Linux Mint strikes deal with Mozilla to keep Firefox as default web browser
Linux Mint has been one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions for years, combining an Ubuntu base with different desktop environments and built-in applications. Linux Mint 20.3 was just released last week with several new features, and now the operating system is partnering with Mozilla to keep Firefox as the default web browser.
Linut Mint is based on Ubuntu and uses Ubuntu’s package repositories, but Canonical (the company behind the operating system) switched Firefox to a ‘Snap’ container package for last year’s Ubuntu 21.10 update. Even though Snap packages are generally more secure than non-containerized Linux software, and it leads to easier distribution across many different Linux distributions, not everyone likes Snap packages. The Linux Mint project in particular has fought against Snap, citing a lack of transparency from Canonical and the centralized nature — no one can run a Snap-powered app store except for Canonical.
Linux Mint announced in a blog post (via omg! ubuntu!) that it has signed a new commercial and development deal with Mozilla, which will keep Firefox as the default web browser. Linux Mint will continue to distribute Firefox through the system’s software repositories as a .deb package, just as it works now (and how it worked on Ubuntu before 21.10), without using Snap. However, all of the customizations Linux Mint added to Firefox will be removed — the start page won’t be linuxmint.com/start anymore, the default search engine will revert back to Google, and so on.
Linux Mint said in its blog post, “For Mozilla, the goal is to make Firefox work the same way across all platforms to ease maintenance and simplify development and bug fixing. With these changes Firefox will give the same experience in Linux Mint as it does in other operating systems. For us, this change means a tremendous simplification in terms of maintenance and development. We used to build Firefox ourselves using Ubuntu’s packaging (which is set to be discontinued as Ubuntu is moving towards snap). We now package the Mozilla version of Firefox instead.”
Firefox also has an official Flatpak package, which is distributed by Mozilla and works on Mint (and is an alternative to Snap), but Linux Mint has apparently opted to work with Mozilla on keeping the standard .deb version alive. The updated Firefox browser is already live in Linux Mint 20.3, and will be rolled out to 19.x, 20.x, and LMDE with the release of Firefox 96.