Is Mozilla the new XFree86? Could Ubuntu actually help?

September 16th, 2008 by lucas

All the recent moves of Mozilla make me feel that they are really taking the XFree86 path. Reading the Launchpad bug log about the EULA shows that most of the posters agree on who is on the wrong side, and favor switching to IceWeasel or Epiphany+Webkit.

Even if Mozilla is apparently going to back off on the EULA story, it looks like the harm was done. If they want to fix that, they will have to start listening to other players in the Free Software community. Or just watch Webkit eat their market share.

Since Ubuntu leaders are apparently talking to Mozilla about that, I really hope that they are aiming for a solution that will help the Free Software community as a whole, and are not looking for a work-around that will “fix” the problem for Ubuntu.

There has been a lot of noise about the lack of “giving back” to the community by Ubuntu. Using Ubuntu user base to weight in and solve such issues in a way that benefit the whole community would probably be seen as a much more valuable contribution than another bunch of patches.

17 Responses to “Is Mozilla the new XFree86? Could Ubuntu actually help?”

  1. Tom wrote on 09/16/08 at 10:24 am :

    Well, they admitted that they made a mistake ..

    There will be no pop-up EULA. No harm done.

    Problem is that most people don’t read all the comments :P

  2. FredBezies wrote on 09/16/08 at 11:07 am :

    Which is the worst mistake ? This EULA or the lobbying of free software zealot ?

    IceWeasel is not appealing to some ubuntu users. The most known free software project is… Mozilla Firefox.

    To me, it is not another xfree-like story, for one little thing : you don’t see X, your window manager / desktop environment use it.

    But Firefox is far more visible.

    If ubuntu wants to commit suicide, it is the best way to go.

    Just the opinion of a 2 years user of Ubuntu Linux.

  3. dave wrote on 09/16/08 at 11:25 am :

    Tom: could you point out where they say that they’re going to remove the EULA?

    They’ve admitted they made a mistake yes, but that mistake apparently was not updating the text of the EULA.

    Sadly, while being open, honest and forthright about that mistake, they seem to be weaseling about why they felt the need to pop-up a EULA in the first place (and as far as I’m aware) continue to feel that need.

  4. Regala wrote on 09/16/08 at 12:04 pm :

    You forgot to mention, that the Xfree86 change of license was just a pretext: the divorce between the devs and the core was on the run long before relicensing. And if you look closer, the relicensing was not as evil as everyone said: it was a pretext for the devs to leave a boat they were sick on.

    This is not the same thing, and Mozilla devs are not willing to fork to Iceweasel as X devs wanted to flee to X.Org. The license is still free. If a EULA pop-up frightens some people, they should read the GPL, or the MPL. the GPL is a EULA, it is just different in wording and meaning from a M$ EULA…
    I remember installing Pidgin on a Vista system, the GPL popped up to me to ask me to comply to it, Evil GPL !!!

  5. James Livingston wrote on 09/16/08 at 2:03 pm :

    Regala: the GPL isn’t an End User License Agreement at all – it does not control how you (as an “end user”) can use the software. What the GPL does is control the distribution of the software, by requiring you to distribute the source code to the software.

    Pidgin might be telling you about the GPL, but you can legally still use it without agreeing to the GPL (although the installer might not let you). Of course IANAL and all that.

  6. dave wrote on 09/16/08 at 2:12 pm :

    @Regala:

    “Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted” – GPL

    If pidgin are really asking the user to comply with something before you run their GPL software then that’s probably a bug and, ironically, may even be a breach of the GPL. On the other hand, if they’re just notifying you that the program is GPL then it’s probably just an uneccesarily irritating way of doing that, but just because it’s legalese and its thrust in your face when you start a program doesn’t make it a EULA.

  7. Corey Farwell wrote on 09/16/08 at 3:35 pm :

    http://lockshot.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/firefox-eula-in-linux-distributions/

    Tons of people have talked about it over at Planet Mozilla

  8. rawsausage wrote on 09/16/08 at 4:07 pm :

    Like if the new tab EULA was any better. It’s still an unwanted distraction and a brainfart.

  9. Tom wrote on 09/16/08 at 4:41 pm :

    Mozilla Re-Thinking Firefox EULA
    ( http://www.internetnews.com/software/article.php/3771696 )

