Firefox and Linux

At the recent Firefox Summit, a group of people led by Chris Aillon (Red Hat), Robert O’Callahan (Novell), and myself met to discuss Firefox on the Linux desktop. Historically, there has been a great deal of tension between mozilla.org and the Linux distros, notably over maintenance of branches, divergence between distros, and lack of sustained communication between the groups. All seemed in agreement that closer cooperation and dividing responsibilities appropriately would benefit everyone involved. A number of changes were proposed that have general consensus among the stakeholders.

It is hoped that the proposed changes will drive a stronger and more balanced partnership among Mozilla contributors, and enable the Linux community to work more closely with the Mozilla community. More importantly, we believe this will drive a bigger focus on creating a better Linux user experience for everyone.

Development

  • In the Firefox 3 timeline, establish a strong group of maintainers to drive and own Linux-specific development. caillon and roc will likely act as owners here. This is not an exclusionary group, anyone wishing to help in this effort will be able to participate and contribute. This certainly includes other projects that are based on or share code with Firefox (Flock, Iceweasel, etc).
  • This group will share responsibility for branch policies for Linux-specific code. In particular, they may choose to land Linux integration features on branches.
  • The vast majority of downstream patches will be pushed upstream and into shared CVS, in order to minimize patch sets to distro-specific packaging/build requirements, with minor exceptions from time to time.

Distribution

  • Most Firefox Linux users are using builds packaged by their Linux distribution. We will encourage this by having mozilla.com’s download page point to packages from various Linux distributions.
  • The Mozilla Corporation will continue to provide nightly builds for testing and development, and will make available reference builds for each release in an unsupported form.
  • By minimizing upstream vs. downstream differences, it should be much easier for Linux distributions to comply with Mozilla trademark requirements. The current situation involves a great deal of overhead per distribution due to the large and diverse patch sets. Therefore the Mozilla Corporation will be able to work with more Linux distributions around branding than we have been able to in the past.

Please direct feedback and discussion to the mozilla.dev.planning newsgroup, or dev-planning@lists.mozilla.org

Update: caillon has blogged about the changes from the Linux side

8 Comments

  1. What effect will this change have on branch lifetimes?

  2. tr says:

    “[…] and will make available reference builds for each release in an unsupported form.”

    Does that mean that there won’t be any supported non-distro-specific versions anymore? The way I use Linux distros is by choosing to install a few heavily used programs in a “vanilla” version as user. At the moment these are Openoffice.org, Eclipse and Firefox/Thunderbird or Seamonkey. All the other programs are managed with the distro specific package manager.

    The mozilla products and Eclipse work very well this way. Openoffice.org has the annoying habit to only release as RPMs which makes installation as a user an annoying “alien -t *.rpm” and untarring orgy.

  3. James says:

    Sorry if this not quite on topic but…

    What about the Autopackage idea for cross-distro support? as in Bug#277066

  4. jmdesp says:

    What about security fixes ? Caillon complained some time ago the current state was less than satisfactory for that, would be good to include some serious enhancement for that too so that distribution can do simultaneous (or near simultaneous) releases.

  5. Nick says:

    All about nutrizione

  6. If I can’t use nightly builds or for goodness sakes the latest stable version of Firefox on Linux I just won’t use Linux. I’d like to though I’m not touching the console no matter how great anyone says it is and the same goes for non-savvy computer users. Get installers working, OSX even makes it as easy as dragging an icon a few dozen pixels to the right for it’s installer. We love Linux and we love Firefox but as long as it remains a pain to simply install software we’re not going to use it (just like Vista!)

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