firefox® [mozilla.org], Thunderbird(TM), Bugzilla(TM), Camino®, Sunbird(TM) and Seamonkey(TM), as well as the Mozilla logo, Firefox logo, Thunderbird logo and the red lizard logo."

          The policy says that if you change it, you can't use their name or logos, so I would guess new agent.
    • by bunions (970377) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:36PM (#16414351)
      I am a proud IE-on-Debian user and there are millions* like me!

      http://www.tatanka.com.br/ies4linux/page/Main_Page [tatanka.com.br]

      *0.00005 millions

    • Re:Err (Score:4, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:20PM (#16414975)
      Exactly *how*, is Microsoft going to capitalize on a fracture of Firefox... within *Debian*?

      "Iceweasel" is a name chosen out of pure spite.

      What kind of message do you think this sends to the small business and enterprise markets about the maturity of the FOSS community?

  • Honestly, is IE7 going to make up that much marketshare just because Debian users start using a different browser? Just because there's another option for one small tiny part of the population doesn't mean a great mass are going to be affected.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joe 155 (937621)
      Indeed, this isn't even like all Linux users are being forced to move, it's still the default on Fedora and Ubuntu (I think)... Not only that but Debian, at least the last time I heard, wasn't going to create something completely different, they just wanted a different name and logos - I bet most of the code would be the same.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:38PM (#16414381) Homepage Journal
      Hey those what 10,000 debian desktop machines will really mess things up for Firefox.
      I am a Linux user but let us all get a grip. Firefox on Linux is a tiny blip... Firefox on windows is where what scares Microsoft.
      Even then Suse, Fedora, Gentoo, Ubuntu, and Linspire all use Firefox.
      So I would rate this news as two yawns and a stretch.
      • Not entirely. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Almahtar (991773)
        I think what presents a threat to Microsoft is when the programs people use on Windows are available everywhere else. That allows for a seamless transition away from Windows and the entire Microsoft suite. So when users can't find their pretty fox-setting-the-world-on-fire-with-its-tail button, they don't feel as comfortable: it's just one more thing that's "different." What's more, not being geeks, they won't know that IceWeasel == Firefox. All it takes is one idiot saying "Iceweasel isn't as good as F
  • Either it's forked with a new name, or the Mozilla foundation has to deal with a version that's significantly diverged from the original, with its own bugs and issues. Perhaps Debian could live with using the mainline codebase, and contributing patches to Mozilla rather than going out on its own?
    • by XanC (644172) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:34PM (#16414295)

      Debian's goals are to quickly patch security problems, and to backport fixes to versions declared stable for the benefit of their users.

      Both these goals a) good, useful, helpful, and worthwhile, and b) in conflict with the wishes of the Mozilla Corporation.

      Perhaps Mozilla could give a little here, instead of Debian. Hmm?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by perlchild (582235)
      I am quoting from memory, but here's the situation in a nutshell:
      That's been tried, the core of the issue was that Mozilla included non-free(as per Debian's DFSG) images along with Firefox, presenting Debian with the two following options:
      1) Not distributing Firefox
      2) Finding a way to distribute Firefox without the offending image

      They picked two, which caused the uproar, which caused the request from Mozilla not to use the Firefox name if the non-free images weren't there. Debian said "We'll fork and use a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trifthen (40989)
      That's what I was wondering. We're talking about Debian here, easily the slowest releasing distribution in the Linux world. Are they saying they can't submit patches to the Mozilla foundation so Mozilla can check the fixes for bugs or come up with a better patch, because they can't wait that long? Sure, Firefox is open source, but what Debian is distributing is not Firefox. It's somewhat sad Debian had to react in a petulant manner and come up with a childish reactionary name like "IceWeasel." I seem t
    • by Al Dimond (792444) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:52PM (#16414575) Journal
      As I understand it Debian does contribute patches back to Mozilla. But Debian wants to backport security fixes to versions of Firefox that Moz. Foundation no longer supports. I'm pretty sure this is true.