  10. Regala wrote on 09/16/08 at 5:02 pm :

    @James, @dave: yep guys, I agree with you, it is not a EULA. but again we see a flame war where no one’s needed… it’s just irritating and recalling from a past where we would have to say “Yes, I will comply to all you decided and will decide”. This EULA was “misdone” but it wasn’t to do harm. And they are called names all over the blogs by many people just revamping the old flamewars, for the sake of what ? smashing the credibility of one project, no, of the ONE project who put Open Source and Free Software in spotlight. They may have really worsen their own credibility, but feels like annoying to see many end-users on ubuntu forums or blogs all over the net, just insulting whereas they did not know Firefox or Mozilla a few years earlier… People have to calm down. Because while Xfree86 was replaced by X.Org as the centrum of X development, I do not see any community gathering among iceweasel or another faerie animal, when the devs don’t want to split from Mozilla… From the outside, it looks like some kids fighting in a sandbox, with their rivals laughing sneakingly upon it. Just sad and useless…
    The Mozilla Project made the MPL to protect its trademark from counterfacting. And people in the Mozilla Corporation are just traders who don’t know very well the community that pays them, so what ? they’re just asses and that’s all. They don’t make the software, the devs do.
    Seems like the ubuntu community would prefer to work with Google Chromium, which does not even work on our beloved platform/systems, whereas the upcoming Firefox 3.1 (which is the devs’ child, not the child of those who wrote mistakingly this EULA and apologized for it) will enhance the web/user interaction by 10. And I don’t see how a fork of mozilla/firefox/iceweasel could benefit it: it is a super-mega-huge project who needs hands to clean it with intelligence and genius: a fork would never gather the majority of the devs, like X.Org absorbed almost every Xfree86 dev, and so, would cripple both projects. this is why I don’t see it fork, and will wish it would never.

    But sincerely, yep, I cheated on the EULA acronym. (for the GPL not being an end-user licence agreement, I am not sure, distribution is, imho, an end-user right, hence, the GPL specifies the end-user rights, too. :))

  11. Joseph James Frantz wrote on 09/16/08 at 7:29 pm :

    Regala EXACTLY. The crux of the issue comes down the the Mozilla Firefox trademark. They are saying what can be done with the trademark. If you do not want to distribute their trademark with their product, you have to change things around. Not terribly difficult based on some other comments.

    But the Canonical claims about the Ubuntu trademark are MUCH more onerous. They claim that you cannot have ANY DOMAIN with Ubuntu or Buntu in the domain name. Of course this is completely false and there are a number of other businesses that do use the name, both for their businesses and for their domain names. Of course they do not need Canonical’s permission to use a word in their domain, and in at least one instance, had not even heard of Ubuntu the OS until they tried to register the Ubuntu domain for themselves.

    So if Ubuntu followers are upset by Mozilla, shouldn’t they clean their own pig pen first?

  12. rawsausage wrote on 09/16/08 at 8:48 pm :

    “There will be no pop-up EULA. No harm done.”

    What? It’s still something presented to user, meaning to steal his focus on a matter that does absolutely not help him achieving his real life task. It’s a grave usability bug, and should be handled as such, as long as _any_ irrelevant text is going to be presented, no matter what you want to call it (eula, license, whatever).

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  14. Erwan wrote on 09/17/08 at 2:36 am :

    Citing WebKit is pretty pointless. Webkit is a rendering engine. Firefox is a web browser. Gecko doesn’t have any EULA.

    If you are really annoyed about Firefox’ licence, you can still use a different Gecko browser (even just a rebranding of Firefox like IceWeasel if you want). You don’t need to change rendering engine.

  15. lucas wrote on 09/17/08 at 7:28 am :

    @Erwan: everybody is looking at the EULA now, but it’s not the first time Mozilla has behaved badly recently. It’s not a one-time thing.

    I think that the main problem with Mozilla is that they are pushing a product (firefox) and that all their work is focused on that. They don’t seem to care about providing a good rendering engine to third parties: everybody should just use firefox.

    The decisions to switch from Gecko to Webkit for epiphany (which I use, with the gecko backend for now), and now Google’s decision to use Webkit, are the proofs that people are looking for other solutions.

  16. Meneer R wrote on 09/17/08 at 3:58 pm :

    I see a lot of misconceptions here.

    When I install ubuntu, there is no legally binding agreement between Canonical and Me.

    By default, you don’t have to right to copy nor the right to commercially use any trademarks.

    I can also get a bunch of liscenses that, when I -choose- to opt-in .. give me the right to distribute Ubuntu.

    The agreement is opt-in .. and exists between the distributor and the owner of the copyright and trademark.

    What Mozilla is doing is: ABUSING trademark law to force Ubuntu to force its users into a legally binding agreement.

    This has the following side-effects:

    a) hey, another loophole. We can even charge for trademarks, after hey become popular… [hello, GPL4!]

    b) grassroots corporate adoption is dead, because now you need top-down permission to install the software [because of the eula]. Worse: the users are going to see the EULA, but they are not allowed to enter legally binding agreements; we as a company need to agree to an EULA. Corporate adoption after EULA: 0% .. unless we get permission from legal at the top. That’s going to take months.

    c) every distrobution is just going to strip all trademarks immediately. Since, at that point, even making those names popular is dangerous. So, no more Firefox, Pidgin or Java, but Ubuntu Browser, Ubuntu Messenger, Ubuntu Coffee .. etc.

    So, yeah, Mozilla is officially run by amateur kids pretending to be serious corporate entrepeneurs.

    As to Mark Shuttleworth’s trick: (i’m sure he started the bug report, or reported it to slashdot or something) .. the community gets angry ..he remains diplomatic .. Good cop, bad cop. People don’t give him enough credit ;-)

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