Iceweasel vs. Firefox

So now Firefox 2.0 is finished and I’m talking about a brand new web browser iceweasel? And.. is it better than firefox, internet explorer, opera, konqueror, … ?

There is an easy answer. It’s not really. Because iceweasel is “just” a fork of the current version of firefox (plus some patches). So don’t be afraid if your linux distribution wants to remove your beloved firefox.

Now some people may ask, why a fork? Whats the problem with firefox? Here is a good lengthy explanation. For a short description of the problem, read ahead.

Debian is known for a strict compliance to it’s own rules. These rules assure that Debian will stay a truly free distribution. This means everybody can take it an modify it in any way (of course you have to contribute back your modifications). Debian has a need to patch firefox, because firefox bugs are only patched by mozilla in following higher versions. Like a bug in 1.5 is only resolved in 2.0 . This was not sufficiend for Debian’s stable rules and so they patched the 1.5 version themselves.
But this was not fine with the mozilla corporation which doesn’t allow a modified firefox version to be named firefox and containing the original logo.

So there are two conflicting policies. Both are reasonable ones for the organisations. So debian started the iceweasel fork and just use this one. I think this is a good way to satisfy both sides.


17 Responses to “Iceweasel vs. Firefox”

  1. laosboyme Says:

    Thx for this review!

  2. stefon Says:

    I’m always happy to read this.. thx to YOU *g*

  3. Says:

    Je trompe FireFox pour aller l’Opera

    Opera quand a lui, m’a surpris par sa rapidite, aussi bien au lancement du navigateur que lors du chargement des pages. En revanche, j’ai eu bien du mal a personnaliser mon interface, a tel point que j’ai abandonne tellement j’avais charcute dans l…

  4. stefon Says:

    i’d like to answer… but i only speak german and english *g*

  5. Sven Oxtoby Says:

    Thanks for explaining this. From my lay perspective it also seems a sensible outcome.

  6. All The Firefox » Blog Archive » Firefox v Iceweasel Says:

    […] between them as Iceweasel is a fork of the current version of firefox (+ patches). I found Stefon’s blog useful in explaining this and the related background issues concerning both Mozilla and Debian in […]

  7. sajestanus Says:


    Loosely translated,’s comment translates to the following message

    “Opera has when he surprised me with his speed, both to launch the browser when loading pages. However, I had a very difficult customize my interface, the point that I left so I charcute in…”

    This is translated by (So you can use it in the future if you need to.)

    I like firefox, but it is a bit slower than Opera, not “loading the webpage” wise, but “loading the program” and “opening new tabs” wise. In my current OS (Windows XP) Opera gave me some javascript problems and some error about a file missing each time it tried to load any java applets. Soon, I’m switching to Debian 4.0RC2, which I know Opera works great in.

    Stumbled on your blog while googling to find flame wars that browser zealots have caused for my amusement.

  8. Browser - All Beliefs Says:

    […] – the entirely free version of FireFox (for a good, short explanation of why IceWeasel exists, go here). I still mostly use FireFox, but under Linux, I use IceWeasel. I’m happy to note that FireFox has […]

  9. Aaron W Says:

    As far as I understand, it wasn’t so much due to patches to the Mozilla code, as it was that certain parts of Firefox (IE, the name and logo) did not fit into Debian’s free software guidelines, as they were subject to the above named strict branding policy and copyrights by Mozilla.

    I think that maybe it’s both.

  10. Aaron W Says:

    Addendum to that:
    From on 5/7/08:

    In February 2006, Mike Connor, representing the Mozilla Corporation, wrote to Debian and informed them that Mozilla did not consider the way in which Debian was using the Firefox name to be acceptable.[11] Connor confirmed that the Mozilla Corporation was revoking the previous agreement with Debian which allowed them to use the Firefox name. Further messages from Mike Connor clarified Mozilla’s current policies: “Yes, if you are shipping a browser called Firefox, we should be signing off on every deviation from what we ship.”; and “If you are going to use the Firefox name, you must also use the rest of the branding.”

    As Debian could not use the logo because its license did not conform to the Debian Free Software Guidelines, it could thus not use the Firefox name under Mozilla’s revised guidelines. In addition, Debian freezes its releases on a long term basis and later patches software in the frozen stable releases for newly-discovered security issues. Under the revised guidelines, in order to use the Firefox name, it would have been required to seek approval from the Mozilla Corporation for all security patches.

  11. Mark Phillips Says:

    From a practical standpoint, I have had to remove iceweasel and install firefox. There are several sites that I use, as well as gmail, that require a minimum version of firefox. Even spoofing the browser id does not work. So, in order to use Google Labs with my Gmail and have a todo list, I remove iceweasel and installed firefox.

    I understand the reasons for the change, but would it not be possible to have firefox in the debian respository as well as iceweasel?

  12. ChiragChitvan Says:

    thanks a lot for reply…

  13. jack Says:

    The whole thing about firefox that makes it nice is the add ons you can install to suit your needs.

    Without those a person could use about anything without much of a difference.
    I dont see anything like that with iceweasel

  14. pAt Says:

    Well then, if Firefox is maintained by an organization, shouldn’t it then be better than Iceweasel, which is loosely maintained by enthusiasts?

  15. Brains Says:

    Re: Jack’s comment – The firefox add-ons work in Ice weasel as far as i can tell. Certainly i have noscript and adblock both running without any problems.

  16. The end of the Iceweasel Age? | Stefon's Blog Says:

    […] of my most visisted blogposts is the one explaining why there exists something called iceweasel the browser and summarizing the reasons why debian renamed firefox. Now there has been some new activities […]

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