      As I understand it Mozilla used to let them call these versions "Debian Firefox" but now they don't anymore. I'm not entirely sure this is quite right. Also there's a DFSG issue that I don't remember the details of.

      Mozilla Foundation doesn't have to "deal with" Iceweasel at all, except to respond to all of this publicity. This looks "big-picture bad" to some people but to Debian keeping the stable branch secure is more important than Firefox advocacy. In other words, the "small-picture" disagreements that made this happen are actually the big picture.

      For most users there's not much of a reason to use package management for a program like Firefox. It's frequently-updated and for most people frequently-used, and it has an auto-update system if you use the official binaries. People will usually want the updated version. For people that have a good reason to stick with a really old version, or who don't use the browser enough to keep it updated independently of other software Iceweasel gives them their security backports. And I can understand why MoFo wouldn't want their trademark applied to software that's maintained by Debian.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by entrylevel (559061)
        There is a very good reason to install Firefox via your distribution's package management system. If another packages relies on the Gecko libraries to embed a web browser (examples: Eclipse [eclipse.org], Listen [listengnome.free.fr]), and you installed Firefox manually, you'll wind up with two copies installed.

        Actually, on Ubuntu you'll probably wind up with both Mozilla and Firefox installed (grr), but you see my point.
    • by Intron (870560) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:13PM (#16414875)
      Except that the Mozilla developers work on what they want to do, not what you want them to do. Take a look at bug 33654 - TEXTAREA incorrectly applying ROWS= and COLS=. This was reported in 2000 (yes, 6 years ago) and makes forms not line up properly. If you were to fix this, you couldn't technically distribute your fixed version, because the firefox license prohibits it. Hence, iceWeasel.
  • Missing the point... (Score:5, Informative)

    by roster238 (969495) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:28PM (#16414183)
    The point of open source software is to allow users the freedom to modify the code to meet their needs. If you restrict users to one single unmodified browser for the sake of unity then we have met the enemy and he is us.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:40PM (#16414407)
      The Mozilla Foundation doesn't have a problem with Debian modifying FireFox. What they have a problem with is Debian modifying FireFox fairly significantly, yet continuing to call the product "FireFox". FireFox(tm) is a specific codebase, maintained by the Mozilla Foundation. I think they have every right to ask Debian to rename their fork, so that end users are not confused, thinking that bugs in Iceweasel are general FireFox bugs (in some cases, they may be, in other cases, not).

      I don't see anything wrong with asking someone who forks your codebase to use a different name to avoid confusion. What's the problem with that?

      Plus, there is this thing about Trademark law. If you don't actively police it, you can lose the right to the mark.
      • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:23PM (#16415001) Homepage Journal
        Plus, there is this thing about Trademark law. If you don't actively police it, you can lose the right to the mark.

        I hear this repeated a lot. It's not true. If you allow your mark to become generic you can lose your right to it. Firefox is not at risk of this happening. Google is. You can be selective about enforcement as long as you don't allow the mark to become generic.

        Debian has handled this problem, for years, by having an official-use and an un-official-use logo for their own distribution. This allows people to package the program with modifications and still use consistent branding.

        Bruce

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Russ Nelson (33911)
          I hear this repeated a lot. It's not true. If you allow your mark to become generic you can lose your right to it. Firefox is not at risk of this happening. Google is. You can be selective about enforcement as long as you don't allow the mark to become generic.

          I have never EVER heard a lawyer say this. On the other hand, I have heard lawyers say that to hold a trademark, you must control the quality of the goods described. But what do lawyers know about the subject?? After all, this is the same Bruce Per
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Bruce Perens (3872) *
            Oh, gee, Russ. It might be helpful if you were to actually provide some evidence to refute what I said, instead of just abuse. I know you call yourself "the angry economist", but it really seems that you're just angry.

