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Re: GNU IceCat?

Simon Josefsson wrote:
> Agreed -- part of what I'm trying to understand, though, is whether the
> Iceweasel team considers this a relevant direction to go into?  The
> https://wiki.debian.org/Iceweasel suggests it strives to be close to
> what Firefox is, however that was written almost 10 years ago I'm not
> sure whether it is still true.

As far as I know, that still holds.  In fact, last I heard, some chance
exists that we might start calling it "Firefox" again, though I haven't
heard any additional news about that for a while.

But in particular, I don't think it makes sense to drastically diverge
from upstream Firefox.  Slight changes to defaults (like adding Debian
search engines or additional default bookmarks), sure.  But the name
notwithstanding, this shouldn't be an unresolvable fork in other ways if
we can help it.  It's a hard enough package to maintain without that.

I *especially* don't think it makes sense to do so if the change hasn't
even been run by upstream yet.  The first place to file bugs about
integrating IceCat functionality should be upstream Bugzilla, not
Debian.  And even if Mozilla doesn't want to merge the functionality as
a new default, they might be willing to add functionality hidden behind
an about:config option, so that a simple configuration change would
enable it.

> I agree that the differences between IceCat and Iceweasel are small, and
> it is quite far away of resembling the MariaDB/MySQL situation, however,
> at some point separate packaging will become relevant.  We are obviously
> not there yet.
> > If you do find that the Iceweasel maintainers are not interested

s/Iceweasel maintainers/upstream Firefox maintainers/ first; we should
at least find out what upstream says, rather than assuming they'll say

> > enough in your goals, then a better engineering solution might be an
> > overlay package which overrides some of the configuration defaults.
> >
> > (If there is currently no good mechanism for such an overlay package,
> > that is a generically useful thing which I would expect both Debian's
> > Iceweasel people and indeed upstream Mozilla to welcome.)
> I don't see how such a mechanism would work, but if it was possible that
> would be nice.

Some of the changes in IceCat should work trivially as Firefox
extensions.  Some already just bundle third-party extensions.  Others
represent simple configuration changes, though installing those as an
extension might make them easier to manage.

I'd suggest that the primary focus should be on any functionality of
IceCat that *can't* work as an extension or configuration change.  With
those resolved, IceCat could become a packaged extension or set of
extensions, which seems easy enough for someone to maintain *without*
having a duplicate copy of a large, security-sensitive package in the

Could you or someone else interested in seeing IceCat available provide
a complete catalog of the delta between Firefox and IceCat?  They list
five features on their homepage, the first 3-4 of which are already
extensions; is that a *complete* list?  And could we break down the last
one, "Fingerprinting countermeasures", into a list of specifics?  Which
of those countermeasures already has an about:config option to enable
it?  Which of those about:config options has had its default discussed
upstream to consider changing it?  (And if upstream says "no, that would
break too many sites", especially if they supply examples, can we record
that answer somewhere to provide additional guidance for people thinking
of enabling that feature anyway?)

- Josh Triplett

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