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Some Linux distros, such as PureOS, ship Firefox with the official branding. Others ship a debranded fork of Firefox, such as Trisquel's Abrowser. PureOS and Trisquel are both FSF-approved Linux distros that only ship 100% Free Software.

I assume the debranding itself isn't required for Firefox to be Free Software since PureOS gets away with not doing it. I also assume that distros like Trisquel aren't debranding it just for fun.

Why is there this discrepancy?

  • Is this just vestigial because either Mozilla's terms of use for the branding, or the Free Software Definition, were different before and the build process was just never updated accordingly?
  • Is there some difference in policy between the distros that still requires it in some but not others, and if so, what exactly?
  • Or something else entirely?
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    "Some Linux distros" should be "Some GNU/Linux distros" to be precise. Linux is only the kernel and pretty much every distro ships with tons of GNU.
    – Xeverous
    Sep 15, 2023 at 9:39
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    @Xeverous GNU would like the term GNU/Linux to catch on, but it isn't going to. Sep 15, 2023 at 14:42
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    The GNU people were also pushing that agenda 20 years ago. I consider it a lost cause, and I'm not sorry it is that way. "Linux distribution" is less cumbersome to say/write than "GNU/Linux distribution". If Debian's GNU/kFreeBSD and/or GNU/Hurd had taken of it might be different, but they didn't and it isn't. "Linux distribution" is the term. Sep 15, 2023 at 14:52

1 Answer 1

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Mozilla requires that the product must be built unmodified or the changes made to the distribution be approved by them. Debian considered parts of Firefox (the trademarked logo, and non-free artwork) a showstopper so that they used a rebranded Firefox without the proprietary logo and artwork. E.g., see the discussion in the mailing list back then.

Some distributions disable or modify certain aspects of the browser (e.g., the ad source on the default starting page or disabling some optional telemetry which Mozilla asks users about) which may or may not be compliant with Mozilla guidelines.

Essentially it's a per-project decision whether you want to fulfill what Mozilla requires to distribute it approved or unmodified under their trademark Firefox or Thunderbird, or do you opt to not follow their guidelines, and then go for a rebranded version to your own liking.

The original issue between Mozilla and Debian has been resolved (e.g., see here and here), so that Debian uses (again) Firefox under its name, but that not necessarily applies to every distribution.

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    Mozilla no longer require approval over builds; Firefox has been back in Debian for a good few years now. Sep 15, 2023 at 7:12
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    @PhilipKendall yes, I'm aware... as I'm writing this from a Debian system. But maybe I should make this clearer. Thanks! Sep 15, 2023 at 7:36
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    There's recently been one hell of a kerfuffle about openbsd and a firefox variant (palemoon).... Sep 16, 2023 at 22:35

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