So it seems that the previously small group of 10 people, who now turned into a 160 employee organization has lost the notion of common sense during the last beast rebirth.
With the release of Firefox 3, the Mozilla Foundation decided to integrate the browser further with GTK+ 2. That is not a problem in itself and we understand the merits... the problem is depending on GTK+ 2.10 or newer which only the most recent distros have included. The worst part of it is not acknowledging that this is a problem and just passing the hot potato to the users and distributors. As a consequence users of Ubuntu 7.10, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Mandriva 2006/2007 and many other distributions need backported packages to be able to run Firefox 3.
Yeah, sure.... you *only* have to upgrade GTK + to version 2.10 or newer... and compile pango, cairo, glib, libthai, libdatrie..etc. And yes, you'll be upgrading, on your production machines, a set of critical libraries on which a huge number of applications depend to be able to install Firefox 3. Who knows what that may break? The alternative: upgrading the whole distribution even though it's working perfectly.
Why does the Mozilla Foudation think that instead of providing a self contained Firefox 3 package with the necessary version of GTK it is better to have each single Linux distributor backporting critical packages or users suffering with horrible compilation issues? Is it efficient to, instead of having the problem solved centrally, force everyone to go through it? What if OpenOffice.org now decides to depend on GTK+ 2.12?
But let's accept the unacceptable for a moment. Let's backport the necessary packages (and ensure all the relevant dependencies) so that Firefox can be upgraded on our customer desktop machines with a single click.
After all this, we come to find out that GTK 2.10 or newer, is not OK if we don't want Firefox 3 to crash everytime the user tries to print. Although it's not written anywhere, except on comment 28 of bug 422916, it has to be GTK 2.10.6 or newer. Let the whole rebuilding fest restart.
For the record, when everything was solved we had rebuilt exactly 25 RPM packages:
I find this situation total nonsense and honestly think it issues a very negative message to the Firefox Linux users, because we all know this would never happen on the windows version (imagine Firefox depending on Microsoft backporting some newer Vista dll to Windows 2000....).
We should have in mind that this article is not about bashing the average small-saturday-afternoon single developer open source project. Firefox is now a huge project with an important mission and relevant market share. The Mozilla Foudation has enough resources to make it easily installable without breaking production systems or requiring guru-level skills for installation. This was surely not a question of resources. It was just.... a very bad decision.
After all should we spread firefox or shred firefox?