            Actually, I have this from Pixar's head attorney, Larry Sonsini, some years ago. At the time, we were considering how much we needed to enforce the "Renderman" mark.

            But I looked at 14 USC 1064 (3), which says you can lose your trademark if:

            (3) At any time if the registered mark becomes th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kelson (129150) *

        Plus, there is this thing about Trademark law. If you don't actively police it, you can lose the right to the mark.

        Of course, they can actively police it *and* grant permission to use it. That didn't work in this case, because the conditions Mozilla placed on that permission weren't acceptable to Debian.

        Also, I seem to recall something in the DFSG such that licenses *must* be transferable to derived products. I suspect Mozilla's trademark license would have been specific to Debian, and therefore not q

        • What the DFSG says (Score:4, Informative)

          by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:32PM (#16415133) Homepage Journal
          DFSG #4 explicitly says that an Open Source license can require you to change the name if you modify the product.

          That said, a well-designed trademark policy (like Debian's) provides a mark that they explicitly recommend that you to use if you modify the product, which does not throw their own branding out the window. The Mozilla.com people simply haven't thought that through sufficiently.

          Bruce

  • Nobody have warned me as such ? When did that happen ?
    • If you switch to IceWeasel, the terrorists^Wmonopolists win!
    • It happened when Firefox became mainstream. According to geek rule A45-124.7 Firefox must now be considered evil.
      • by Kelson (129150) *

        It happened when Firefox became mainstream. According to geek rule A45-124.7 Firefox must now be considered evil.

        Actually, you may have a point there. But it's not just geeks. It's any counterculture. Look at indie music -- once an unknown band becomes a mainstream hit, suddenly they've sold out and are beneath contempt.

        Some subsets of our culture have an attitude that quality is inversely proportional to popularity. Others have the opposite tendency.

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:29PM (#16414199) Homepage Journal
    My first reaction to this entire situation is that, it's more complicated than it looks. On one hand, Mozilla doesn't want binaries being redistributed that they didn't build themselves. On the other hand, Debian wants to be able to handle source patches of their entire source tree. The result is that you get two competing ideals, both seemingly valid, creating this bit of a mess.

    After stepping back for a moment, however, I realized that the problem isn't as complex as it seems. In fact, I think it highlights something I've been saying for a while: Package systems under Linux are a broken concept.

    When I was working on the Linux Desktop Distribution of the Future [intelligentblogger.com] article, I received quite a bit of criticism for calling the package management systems a major source of breakage. In the follow-up [intelligentblogger.com], I was forced to point out that complete system packaging creates a massive, monolithic code base:

    There is no way to fully test a package repository. Since every package modifies the base system, the only way to prove that a package will work is to test it against every possible package configuration available! In case you're wondering, the math for that is P * P, where P is the number of packages available. A mere 100 packages could potentially result in 10,000 available configurations! That's a lot of potential for breakage! Now consider that most distros today have thousands of packages under their care, and the number is not declining.

    Minor Correction: Reader Bradley Momberger has correctly pointed out that my math was a little screwy on this one. The correct forumla for the number of combinations is 2^P, which is actually quite a bit worse. 100 packages yields 1.26e30 possible combinations!


    What we're seeing here is a legal extension of that same problem. By integrating the software into the codebase, Debian is attempting to take legal responsibility for the software. Yet the software provider (Mozilla) is already handling that responsibiity, and does not wish to give it up. On any other operating system, the binaries would get bundled (or not at all, if they're too untrustworthy) as a self-contained application, and the software provider would be allowed to continue handling updates. End of story.

    In this case, Debian wants this software to be managed like all the other software they manage. Which means that taking responsibility becomes easier for them, rather than allowing the software producer to handle their own software. While this theoretically allows for a more cohesive system, that cohesiveness only goes as far as the packages checked into Debian's repository. Mozilla should be outside of that repository, but any software that's not in the repository is not well supported by the packaging system. Ergo, the process breaks down.

