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I’ve been a fan of Firefox and Mozilla for a long time now. I’ve used some kind of Mozilla pretty much exclusively since before the whole Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox thing. I’ve been encouraging people to use Firefox or Mozilla for almost as long. And I keep an up-to-date version of Firefox installed for other people to use on our dept. Mandrake machines.

But now I’m kind of annoyed. I updated Firefox to version 2 on my Gentoo desktop.

emerge -v mozilla-firefox

Previously any time I’ve done this, once the emerge is done, I just close Firefox, open it up again and it’s all good. But not this time. The icon for Firefox is gone, and it gave me some trouble about filenames. After logging out and then back in, I can open it, but no more Firefox. Now the browser is called Bon Echo. Apparently Gentoo had to deal with the same trademark crap that Debian had to deal with (resulting in their calling the browser IceWeasel).

Not to hard to fix. Just add the line:

www-client/mozilla-firefox mozbranding

to /etc/portage/package.use

But this is really stupid. And it makes it much harder for me to keep recommending Firefox to people. I understand that trademarks need to be defended, but there is no reason that they have to take this kind of stand against GNU/Linux distributions. They claim to want to protect their brand, but how does it help to have at least 3 different names for the same browser. Sounds more like they are diluting the brand. I just cannot imagine why a browser that got to where it is largely because of word of mouth would go and intentionally annoy the very people who helped get them where they are in the first place.

If I actually used KDE I would try Konqueror instead.


  1. Branding is a legitimate concern for all software writers.

    The OSI definition of of Open Source includes measures to ensure protection of the author’s integrity. For example, if you make changes to a piece of OSS, you have to clearly mark it in the code or distribution. If you make significant changes, you might not be allowed to call it the same piece of software. You can call it something else and redistribute it, but you can’t claim that it is the same piece of software that everyone thinks it is by the original name. This is especially important for well-known software.

    The Mozilla/Firefox branding is an extension of this concept. Instead of a single coder’s integrity, the branding is protecting the entire foundation’s integrity.

  2. I understand the need to worry about branding. But I fail to see how ending up with multiple versions of Firefox all with different names helps protect the brand. And it isn’t like Gentoo and Debian are obscure distributions. A decent number of people will end up seeing Bon Echo or IceWeasle instead of Firefox, but will be using basically the same browser. Gentoo certainly doesn’t do anything interesting when it comes to patches compared to the official version I use on the dept. Mandrake machines.

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