Name dispute between Debian and Mozilla

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The name dispute between Mozilla and Debian arose in 2006 when Mozilla developer Mike Connor demanded that Debian comply with certain conditions in order to continue using the Mozilla Corporation trademarks . Debian did not agree to these terms and decided to rename the modified versions of the Mozilla programs: Firefox to Iceweasel , Thunderbird to Icedove , Sunbird to Iceowl, and SeaMonkey to Iceape . These changes were active as of Debian 4.0 (Etch).

The dispute was settled in March 2016. Subsequently, Debian again used the names and logos given by Mozilla. Since then, two versions of Firefox have been included in Debian: Firefox , which follows the regular release cycle , and Firefox-esr , the "Extended Service Release" with extended support from Mozilla.

Iceweasel 31.5.3 under Debian 7 "Wheezy"

root cause

Mozilla Foundation logo
Mozilla logo for descendants or unofficial builds of Firefox
Firefox logo from 2013 to 2017
Iceweasel logo
Logo from Icedove
Seamonkey logo
Logo of Iceape

In June 2005 there was already a discussion between the Mozilla and Debian developers about the trademark rights of Mozilla. At that time, the Mozilla Foundation gave Debian the right to use its trademarks, provided Debian's changes were within certain unspecified limits.

As a result of the establishment of Mozilla Corporation , the trademark rights were transferred to this company. It was discovered through Ubuntu that the name “Firefox” was used by Debian without the Mozilla logos and icons, contrary to the Mozilla Trademark Policy . This was then reported as a bug in Debian in February 2006 and a discussion developed.

Because of these disputes, those responsible from the Debian project decided to rename the Mozilla products as part of the Debian distribution . A corresponding request from the Debian project to postpone the name change due to the imminent release of version 4.0 (“Etch”) was rejected by Mozilla Corporation. Firefox was named Iceweasel and Thunderbird became Icedove . In the same month it was decided SeaMonkey in Iceape rename. SeaMonkey is being further developed outside of Mozilla, but Mozilla Corporation also worked in this case to register the product name and the logos as a trademark, and has also indicated that it will examine and approve the patches beforehand. On October 19, 2006, the trademark was finally assigned to Mozilla.

Concern from Mozilla

The aim of the restrictive policy of the Mozilla Corporation with regard to the use of its product names and logos is, among other things, that errors and problems of descendants of the Mozilla products do not damage the reputation of the Mozilla project and that name abuse is prevented. In addition, the appearance, operation and capabilities should be as similar as possible on all platforms and distributions.

Therefore Debian has to use the corresponding icons in their distribution and, in addition, Debian's changes and additions to the source code of Mozilla should be checked for quality and security before publication. It also bothers Mozilla that Debian provides the old versions with security patches instead of upgrading them to newer versions.

The trademark law alone is not sufficient to protect the logos, which is why they cannot be published as part of the software products under a free license . Mozilla wants to influence the background on which the logo may be.

Debian concerns

Debian, on the other hand, has a strict policy called the Debian Free Software Guidelines , which all parts of the Debian project must follow. Non-free licenses for logos and icons as used by Mozilla contradict this. These trademarks, however, can be protected by trademark law, which is also tolerated by Debian. If Debian were to deliver these files with the products, it would have to classify them as "non-free" software and remove them from the regular distribution.

In addition, Debian feared that Mozilla's audits would inappropriately delay releases and security patches. Debian changes that are not Debian-specific will be given to the original developers (here: Mozilla) immediately.

Also, Debian wondered that the previously given permission was withdrawn, even though Debian made fewer changes at the time than it did then. In particular, replacing the icons was also practiced back then.

In order to be able to continue to deliver the Mozilla products with the Debian operating system, to be able to make changes independently of the approval of the Mozilla Corporation and to implement the requirements of the Mozilla Corporation, Debian decided to rename and use its own logos and icons.

Reactions to the renaming

In the community of Firefox users, this development was critically discussed and the fear expressed that the dispute between the two large open source projects and the distribution of the Firefox browser under different names could damage its further development, distribution and awareness. Furthermore, the renaming makes Internet research more difficult. On the other hand, the development was seen as an amicable agreement that benefited both projects.

Firefox and Thunderbird in Ubuntu

While Ubuntu is based on Debian and before this dispute also used the free globe of Mozilla as the logo under the name Firefox, Canonical reached an agreement with Mozilla. Since Edgy Eft (6.10) Firefox and Thunderbird come with the original logos on Ubuntu. Paradoxically, Ubuntu is said to have made much more extensive changes to the source code than Debian. Mike Hommey - a Debian developer - explains that at the Iceweasel Debian changed 6 files that were not changed by Ubuntu, Ubuntu developers made changes to 46 files that were not touched by Debian. The rest of the files that have been changed from the original Mozilla source code are the same for Debian and Ubuntu.

GNUzilla and GNU IceCat

IceCat logo

Regardless of the differences of opinion between the Debian developers and the Mozilla Corporation , a small team within the framework of the GNU project initiated the GNUzilla project , the aim of which is to release completely free variants of some software products from the Mozilla project. The original name of the GNUzilla variant of the Mozilla Firefox browser was also GNU IceWeasel , in contrast to the name of the Debian package with a capital "W". After a short time, however, it was renamed GNU IceCat . At IceWeasel is independent of Debian's Iceweasel worked. Debian and GNUzilla developers have announced that they want to explore possibilities for future cooperation. In August 2007, two years after the project began, Firefox was the only Mozilla application whose GNUzilla variant recorded activity.