    That's just my thoughts, anyway. I'm sure many will disagree. Loudly. And rudely. Oh well. :P
    • I agree with you.

      However, I'm not sure that people haven't at least realized some of the underlying concepts behind your point before. The complexity of packaging systems is what leads to specialization in distros.

      It's possible to take Debian and install packages on it, and make almost anything you want. A PVR machine, a digital audio workstation, a web server, a firewall, whatever. You can do it (and frankly, it probably works well in all of those roles, because they're fairly well-tested).

      But rather than doing that, lots of people who want a machine in a particular role, don't just get "Linux" and then install a lot of packages on it, but get a particular, preconfigured distribution that already has a lot of packages installed and tested, and uses that.

      The diversity of distros is basically an attempt to take the huge number of possible configurations possible with Linux and its ecosystem of packages, and produce a smaller number of well-tested configurations. So rather than building your own digital audio workstation, you get a digital-audio-workstaion distribution that already has everything rolled together. It's convenient, and it's less likely to have bugs.

      So while I think that the diversity of packages is a source of possible conflicts because of the huge number of possible configurations, I don't think it's a totally insurmountable problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) *
      I'm afraid that your point "it's not possible to fully test a package repository" is simplistic.

      It's not even theoretically possible to fully test an individual program in the time you would have to do so - the complexity limit is that low. This has spurred the development of functional programming, as the only programming paradigm that has a hope of mathematical verification in a reasonable amount of time, but that has not reached the point of practicality for most development.

      A package repository is a col

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      After stepping back for a moment, however, I realized that the problem isn't as complex as it seems. In fact, I think it highlights something I've been saying for a while: Package systems under Linux are a broken concept.

      Funny, but when I stepped back for a moment, I didn't see a problem anymore.

      It seems to me that there are people who like Firefox and see this as some kind of an attack from Debian people. There are people who like Debian and see this as Mozilla trying to inhibit their freedom. People

    • by alexhs (877055) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @07:01PM (#16415489) Homepage Journal
      Except trolls nobody seems to disagree with you in that thread (when I started writing this post), so i feel I need to explain why you arguments are bogus instead of modding you down.

      Since every package modifies the base system, the only way to prove that a package will work is to test it against every possible package configuration available!

      Each package is independant with others except with its own dependencies. Those dependencies happen to be linear : for P packages, nP total dependencies, with n an integer independant of the number of packages. It's the job of a Debian package maintainer to check the dependencies are fulfilled and working : each maintener just needs to check n dependencies. That's part of the job people are doing to move a new version of a package from sid (unstable) to testing. I will add that chain of dependencies are irrelevant : if A needs B and B needs C, maintainer of A checks his program working against B, while it's the duty of the maintainer of B to check his program works with C. The only cross-dependancies are for kernel-mode code, that is only drivers.

      In fact it's better than the windows "DLL hell", because the state of the system is known (for a Debian stable for exemple), while on MS Windows... Your program has been developped and tested for DirectX 8, will it work with DirectX 9 ? No way to know what the state of the user's system will be (and no developper includes DirectX as a static dependency, it isn't even possible). It's no wonder that most OSes are using repositories (Linux, BSD, QNX, BeOS with software wallet, that one being somewhat different IIRC).

      any software that's not in the repository is not well supported by the packaging system.

      You seem to ignore that there isn't a single central repository. Want Opera browser ? Just add http://deb.opera.com/opera/ [opera.com] in your repositories list, and you get the official binary matching your version of Debian, checked against it.

      If something is not clear, feel free to ask for details.
  • Ummm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bky1701 (979071) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:30PM (#16414229) Homepage
    How does this make Debian users use IE?
  • Paradox of Choice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:31PM (#16414231) Homepage Journal

    The article brings up an interesting question: to what extent does having multiple choices "split the vote" (as the article put it)? Let's take two scenarios:

    1. Choose between IE and Firefox.
    2. Choose between IE, Firefox, Opera, IceWeasel, and Flock.

    Is someone more likely to choose IE in scenario 2 than scenario 1?

