The Latest Reason Fedora Users Have Been Questioning Firefox As The Default Browser
Written by Michael Larabel in Fedora on 23 January 2016 at 08:00 AM EST. 52 Comments
FEDORA --
The default browser choice for Fedora Linux has once again come up again with some no longer even wanting Mozilla Firefox within the package repository.

The latest Firefox issue by Fedora users is that Mozilla intends to remove support for using unsigned extensions within the browser. Mozilla is doing this for greater security in ensuring no rogue extensions get deployed on users' systems, but from the Fedora perspective, some interpret this as "DRM schemes that cannot be disabled." Firefox has been working in this direction of not allowing unsigned extensions to run in the browser and it's to the point of being a preferences option to enable the support.

Originally this option was going to be removed with Firefox 44 whereby all loaded extensions had to be signed, but as of yesterday that option will not be removed until Firefox 46.

A Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee ticket was opened recently about this, "This effectively amounts to an iOS-style DRM scheme, disallowing to install any extensions not coming from Mozilla. As a results, this prevents the user from exercising the fundamental 4 freedoms of Free Software when it comes to Firefox extensions. (It also has the side effect of breaking all Firefox extensions packaged in Fedora, in a way that cannot be fixed without shipping binary blobs, in violation of our policy to build everything from source.) Such a DRM scheme should NOT be allowed in Fedora... There needs to be a Fedora-wide policy banning DRM schemes of this kind with no opt out. (I would also recommend disabling enforcement by default where it exists, but that might be more controversial.) As an immediate action, any update to Firefox 44 must be blocked by FESCo unless the option to disable checking the signatures is reinstated. If that is not possible within the Firefox trademark policies, the only option is to finally rebrand Firefox."

Some commenting on that ticket have proposed going with Iceweasel, a popular open-source Firefox-based browser. However, others point out that it will just raise the barrier for Fedora adoption by confusing any new Linux users about missing Firefox. Others are meanwhile calling for a public letter to Mozilla calling them out on this bad DRM scheme for "Free Software." There's also some proposing other solutions like sticking to the last Firefox ESR release without the mandated signing, using a new default browser in Firefox like something QtWebEngine powered, etc.

There's more than 100 comments for this ticket if you want some weekend reading. Fortunately, the announcement by Mozilla yesterday of delaying the change to Firefox 46 has bought them some time. At Friday's FESCo meeting, pertaining to "Software packaged in Fedora should not be allowed to implement DRM schemes that cannot be disabled", they agreed to draft a private email to Mozilla expressing their concerns and seeing what mutually can be done to resolve this problem of forced signing. Until then, FESCo is permitting Fedora to continue updating against new upstream versions of Firefox.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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