The Mozilla Corperation don’t want people to change the source code of Firefox, recompile it with extra bonus bugs and possible API incompatibilities, and release it – as Firefox – to people who might use it and blame them for bugs that aren’t their fault.

Linux distros – such as Debian and Ubuntu – routinely maintain their own forks of open source applications with security updates backported from newer versions of software, without the associated functionality updates that the full new version has. This is why we call the current release “stable”, functionality doesn’t change.

Firefox the application is open source, Firefox the brand is decidedly not. Firefox the brand is the protected property of the Mozilla Corperation and they really don’t want people messing with it.

People produce systems on top of Firefox, hundreds upon hundreds of extensions. These rely on the version of the browser being reported being accurate. If the browser says it is version X.01, but it is really X.01 with the security patches from X++, then even if it reports itself as X.02, it doesn’t know if functionality it is relying upon is working. Or if it will segfault if it tries. It doesn’t even know to check, because as far as the extension is concerned, it’s running on a minor patch level advance on its target version.

Enter the iceweasel concept.

Iceweasel is a way around this problem. It is not Firefox, but it is mostly compatible. It is, in fact, Firefox with a different name and logo, and with the patches that the package maintainer applies. It isn’t called Firefox, so gets around the branding limitations. It is compatible with most firefox extensions, as it happens.

Then the GNU foundation go ahead with an actual product called Iceweasel which is not just Firefox with the serial numbers filed off, but a seperate maintained branch with new functionality. This (the name, at least) is a really silly idea, as it confuses the concept of “iceweasel” as suggested in the Debian-devel discussions last time this came up as an unbranded Firefox with an actual product.

So Firefox – the brand – isn’t quite free enough for Debian, and Iceweasel isn’t actually 100% compatible with Firefox.

So stop fucking telling me it’s just an argument about the graphics.