Archive for October 5, 2006

Why Debian is wrong.

[ music | Depeche Mode – I Want It All ]

It’s very simple. Debian currently values their name and logo, and you can’t use it willy nilly without their permission. Same goes for Mozilla and their Firefox trademark. Now, so far Debian has been using the Firefox trademark with permission from Mozilla. It was a lax permission, and the rules of that permission have changed. The rules did not change to be mean, or to be arbitrary, but due to the fact that the law states trademark holders must defend their trademarks or lose them. Adobe asks you not to call photo editing “Photoshopping”; Google asks you not to say “Googled” when you went to a search engine; Xerox barely managed to hold on to their name due to aggressive marketing, which is why you probably get documents photocopied instead of xeroxed. Mozilla must do the same, and the problem that Debian is running into is they want to heavily edit the codebase to the Mozilla foundation’s flagship browser, essentially creating their own product, and yet still call it “Firefox”. You can’t have it both ways.

There is a branding “switch” built into the Firefox codebase. Turn it on, and the the official logos and names are used. Turn it off, and you can build your own branded browser automatically with almost no extra effort. Debian broke this switch (knowingly, this wasn’t an accident, it was broken because they “needed” to make various other edits) and wound up hardcoding the Mozilla trademarks into the Debian browser. Rather than doing what other vendors do, rebranding it, Debian is pitching a fit because Mozilla is saying, “Look, we need to fix this situation. Stop using the trademarks, or start following these updated rules.” Had Debian not broken the branding switch, this would be incredibly easy for Debian to fix, just flip the switch and call the browser Iceweasel or Doodyhead or BigDaddy or whatever they want to call it. But they broke the switch, and painted themselves into a corner, and want to blame Mozilla.

Stop whining. We had to change the name from Phoenix because of Phoenix BIOS’s products. We changed the name from Firebird because of the Firebird project. We changed the Mac based browser Camino from the former name of Chimera. Those were all legit requests. When Firebird was picked, it was a logical choice, but poorly researched. The fiasco after that and the response by both the Firebird project and Mozilla were incredibly poor, but it was resolved in the only logical fashion. As of now, Debian is being asked the same thing. Please follow the rules we have for our name or change the name of your product. The code itself is as free as it always was. The issue is not about code, it’s about protected names, identities that users attach to one product and organization.

Otherwise, I’m going to launch a line of manure-based fertilizer called Debian, with the slogan, “We’re so full of shit, it’s like getting ten pounds of manure in a five pound bag!” and of course, I’ll slap the official Debian logo on the bag. After all, valuable and trusted legally-protected identities want to be free!

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