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Iceweasel, Firefox, and Other Words That Spell Checkers Dislike

I've been watching the ongoing ongoing discussions between Mozilla folks and Debian folks for the past couple days and it has been interesting to say the very least. The actual issues of trademark are less interesting as this exact issue has come up before a long while ago. What is more interesting about this batch of turd flinging is how differently Firefox is seen by users, more notably Windows users which as time goes on seem to the audience that Moz developers are targeting their efforts towards. This makes perfect sense as the default option, Internet Explorer, was the web browsing equivalent of the old 'grease the floors and demanding users run with knives' routine that everyone is accustomed to when the issue of poorly maintained default applications are in question. Firefox has changed that a little bit by spending a huge amount of marketing energy letting people know that FF exists and that it is a viable alternate to clicking on the big blue 'E' just because it is there on the desktop.

The eventual problem that I see with Firefox is that it is no longer the new hotness and isn't the more lightweight and streamlined browser it was designed to be. For my own use, I try to avoid it because it leaks memory like a motherfucker (by design, of course) and tends to be a resource hog that oddly Seamonkey isn't these days. The older version of the browser that everyone hated because it came as an application suite instead of just a browser blazes in comparison. I've switched from an early adopter (Phoenix for chrissakes when the installer on Win32 broke everything and the Linux install meant creating a directory in /home for it to live in) to an early dropper. Firefox has transitioned well from a new and exciting thing to a depressingly bloated alt-default. It is better than IE6 for Windows users but I'm less certain now than I have ever been that it is the best solution. Consistency between platforms is what the Mozilla developers say drives the protection on the Firefox name and icons. That is a noble goal and has been at least partially achieved. I know now that I cannot leave an instance of FF running on any platform without watching the memory usage climb exponentially as time passes.

Bitching aside, the Mozilla Foundation claims that they are worried about trademark dilution with regard to quality of releases. This makes perfect sense for ISP specific versions of the browser or whatever that are 'optimized' (read: larded down with a lot of shit that no one needs added on in order to make money for the company) that won't work as well with other providers or whatever that should not be filed under the generic name Firefox (and it is kind of generic since it spans a couple of different releases with their cute codenames and incompatibilities between extension versions) because some fundamental way it functions has been purposefully changed. That is just plain sensible and really does fall under the necessity to protect trademarks rule.

Assuming that Debian would somehow break quality is a pretty strange idea to operate under. Debian's QA is in/famous for taking as long as is necessary to produce a working package that plays nice with a few thousand other packages and making sure that those packages work on far too many architectures. I have given some thought to whether this will change since there seems to be more impetus from within the project to get releases out despite the fact that they're basically meaningless to folks already using the distribution. The race to release is always a nightmare in terms of QA and I hope that doesn't adversely affect the quality of Debian release. I can't imagine Debian ever sacrificing the quality of a release in order to meet some imagined demand but this seeming need to crank up the speed of releases is somewhat worrying.

Of course, none of this really matters as the agreement or disagreement is between the Debian folks and the Mozilla folks and there is actually an out for both parties. I am eagerly awaiting the next fork in the Mozilla code base so we can expect another small, fast, and most importantly fun browser again. What will happen when IE7 is deployed and users find that the big blue 'E' now has many of the features that were formerly Firefox only (and probably implemented by Opera six or seven years ago)? It doesn't matter to me but I have a feeling it's going to matter to the Mozilla Foundation...

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