Linux Mint signed a new partnership with Mozilla.
Mozilla develops two of the most important software applications in our distribution:
- The Firefox Web Browser
- The Thunderbird Email and Calendar application
Mozilla is one of the Open Source greatest champions of all time. It played a unique role throughout history in the promotion of Free Software and greatly contributed to the success of Linux.
In the 90’s Netscape Navigator was the most popular Web browser but it quickly lost its lead to Internet Explorer which came bundled with Microsoft Windows. The Web was changing rapidly, Explorer was dominant (it reached 95% user share in 2003) to the point where most websites no longer cared about compatibility with other browsers or operating systems and we got in a situation where Microsoft de-facto dictated Web standards.
Netscape did something formidable at the time. It released its source code to the World. Mozilla was formed to use that code and coordinate the development of a new Open Source browser, which eventually became Firefox. A few years later the Web was no longer dominated by a single browser. In 2010 Firefox represented 30% of the user share and Internet Explorer had gone down to 50%.
Firefox didn’t just save the Web, it promoted the idea of Free Software to millions of people who were using Windows, Mac or other proprietary operating systems. In the 2000’s, distribution shipped with Firefox, which many Windows users already knew and loved. This made it easier for people to migrate to Linux and distributions became more mainstream.
We have our champions. Pioneers and early adopters remember the importance of key projects and key personalities in the history of Linux and of Free Software. I remember using Netscape on Unix terminals at the university, even before we had Linux at home. I remember having the best browser available at a time when even getting a sound card to work in our favorite operating system was a challenge and very few software applications were available.
Nowadays this is still true. Firefox is still a champion of Open Source, it still proudly promotes Free Software outside of our community and it still produces one of the best and the most open browsers available not only to us but to millions of people who enjoy it on proprietary operating systems before migrating to Linux.
It’s a real pleasure for us to join forces with Mozilla and to start this partnership.
Changes in Firefox
Firefox will continue to be distributed as .deb packages through the official Linux Mint repositories. Its configuration and the way it is built is changing to make the Linux Mint version of Firefox much more similar (almost identical in fact) to the version which is distributed by Mozilla.
In the past Linux Mint used its own default settings and configured Firefox in a specific way. Most of this configuration is abandoned to go back to Mozilla defaults.
- The default start page no longer points to https://www.linuxmint.com/start/
- The default search engines no longer include Linux Mint search partners (Yahoo, DuckDuckGo…) but Mozilla search partners (Google, Amazon, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ebay…)
- The default configuration switches from Mint defaults to Mozilla defaults.
- Firefox no longer includes code changes or patches from Linux Mint, Debian or Ubuntu.
For Mozilla, the goal is to make Firefox work the same way across all platforms to ease maintenance and simplify development and bug fixing. With these changes Firefox will give the same experience in Linux Mint as it does in other operating systems.
For us, this change means a tremendous simplification in terms of maintenance and development. We used to build Firefox ourselves using Ubuntu’s packaging (which is set to be discontinued as Ubuntu is moving towards snap). We now package the Mozilla version of Firefox instead.
With this partnership we also satisfy Mozilla’s requests when it comes to using their intellectual property (their name, brands and identity). For example, the Firefox icon is changing to follow Mozilla’s usage guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is this a commercial or a technical partnership?
It’s both. Thanks to this partnership it’s also much easier for us to communicate with Mozilla and to work with them on improving Firefox in Linux Mint.
In the past we added support for XApp window progress, which is the the ability to show progress in the Cinnamon panel window list when you download something with Firefox.
Better support for rounded corner in Firefox’s own window decorations is coming in Firefox 96.
We’re hoping to work with Mozilla on software updates in 2022, to make it easier for Firefox and the Update Manager to work together and for users to be able to see and apply browser updates straight from the browser itself.
When is the Firefox transition to Mozilla settings taking place?
In Linux Mint 19.x, 20.x and LMDE the transition is taking place with Firefox version 96, and it is planned for January 11th – January 12th.
In Linux Mint 20.3 the transition took place during the BETA with Firefox version 95.
Will the transition change “my” settings?
Technically and ideally, no. Preserving user settings is key. It’s a very important notion in software development and it’s taken very seriously both by Linux Mint and by Mozilla.
Changes to the default settings can however have an impact on your experience, since your settings are basically a layer of changes (overwrites) on top of the default values. As the default values change, any setting which isn’t overridden by a user value can indeed trigger a behavior change.
I added Google as my default search engine, will it still be there?
Yes, your default engine will continue to be Google. The only change is that it no longer will be a user added engine, it will be considered (and replaced by Firefox) as a system core engine.
I used Yahoo/DuckDuckGo/StartPage as my default search engine, will it continue to be my default?
No, these were core engines in the Linux Mint configuration. They no longer are present in the Mozilla version of Firefox. The default engine will switch to Google. DuckDuckGo will remain available but with a different URL (it’s a Mint search partner in the Mint configuration, but only a Mozilla partner in the Mozilla configuration).
Which search engines generate an income for Linux Mint?
In Firefox the only engine which generates an income for Linux Mint is Google.
In other browsers the only engines which generate an income for Linux Mint are Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and Startpage.
Will the transition negatively affect performance?
No. In fact we’re getting slightly faster performance with the transition.
My version of Firefox looks wrong in the About dialog…
Note that “mint-001” and “1.0” are not the version of Firefox. They don’t relate to the packaging version either. They just represent identifiers of Linux Mint within Firefox.
The version of Firefox appears lower, “95.0.1” in this screenshot.
Firefox says it’s being managed by my organization
In Linux Mint the Update Manager is responsible for all software updates, and applying updates requires root privileges.
“Your browser is being managed by your organization” might look a bit scary but all it means is that Firefox was told to not worry about updating itself.
In the About dialog, “Updates disabled by your system administrator” has the same meaning.
We’ll work with Mozilla on this, first to rephrase this, and hopefully later this year to be able to handle Firefox updates from within Firefox.
Where can I report bugs I find?
You can report bugs directly to us at https://github.com/linuxmint/linuxmint.
Or upstream to Mozilla at https://bugzilla.mozilla.org.
When reporting a bug please include the output of the following terminal commands:
locale dpkg -l firefox* dpkg -l ubuntu-system-adjustments
This helps us understand what language you’re using, and to see what relevant packages and versions are installed so we can reproduce issues and troubleshoot them.