In August 2007, the GNUzilla version of Firefox was offered for download as a test version on the GNUzilla and IceCat website; other components of the Mozilla product range were missing. GNUzilla is used as the name for the hosting project, analogous to the name Mozilla . There is no software product that bears the name GNUzilla.

The same naming by GNUzilla and Debian (except for capitalization) has led to misunderstandings, so that many believed that Debian itself, and not GNUzilla, would make these many changes, distribute them and not work properly with Mozilla. Other Debian users said they were getting GNUzilla's IceWeasel instead of Firefox, and were sometimes annoyed about it. Ultimately, in September 2007, the GNUzilla team decided to change the name of their Firefox variant to IceCat .

Like some Linux distributions, GNUzilla removes non-free components from the Firefox source code. In addition, the GNU developers have made some small changes to functionality. This includes the detection of so-called tracking pixels . A full list of modifications can be found on the GNUzilla website. Some of these modifications make it difficult to apply recent changes from Firefox to its GNUzilla branch.

Further renaming

In addition to the Debian project and the GNUzilla project, another name was also chosen for the unofficial Ubuntu derivative gNewSense for Mozilla Firefox: BurningDog . This name also corresponds to the scheme of combining an elementary state with an animal.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. heise open: Debian gives up the web browser Iceweasel and relies on Firefox again. In: heise open. Retrieved on March 14, 2016 (German).
  2. Debian - Information about package firefox in sid. In: Retrieved March 14, 2016 .
  3. Debian - Information about package firefox-esr in sid. In: Retrieved March 14, 2016 .
  4. Branden Robinson / Debian Project Leader: Report for 2005-07-07 ; Section Mozilla Firefox trademark license , English
  5. a b c d e f g h i Uses Mozilla Firefox trademark without permission from the Debian bug tracking system, discussion from February to October 2006, English
  6. ^ A b Mozilla Foundation Mozilla Trademark Policy , English
  7. Alexander Sack: debranding seamonkey from the Mozillamaintainers Debian mailing list
  8. Review Debian SeaMonkey package diff for trademark-incompatible changes from the Mozilla bug database , discussion from October 2006, English
  9. ^ Trademark Electronic Search System (Tess) Search term SeaMonkey
  10. Lucas Nussbaum: Mozilla, Debian and Iceweasel: the Mozillian point of view , October 15, 2006, English
  11. Sean Michael Kerner: Debian Fights Mozilla's Fire, Thunder With 'Ice' , on, October 17, 2006, English
  12. Mozilla Foundation Visual Identity Guidelines , especially those for Firefox ( Memento of September 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), English
  13. a b c d e Mike Hommey: Facts about Debian and Mozilla® Firefox® , October 15, 2006, English
  14. Adrian Cachinero Vasiljevic: Five Reasons for stopping the Firefox fork ( Memento of 30 December 2007 at the Internet Archive ) , 11 October 2006, English
  15. Ben de Groot: Five reasons to kill IceWeasel ( Memento from September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) , October 12, 2006, English
  16. Matt Zimmerman: Firefox outcome (Re: Is Ubuntu going to adapt Ice Weasel?) From the Ubuntu mailing list, October 23, 2006, English
  17. Mike Hommey: Facts about Debian, Mozilla® Firefox® and Ubuntu , October 27, 2006, English
  18. Sean Michael Kerner: Firefox Set Free in IceWeasel. In: News for Developers., October 6, 2006, accessed July 30, 2007 .
  19. GNU Savannah : Savannah Administration - task # 4529: Submission of GNUzilla , registration of the GNUzilla project with GNU Savannah, August 30, 2005, English
  20. a b c GNUzilla Project: GNUzilla and IceCat. Free Software Foundation, November 22, 2006, accessed December 6, 2007 .
  21. GNUzilla project: IceCat Readme , quote: “The goal of the IceCat project is to provide a completely free version of the popular mozilla source code. It is part of Gnuzilla, the umbrella project analogous to Mozilla. " , File revision 1.2, from November 24, 2007, (English)
  22. Re: Debian, Iceweasel, Firefox on the Debian users mailing list
  23. a b Mike hommey: Re: Iceweasel on the Bug-Gnuzilla mailing list, June 20, 2007, English
  24. Karl Berry: Re: ice weasel , quote: "[...] we've decided to change the name to IceCat [...]" on the Bug-Gnuzilla mailing list, September 23, 2007, English
  25. Debian Changelog iceweasel ( Memento from March 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) , quote: "iceweasel ( [...] debian / remove.nonfree" , linked on June 15, 2011, English
  26. GNUzilla project: List of components removed from GNUzilla from Firefox , version by IceCeasel, linked on December 6, 2007
  27. GNUzilla project: Tracking pixel detection ( Memento of the original from November 8, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , linked on August 13, 2007, English
  28. gNewSense: gNewSense Main Repository - Mozilla Firefox , entry on Mozilla Firefox in the package directory of the distribution, linked on August 13, 2007, English