    Possibly yes, if the paradox of choice [slashdot.org] holds true. If the number of options paralyze your decision, you'll be more likely to stick with the status quo... which for Windows users means Internet Explorer."

    Should proponents of alternative browsers pick one to rally behind? If so, should it be Firefox? Would it be worth voting third-party (so to speak), but pooling resources to campaign for the lead challenger?

    • by Kelson (129150) *
      s/IceWeasel/K-Meleon/ in the example scenario. The point isn't IceWeasel, the point is the number of options.
  • Wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dedazo (737510) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:31PM (#16414247) Journal
    I might be mistaken here but the whole stupid "Iceweasel" thing is exclusive to Debian. The author's contention that this will "hurt" adoption of "open source" because choice is confusing to end users might by correct in some instances but would a Windows version of Iceweasel ever see the light of day? I don't think the Debian "you're not free enough for us" hacks will also create a "more free" port of Iceweasel that runs on Windows. I can't see that happening.

    No, the problem will be relegated to people who use Linux, and more specifically, Debian and derivatives (I guess). Issues with extensions and themes not working for whatever reasons and so on are possible, I suppose, but people who use Firefox on other platforms wouldn't even see Iceweasel at all.

  • marketshare? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teslar (706653) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:32PM (#16414257)
    and opens the path for Microsoft and Internet Explorer 7 to regain marketshare
    Pray, do tell me again, what exactly is the current marketshare of IE7 on debian?
    • The industry spends so much time and effort trying to bodyslam the competition. "Kill the baby", "eat their lunch" etc etc. THis is a very unhealthy and typically only inflates egos and does very little for a companie's bottom line. In an OSS world, the notion of this kind of competitive mindset is very disturbing.

      Listening to a user base and delivering will do a lot more than trying to expend effort in trying to compete against MS/IE.

  • by suparjerk (784861) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:34PM (#16414289)
    That is a disturbing logo.
  • "and opens the path for Microsoft and Internet Explorer 7 to regain marketshare."

    Yeah, I'm sure all those dedicated Debian users are going to have a huge impact on browser use numbers. If they all switch over to IceWeasel, IE 7 might pick up two, even three hundredths of a percent. That would definitely spell the end for Firefox.
  • OpenWeasel fills a niche that isn't being address in some developers'mind. If they have any sucess they can back port the cool new features into Firefox. Otherwise a better product will come out we'll flock to it. How many people still use Cello or Mosaic as a browser? Not many. They've moved on becuase some one else moved onto to build a better product.
  • Firefox and Ubuntu (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:35PM (#16414325) Homepage
    I don't know what's happening with Firefox and Ubuntu, but I do know that if it does get replaced with IceWeasel, I'll either

    1. Download it from some 3rd party website
    2. Download the source, compile it, package it up and host it on my website

    And to be honest I'd encourage everyone else to do the same. I'm really not trying to troll, I just don't want to one day find a vulnerability or incompatibility in IceWeasel that's not in Firefox.
    • by jmorris42 (1458) *
      > And to be honest I'd encourage everyone else to do the same. I'm really not trying to troll, I just don't
      > want to one day find a vulnerability or incompatibility in IceWeasel that's not in Firefox.

      Two options:

      1. IceWeasel IS the Moz Corp codebase with patch es to change the name and artwork. Plus patches to integrate it into Debian (current situation) plus security patches (current situation). Difference is that IceWeasel can continue to be patchesd long after Moz Corp would demand FireFox be ve
    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      I just don't want to one day find a vulnerability or incompatibility in IceWeasel that's not in Firefox.


