Linux Mint Announces Mozilla Partnership

Posted on January 11, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Linux, Mozilla Firefox with 10 Comments

Linux Mint announced that it will keep Mozilla Firefox as its distribution’s default web browser, but with some major changes. It describes the deal as a “commercial and technical partnership.”

“Linux Mint signed a new partnership with Mozilla,” the announcement post explains. “It’s a real pleasure for us to join forces with Mozilla and to start this partnership.”

I’m not fully versed in the politics behind this new partnership, but it goes something like this: Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, and is one of the more popular Linux distributions. It has offered Firefox as the default browser for years, but with Ubuntu switching to a new container-based Snap app packaging format that Mint is not a fan of, it needed to find a different distribution method. And it had been packaging Firefox itself using the .deb packaging technology.

Going forward, Firefox will continue to be distributed through the official Linux Mint repositories, using .deb, but this work will be done by Mozilla. And that means there will be some changes to how the browser is configured. Instead of Mint’s highly customized install, Mint users will now get the Mozilla defaults.

And that could be controversial to some users. Now, the default start page will no longer be a Mint website; the default search engine will be Google and it will include Mozilla, not Mint, search partners; the default configuration will change to Mozilla’s defaults; and Firefox will no longer include code changes or patches from Linux Mint, Debian, or Ubuntu. It will be stock Firefox, in other words.

“For Mozilla, the goal is to make Firefox work the same way across all platforms to ease maintenance and simplify development and bug fixing,” Mint explains. “For us, this change means a tremendous simplification in terms of maintenance and development … We now package the Mozilla version of Firefox instead.”

Mozilla will also support the Windows 11-like rounded window corners Mint offers starting with Firefox 96. Which was just released.

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Comments (10)

10 responses to “Linux Mint Announces Mozilla Partnership”

  1. MikeCerm

    One change should be immediately obvious; because Mint was bundling a browser based on Firefox but didn't actually come from Mozilla, they were not allowed to use the real Firefox icon. That always annoyed me. Going forward, I assume everyone will get the real Firefox icon. It probably also means that updates to Firefox will come much more quickly to Mint. Though, because Mint is based on Ubuntu LTS, you should probably choose another distribution if you want timely updates.

    • nine54

      I'd argue whether the time spent customizing ubiquitous software could be better spent refining the other aspects of the desktop experience. I suspect that, for most users, a modified version of Firefox is not an important feature for a distro; many likely would prefer a stock, standard Firefox experience that is the same across distros/OSes.

      Regarding LTS, not necessarily. LTS-based distros still get updates, and these updates can include newer versions of popular software. It might not be the absolute latest version, but just because Ubuntu 20.04 LTS was released in April 2020 doesn't mean that you're stuck with a 2-year old version of Firefox. The Firefox version available for Ubuntu LTS is 95.0.1, which was released in December 2021. There's also Flathub.

      Good point about the Firefox branding/distribution and the whole Icecat nonsense or whatever.

      • MikeCerm

        Definitely, there's no reason Mint should be wasting their time doing their only Firefox distro. I assumed they did this because they could get a search revenue share from Google, rather than having the money go to Firefox, or something like that. Maybe Firefox agreed to split it with them, who knows what the terms of this deal were.

        Regarding LTS, sure, there are some updates, but Mint 20.3 was just released a few days ago, and it shipped with LibreOffice 6.4.7, which is more than a year old. I can't tell you what has changed between 6.4.7 and the current version of 7.2.5, but there's probably some stuff in there that might benefit users, including bug/security fixes. I can understand not wanting to be on on the bleeding edge, but using Ubuntu LTS as a base means that Mint is anywhere from 6 to 24 months behind the times. 6 months might be okay, but as the LTS base gets on in years... I just don't think that level of "stability" is necessary for a distro that's aimed at average users. I think the 6-month cadence of the regular Ubuntu releases is more appropriate.

        • nine54

          Interesting, I didn't think about whether Mint could have had their own arrangement with Google. I assumed it was a licensing issue with packaging and distributing Firefox.

          Totally agree regarding LTS and finding the balance between stability and recency, especially for desktop users as you pointed out. I appreciate that what they deliver out of box has gone through more thorough testing, but there is a point where running outdated versions is a greater detriment to the user experience than a potential bug, which only a portion of users might encounter. Flatpaks, Snaps, etc., get around dependency issues by packaging dependencies with the app and "sandboxing" it to avoid dependency conflicts. I don't yet entirely understand some of the resistance to these packaging formats other than some additional "bloat" that comes from packaging dependencies, which might be duplicated. Isn't this what Windows executables do to an extent? Perhaps that's why there's resistance. :)

          • waethorn

            Use Fedora instead. Similar to rolling release, except that your DE won't get major new versions and support ends on a given date. Everything else *including the kernel* gets updated during the support window, even to new major versions, and they do so in a timely fashion because many of the standard Linux projects are made by Red Hat employees that are the lead developers on Fedora. The OS will update the kernel to the latest stable release within about a week of final code sign-off of any given version. Even regular non-LTS Ubuntu won't do that. All of their packages that are available in Flatpak are also available as RPM's in their repo. Flatpak works properly with CSD. Snaps just don't. They use Flatpak as the default installation option for packages available on their repo, but you can easily change the source by way of a drop down on the application detail page in the Software Center.

            • nine54

              I've been going back and forth between Arch and Elementary, but Fedora is great, too, for all the reasons you listed. I find Fedora tends to have solid hardware support as well.

              It's not a knock, but I will say that Fedora takes a somewhat vanilla approach to desktop environments. If you're just getting your feet wet with Linux, Fedora's out-of-the-box experience might lack some ease-of-use elements that other distros aim to include. And when you deviate from the standard Gnome DE, I have experienced some minor issues with other DE spins. Nothing major, but a tad annoying for a fresh install.

        • L Gilles

          Hello, you don't understand the need of LTS for most of users and SMB's

          You don't change what is working just fine.

          MS Office 2010/2012 is the common version in all my clients who didn't get 365.

          The devs are on a Ubuntu LTS 2018, some 2020. Stability is key to success in business.

    • hrlngrv

      Since we're talking Linux, dunno about KDE or anachronisms like fvwm, but Gtk-centric desktop environments like Gnome, Cinnamon and MATE support the XAPP_FORCE_GTKWINDOW_ICON environment variable which allows one to override application icons in the panel's windows list, [Alt]+[Tab] window switching, etc. At that point, a relatively small bit of effort to modify .desktop files to contain lines like

      Exec=sh -c 'XAPP_FORCE_GTKWINDOW_ICON=$HOME/.icons/my_preferred_icon.png my_program'

  2. navarac

    Anything to get away from Canonical's proprietary Snap packages can only a good thing as far as I'm concerned.