WTF: What the Firefox!?


The crux of the issue: tar.bz2 file type, only for Linux

Although as of late I’ve only dabbled with Linux casually and not as a sole user of Linux, I still try to read up on the latest trends and news relating to the world of open source.

One of my primary reads is Martin Owens’ blog, Doctor MO, where the writer, Martin, writes on various topics relating to open source and Linux, primarily about Ubuntu and economics.

His most recent post, which quite possibly has the most comments I have seen thus far in response to one of his posts, is about Mozilla Firefox 4’s release.

His issue, as an Ubuntu Linux user, is that Mozilla doesn’t offer a more user-friendly installer package for Linux as they do for Windows or OS X and how this poses a problem for future Linux adoption by more general computer users.


By default, I am offered 3 different versions of Firefox (British, US, South African English)

Currently, when trying to download Firefox from the Mozilla website your Operating System is detected by the website and it prompts to save the corresponding installer for your Operating System.

For Windows you are prompted to download an executable (exe) file, for Mac, you get the lovely DMG file, which when opened allows you to drag and drop Firefox into your Applications folder and it’s installed. What of Linux?

Well with Linux you get a big, old, lovely compressed file type (tar.bz2) that not only looks alien to some users, but gets pretty tricky since the installation process isn’t all that simple and the readme file provided doesn’t help matters.

The problem with this approach is that it strengthens the negative view of Linux as an OS for hardcore computer users. This view could easily be rectified if the various major Linux distributions came together and agreed on a universal binary, but I feeling that with the various in-fighting between projects (Unity vs Gnome 3.0) that it would take a miracle for such a thing to occur.

There are a few options that Mozilla could do alleviate this issue in the future.

  • They could create an official repository where they can publish their software for the various different Linux distributions and provide instructions on how to set this all up and use it on their website when you try to download Firefox.
  • They could improve relationships with the major Linux distributors to have the Linux pro publish Firefox on the same day it’s released to the public
  • They could provide a generic installer, such as what Nvidia has/had done for Linux drivers for their graphics hardware
  • They could provide a similar approach as competitors Opera and Google in providing installers for major distributions (deb files for Ubuntu/Debian, rpm files for OpenSUSE/Red Hat) and also provide the same tar.bz2 file they do now for other distributions, except perhaps with better instructions.

I can only hope that Mozilla tries to do something about this by the time Mozilla 5 is scheduled to release later this year, or it might end up getting displaced as the default browser on some platforms like how Rekonq replaced Konqueror as the default browser in Kubuntu 10.10.