      What about vulnerabilities in Firefox which are not there in IceWeasel?
  • If folks are really worried that masses will flock back to MS and IE after a fork in versions then I would be inclined to believe that there are far deeper problems than just the fork. Unity in open source requires compromise if both sides of an issue cant meet on common ground you get a fork. I do agree with the comments in that in corporations you have a common goal and a common set of goals, in open source many times one developers whim deviates his focus to another direction, the end result is sometim
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:36PM (#16414339) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, the Firefox.com folks didn't leave Debian a choice. The current terms under which they distribute Firefox make it not Open Source at all as long as you call it "Firefox". The Mozilla.com folks are using trademark law to enforce that no versions of Firefox can be modified and still called "Firefox".

    Debian can't carry the browser in their distribution under the "Firefox" name if they are to have any ability to tune it for their distribution or to fix bugs before the Firefox team makes their own release.

    The software will be essentially identical to Firefox. I think we may see other distributions doing the same thing, as it's just not tenable for ANY distribution to contain software that it can't service.

    And then hopefully we'll see the Firefox team go back to the policy they negotiated with the Debian organization only a year ago, before their new .com folks took charge, which was that they would agree to trust some people to modify the code and not make a fuss about it.

    The author of the quoted piece is being absurd to say this is "Why closed-source wins". It's not about fragmenting the user base, it doesn't have much effect on the brand and won't be very visible to naive users. It's just turning an obnoxious trademark policy that is flagrantly in conflict with the purportedly Open Source nature of the product on its head.

    Bruce

    • by nuzak (959558)
      > Unfortunately, the Firefox.com folks didn't leave Debian a choice.

      The "Firefox.com folks" are called Mozilla. And true, they forced the issue, they didn't force them to come up with such a stunningly idiotic name.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      http://www.debian.org/logos/ [debian.org]

      Debian Official Use Logo License

      Copyright (c) 1999 Software in the Public Interest

      1. This logo may only be used if:
      * the product it is used for is made using a documented procedure as published on www.debian.org (for example official CD-creation)
      * official approval is given by Debian for its use in this purpose
      • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:07PM (#16414771) Homepage Journal
        Dear AC, You quoted Debian's "official use" logo policy, but I think you missed the point. Debian publishes an "unofficial use" logo which allows consistent branding to be used by modified versions. And if you don't call your product "Official Debian", you can modify it.

        A lot of thought was put into that. It would be fine if there was an "Official Firefox" and "Firefox", similarly to the way Debian handles their trademark.

        Bruce

        • by aconbere (802137) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:25PM (#16415045)
          Bruce -

          Supprisingly that option _IS_ available in firefox as a compile time switch. However (and the irony doesn't escape me here) Debian has patched firefox in such a way that this switch no longer works! Hurah!

          ~ Anders
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Natasha (31280)
      I can understand the need to tune it or fix bugs, but it seems to go beyond that. On the fresh Ubuntu install I recently did, my Firefox has a fun "feature". If you move the mouse over a button, the button goes yellow and flat. And it doesn't change back when you move the mouse away. Hardly what I would describe as tuning or fixing. My first thought when I saw it was "stupid Firefox". My second thought was "It doesn't do that on Windows". Only after that did I think, "Oh, must be a Ubuntu change". Is that r
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) *
        It sounds like a bug. But you haven't checked if it's in a plugin or not. Surprisingly, you can still use the Firefox name and load a plugin that makes a total wreck of Firefox. That's hardly a consistent policy.

        If Ubuntu put a glaring bug in the code the Firefox folks have reason to complain. Just complain, not ban use of their name entirely. They should have an official and non-official use logo policy, as Debian has. That allows people to use consistent branding on modified versions.

        Bruce

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It hurts Debian. They could simply have moved it to non-free, and many would have respected Debian for sticking to the letter of the DFSG. But instead, they chose this snarky little twist.

