Raising the Bar on Linux

I’ve been having discussions with various Linux distro vendors around updating our runtime requirements to newer/more stable versions.  We have been building binaries that work across a large range of runtimes and with a fairly aggressive backwards compatibility story.  We were still working with Red Hat 8.2 until sometime after Gecko 1.8, IIRC.  However, this has resulted in a lot of workarounds and ugly hacks to keep going, especially as we start to use pango and other newer libraries.

As a result, we’ve looked at how other apps interact with distros, and I’ve spoke to Chris Aillon of Red Hat/Fedora, and Alexander Sack of Ubuntu for their opinions.  What we’ve come up with, based primarily on Chris and Alexander’s input, is a set of fairly current runtime requirements that we will commit to supporting for Firefox 3.  Older distros will be able to have build-time support/workarounds as necessary, but Mozilla will not ship or test builds for older platforms.  This is still a proposal, but it seems as if everyone is very much on the same page, so I am hoping to make this final in two weeks’ time.  Please direct any feedback to  the discussion page on the wiki.
Proposed Runtime Requirements


  1. Dan says:

    Will with-system-nss and with-system-nspr be supported by Mozilla in the future?

    Do the gfx guys know about this? I know that in particular much work has been done to cater for older pango versions (I think we go through pango to pango-xft then to cairo, rather than pango-cairo) which causes a lot of the slowdown seen on linux. If we didn’t have to support these older versions at runtime, life would be better.

    Also, does bz know about this? From watching bugzilla, he seems keen on supporting older distros, such as FC4 (Gnome 2.10, Firefox 1.0.4, gtk+ 2.6.7, xorg 6.8.2, zlib, glib 2.6.4, dbus 0.3.3, hal 0.5.2, pango 1.8.1 and I believe no cairo).

    FC6 still doesn’t quite make it on account of starting with cairo 1.2.4 and dbus 0.9.3.

    However as a Gentoo user, I’m personally happy :-)

  2. Fasse says:

    I think this is a good way. People with older distributions could also use a good browser (for example Firefox 2) and so the life with newer distributions will be more comfortable.

  3. jigar says:

    I don’t know whether it makes sense her but anyways….I read mozilla planet frequently and it seems you are very much involved in Linux related issues with FF. We are facing lots of issues with drag and drop images, urls between multiple windows etc…What mozilla does for the same ? Mozilla has some specialized people to contribute to GTK+ or glib projects ?

    You can delete this after reading…I didn’t get any other way to communicate :)

  4. Jean Tourrilhes says:


    This is the state of Debian stable. It was released a few weeks ago and will be *the* stable release of Debian for at least one year.

    libgtk2.0-0 2.8.20-7
    libglib2.0-0 2.12.4-2
    libpango1.0- 1.14.8-5
    libcairo2 1.2.4-4
    libx11-6 1.0.3-7
    dbus 1.0.2-1
    libjpeg62 6b-13
    libpng12-0 1.2.15~beta
    zlib1g 1.2.3-13

    This is a web page to check the package available for Debian and Ubuntu.
    Ubuntu 6.06, which is their long term support, is called Dapper. It has libgtk+ 2.8.20.

    I fully agree that discontinuing support for RH 8.2, which was released around 2003, and is no longer supported by RH, makes total sense.
    On the other hand, if you discontinue support for current distro, which will still be current at time of release of Firefox 3, and still supported, I believe you will cut dramatically your tester/user base.


  5. jen says:

    How about fixing the ‘copy and paste clipboard info is lost after Firefox closes’ bug in Linux?? PLEASE!! Will dropping libraries and raising requirements fix this somehow???


  6. My Idea:
    Lets make Mozilla Firefox & Thunderbird use LSB 3.0 Libraries.

    Every major GNU/Linux Distribution conforms with LSB 3.0.

  7. mathi says:

    i’m wondering why is gnome one of the requirement? I can understand gtk and glib

  8. Boris says:

    GNOME is probably a requirement due to dependencies on gconf (e.g. for helper applications).

  9. Duane Wills says:

    Firefox 3 is planned for a wider featureset and, inevitably, a bigger memory footprint. It won’t fit in with older distros. It won’t run well on older distros. And, doing THIS to keep it running on an increasingly small userbase is a waste. Make the 2.0 tree the 1.5 tree of yesteryear. Keep up security updates. Keep the runtime requirements. Make security patches. You want more, put your hard drive where your mouth is. Supporting Red Hat after RH drops it? Ridiculous.

