The discussion of how to brand products that use Mozilla technology has come up again. (1 2 3 4 5) This discussion has actually come up repeatedly over the years, with no conclusion. In the past I’ve given my opinion to Mozilla directly, but now I have a blog. So here’s my opinion.
I believe there are at least two very distinct situations here:
- Shipping Mozilla technology (for instance, embedding Mozilla)
- Shipping a customized version of the Firefox browser
Unfortunately both these things have all been lumped into “powered by Mozilla,” but customizing Firefox is not “powered by Mozilla,” it is “powered by Firefox”.
(Incidentally the term “powered by Firefox” has been used before to describe the Joga.com Companion extension which was “developed in partnership by Mozilla and Joga.com” and “chang[es] the browser’s look and feel.”)
But what would “powered by Firefox” mean in practice? I believe that it would mean a customized version of Firefox that adds to Firefox, but does not take away (more detail on that later). Here are some browsers that are “powered by Firefox.”
- Firefox with Google Toolbar is Firefox with one extension, the Google Toolbar extension.
- Firefox eBay Edition is Firefox with one extension, the eBay Companion.
- Firefox Campus Edition is Firefox with three extensions, FoxyTunes, StumbleUpon and Zotero.
You’ll notice that these are all produced by Google or Mozilla. So why doesn’t Mozilla allow someone other than Google and themselves to ship customized versions of Firefox that are labeled as such? They certainly indicate that it is possible, but clearly it is not happening. I think I know why. It’s because of Mozilla’s Distribution Trademark Policy.
I understand that Mozilla Corporation owns the Firefox trademarks and as such, they have the right to do whatever they want with them and to actively work to protect the quality of a browser associated with those trademarks. I also understand that Mozilla Corporation is a business, and it is in their interest to partner with companies to produce customized versions of Firefox for revenue. But for them to dictate that the Mozilla Corporation is the only company that can customize Firefox and call it “Firefox” and use the Firefox logos is simply stifling competition.
There need to be better rules in place for other entities that want to customize the browser and distribute browsers with those customizations.
(And please don’t try to invoke Firefox Community Edition here. That’s not what we’re talking about. You can’t use logos and honestly calling something “My Company Browser – Firefox Community Edition” is a little cumbersome. Not to mention that fact that Mozilla provides no guidance on rebranding the installer or customizing just the name of the browser without rebuilding the whole thing from scratch.)
I propose that a new policy be created to supplement the Mozilla Community Edition Policy allowing for the creation of Firefox Brand Edition or Brand Browser – Powered by Firefox.
Here are some suggestions for how this would look:
- Underlying browser must be a shipping version of Firefox and must receive updates from Mozilla
- Default theme may be changed but user must have the ability to switch back to the original Firefox theme
- Extensions may be installed provided they do not remove any built in Firefox behavior or hide it from the user
- Extensions may not be hidden, but they may be marked uninstallable (note users can still disable them)
- Browser must be installed in a directory other than “Mozilla Firefox” (to allow for coexistence with an official Firefox)
- If the bookmarks are customized, the original bookmarks must be provided in some manner
- Search engines may not be removed, but they may be added and the default may be changed
As a side note, enterprises don’t have to worry about this restrictions as long as the customized browser is distributed within their organization (which is one entity). Note you need to be careful about distributing to independent contractors, as technically they are not your employees and you might violate the Mozilla Corp. distribution policy.