    What do I care, I use Ubuntu. Debian is becoming the new XFree86.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They could simply have moved it to non-free

      No they couldn't. The objective of the Debian Project is to create the universal free operating system. The existance of the non-free branch is a minor evil, and there have been discussions not too long ago to remove it.

      What do I care, I use Ubuntu. Debian is becoming the new XFree86.

      You sir are an ignorant. Read the words of Mark Shuttleworth [markshuttleworth.com] when he says that I'm of the opinion that Ubuntu could not exist without Debian . Debian is a much bigger and imp

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Russ Nelson (33911)
      There are two issues here. First is that Debian ships a modified Firefox, which of course isn't really Firefox, but they thought it was okay to call it Firefox.

      Second is that, were they to have been shipping Firefox, the Firefox trademark graphic (which comes in a file) is also copyrighted, and not licensed for modification. Debian says that trademarks must be modifiable because they might be usable in a different trademark field. This problem is solvable, as you say, either by putting it in non-free, or
  • The only reason the name has to be changed to "Iceweasel" is because the Debian team wanted to make changes to the package. If it was closed-source, that wouldn't be possible in the first place.

    So it looks to me like open-source only gives more abilities in this case, not less.

    (Yes, I realize that the reason they wanted package changes was because it conflicted with their license. That's rather tangential to the discussion.)
  • Microsoft? So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jonnythan (79727) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:38PM (#16414383) Homepage
    No one told me that Free Software was about beating Microsoft at all costs.
  • by SnapperHead (178050) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:44PM (#16414461) Homepage Journal
    Yes, the subject is slightly misleading. I am a Debian user, soon to be former Debian user. Not because of this, this has nothing to do with me switching distros (again). I am moving away because if the slow as balls release cycles. Even after its released, you are already behind by 6 months to a year.

    I only used Debian for apt. It totally blows away yum. But, with the slow ass release cycles I can't take it much longer.

    I wish more Distros would base on Debian, rather then base on Red Hat. I really don't care for RPMs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by asuffield (111848)

      I am moving away because if the slow as balls release cycles.

      This is a feature. A slow release cycle is a benefit in many environments - a high-end teaching environment, for example, absolutely can not be deploying a functionality-changing upgrade more than once a year, because you'll screw over all the work currently in progress if you do it in the middle of the academic year. A lot of businesses also need to keep disruption to a minimum, which means infrequent upgrades - any high end sysadmin will tell yo

  • Politics? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by subreality (157447) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:44PM (#16414469)
    Politics aside, this is a bad idea because it fragments the user base, divides the focus, and opens the path for Microsoft and Internet Explorer 7 to regain marketshare.


    No, trying to fight those things IS politics. The Debian project has never been interested in fighting those kinds of battles. They don't care about market share. They have a single focus: Making the best possible distribution, which can absolutely, no questions asked, be used by anyone for any purpose.

    I for one am glad they put those principles first. I don't want compromises for the sake of market share.
  • There are things that should be done with Firefox that can't because of the license. The biggest feature I'd add to Firefox would be integration of EVINCE or some other GPLed PDF viewer - you know, one that isn't a separate download from Adobe and doesn't advertise updates and other product, and loads quickly. Unfortunately the main Firefox codebase can not accept such things because they have multiple licenses and some (MPL) can not integrate GPLed code. I think a GPL only fork of Firefox could easily win
  • by joebooty (967881) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:46PM (#16414491)
    "...and opens the path for Microsoft and Internet Explorer 7 to regain marketshare."

    This is a worthless mindset. The goal should be to release a good product that end users appreciate. Competition will make both products better.
  • You're kidding right? No, seriously? The debian project's extreme politics is what caused this and the user base isn't going to cause a mainstream fork, nor will it impact the Firefox user base by a noticeable percentage. The sky isn't falling.
  • Maybe a frozen rat humping an ice cube?

    (as opposed to a red dog humping a blue beach ball)

  • Politics aside, this is a bad idea because it fragments the user base, divides the focus, and opens the path for Microsoft and Internet Explorer 7 to regain marketshare."