  10. Eero Tamminen says:

    > How about fixing the ‘copy and paste clipboard info is lost after Firefox closes’ bug in Linux?? PLEASE!! Will dropping libraries and raising requirements fix this somehow???

    AFAIK only thing the Gtk apps have is an atexit() handler which transfers the clipboard contents to the clipboard manager when the process exits. I think this is part of Gtk itself and apps do not need to have any code for it.

    Another amazing thing is the 6(!) years old Mozilla bug about the browser not doing session management properly. Yes, it has it’s own session management, but as it doesn’t work with the desktop session manager (KDE or Gnome), it always says that it thinks it crashed, would you like to restore your data? (yes, I bloody would -> switched back to Konqueror)

  11. user says:

    Just switch to Qt4 and be done with it. :-)

  12. Alex Owen says:

    I’m with Chris Edelmann.
    The obvious thing is to pick an LSB version as the minimum requirement… providing that LSB stadardises all that is needed for mizilla on Linux.

  13. Anonymous says:

    GNOME 2.16.x

    I think is a bad idea…

    Let other gecko spinoff browsers do this integration. I’m still sad that galeon went gnome for 1 fucking spinner icon. And later got discontinued.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Most of this looks like a good idea, but I’m not so sure about binding firefox to GNOME, dbus and hal. Many people who will want to run FF 3 aren’t running GNOME, and shouldn’t be forced to. As for dbus and hal, I don’t see any reason why FF should depend on these libraries, which aren’t even available on several other platforms FF runs on (various BSD versions, for example).

  15. Steve Richards says:

    One of the issues I find with Firefox is the way it looks visually. It looks un-polished and very grainy on my screen as compared to IE 7 when using the same screen settings (1024 x 768 x 75Hz). Yes, I am sure the guts of the program is more advance than IE 7 however, most people do not see that. It is what’s on that screen they see. You may have a good product but it is simply not as polished as IE 7.

  16. Sum Yung Gai says:

    A few things:

    1.) If Firefox, going forward, is going to support only newer libraries, then you’re going to leave “Enterprise” or “LTS” versions of GNU/Linux out in the cold (e. g. Ubuntu Dapper Drake, RHEL, and CentOS). That’s not a good plan; I know a lot of schools that use K12LTSP in its CentOS variant. However, you could mitigate this by continuing to support the Firefox 2 train (say, Firefox 2.1, 2.2, and so on). This is not unprecedented; Linus’s kernel team, for example, supports not just Linux 2.4, but also several versions of Linux 2.6. Why do they still support Linux 2.4? Because people still use and need it. The same goes for Firefox 2.

    2.) Having Firefox depend on GNOME is really not a good idea. Nearly all of my GNU/Linux users run KDE, not GNOME. I don’t see why the Mozilla Corporation should be trying to force-feed GNOME on people who don’t want it. Also, you have a significant subset who use desktop environments such as IceWM (without the GNOME dependency) and XFce. I do this a lot in Linux Terminal Server (LTSP) situations to conserve on DRAM per user.

    3.) Concerning F/OSS platforms, there seems to be this major focus on Linux, Linux, Linux to the point of exclusivity. The BSD’s are quite important as well; FreeBSD and OpenBSD in particular are seeing increased usage.

  17. moo says:

    Are you planning to make Gnome a hard dependency or an optional one? I’d rather not be able to use some “helper apps” than being forced to install Gnome just to be able to run Firefox.

  18. rmathew says:

    Please do not impose GNOME as a requirement.
    I am a happy KDE/Xfce user and I do not want to
    get into the GNOME hell simply to be able to run
    Firefox 3.

  19. martin says:

    Most of that looks good except the GNOME requirement. What is with that?

  20. Johny Mnemonic says:

    I think that this is no problem,user of old distro
    can update old librares to new version,I am sure that new version of window managers will be released

  21. John Wilson says:

    It’s regrettable that GNOME is a requirement though with input from Ubuntu and Red Hat I’m not all that surprised. The very worst part of my daily experience with Firefox is having to deal with GNOME dialogs which are more than somewhat brain dead compared with their KDE counterparts.

    I don’t have any other problem with what’s being proposed except for the GNOME centricity which, I’m afraid, almost makes me long to be back using Windows again.

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