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October 3, 2006

Product Naming: Firefox to be Renamed Iceweasel?

Debian logoLast week Firefox and Debian GNU/Linux developers reenergized a long-time spat that centers around the Mozilla-owned Firefox trademark.

Debian does not want to use the trademarked Firefox logo in its open source software because, essentially, the use of a copyrighted trademark on the part of an open-code company is a violation of their “social contract”. Initially, Debian simply threw in their own Firefox logo and carried on distributing this “free” software as usual.

Firefox logoMozilla, however, lodged a serious protest that goes right to the heart of what it means to be “free” vs. “open source”. As most of us know, “free” is never really “free” in the computer world and Mozilla’s Firefox logo has enough brand equity to make it worth protecting. Debian, on the other hand, is sticking to its guns and now renaming Firefox in its distributions, starting with Etch.

Surprisingly enough, Debian is allowed to distribute the product under another name if it chooses and for a time has been flirting with calling the app “Iceweasel” in an effort that was surely just to enrage the people at Mozilla. And while the Iceweasel name seems unlikely, many users have reacted in disgust by what are seen as Mozilla’s heavy handed tactics and switched to Epiphany, which, ironically, uses Mozilla’s Gecko engine.

Mozilla logoThe only other option would be for Debian to keep the product name but agree to report every single change back to Mozilla, an unwieldy choice to say the least. Now, the question is, will Ubunto follow Debian’s lead and boycott the Firefox name as well? Most users say that they should simply accede to Mozilla’s requests, but 13% say they should dump Firefox altogether.

Time will tell.

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Posted by William Lozito at October 3, 2006 2:10 PM
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