    Methinks someone overestimates Debian's relevance in the browser marketplace. And yes, I know about Ubuntu.

  • ... or does the logo at the top of the article look a lot like a rodent humping the planet?

    There's something just plain disturbing about this...

  • The open source community has limited resources in manpower. Most people are volunteers and are limited in how much time they can contribute. This said, it would seem logical, that in the case of a common goal, there is only one project to support it.

    Take for example browsers. In the open source world, we have Mozilla, KHTML and other rendering engines, plus all the different browsers that are based on those engines. Some are created for special circumstances (mobile platforms, consoles), but many are just
  • Mozilla corp will release a Mozilla branded Debian (name to be selected either by public competition or the brand management team not sure yet, but it has to be slightly offending but not overly we still know who the real enemy is!).

    (disclaimer, this is supposed to be a joke, if moz corp is doing this it's not my fault, and I'll might actually call back the nice nigerian gentlemen that requested my banking infos).

    ----
    Some times late at night my computer speak with itself, or maybe with an elbonian computer
  • by Peaker (72084)
    Debian prove time and again that they have spine.
    They do what's right, according to their policies and to the law -- even when its difficult and non-consensual.

    They should be applauded for this.

    If some policy has to be changed, its the Firefox name policy.
  • by delire (809063) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:08PM (#16414799)
    If it is to be renamed then why not do it with some reference to the reason. A name like FreeFox or similar would at least maintain symbolic connection to the parent while underscoring that it is a wholly non-proprietary distribution of that parent. 'IceWeasel' sounds directly antagonistic of FireFox itself. If FireFox is hot, then it's alternative must be cold. It itself reads as a childishly extremist 'reaction' to what should otherwise be understood as a wise and considered move, for real and sane reasons.

    The sheer lack of foresight amazes me. For years afterward we'll be hearing damaging myths that "FireFox doesn't install on Linux". Newbies coming into IRC to ask how to install FireFox will be pointed to what's later knows as the longest running $TOPIC in history. 'IceWeasel' just adds needless noise for all those millions considering switching to a Linux OS. FireFox is arguably the most important FOSS application for the desktop, if only because of it's notoriety. The name itself is larger than the software it represents. fscking with this reveals new depths of disregard for the adoption of Desktop Linux more generally.
    • by krmt (91422) <therefrmhere@nOsPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:42PM (#16415247) Homepage
      Trademark law requires that the name be different enough to not cause confusion. As a result, FreeFox or FireFaux or any of the other similar ones might cause problems and just result in Debian having to rename it yet again.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr. Hankey (95668)
        How about (and I don't intend to sound flip here) WebBrowser? Just a thought, since IceWeasel lends a rather unprofessional sound to the distribution. Many apps could use a name more descriptive of what they do, and if you get the chance to rename them with the author's blessing it wouldn't hurt to make them less ambiguous. I don't use Debian myself, but if I did I'd be more likely to install WebBrowser than IceWeasel.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:52PM (#16415361) Homepage Journal

    Just a few years ago we were talking about making sure Open Source software provided users alternatives to proprietary software. Forking has always been an issue, but the gestalt view seemed to be that ultimately even in a forking situation, the better software would "win" in the sense that it would continue to be developed. The focus was not on defeating proprietary software in the marketplace, but in making truly great software.

    Now it's 2006. Linux is a huge force in the IT world. Firefox has stolen marketshare from IE. These nibbles of success have changed the dialogue, and now marketing is as important if not more important than diversity. Choice is good and all, but getting computer users to make "the correct choice" is perhaps now the ultimate goal. Consumers may become confused by so many browser choices! Ah yes, let's not confuse them. Let's market and package Firefox so the choice will be clear.

    I understand the rationale for not forking Firefox. But that's a tactical issue in a small skirmish. The real war is about choice. I'm for it.

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