Mitchell Baker on the Firebird Naming Dispute

by MITCHELL BAKER | Recently Mark O'Donohoe and Ann Harrison of the Firebirdsql project and I have made contact via email. It has been encouraging to have this communication channel. Attached is the gist of a message I sent to Ann and Mark a couple of days ago. I am posting it here because it describes a plan of action.


Ann and Mark

Thank you for your recent messages. It is encouraging to have a civil communication channel, where we can actually discuss concerns. Along these lines, I understand that well-meaning people in the Firebird database project feel aggrieved and have concerns about sharing a name with the Mozilla Firebird Browser. I don't necessarily agree with the analysis, but I understand that parts of your community feel passionately.

Your website speaks of "infringing use of our trademark" and otherwise suggests that our use of firebird as part of the name of our browser violates rights of the Firebird database project under trademark law. We disagree. The name has undergone careful review by trademark counsel experienced in such matters. I hope to respond to your overtures and improve the relationship between the two projects. But I do not share any belief that our use of the name is questionable under trademark law.

Many people believe that it is or would be easy for the Mozilla project to change names. This is not the case. Choosing a name, gathering input, researching its trademark status, making a decision and implementing a name change is a long process. We cannot make this happen in a matter of days, or even weeks.

Nevertheless, we do intend to change the name so that the browser now known as "Mozilla Firebird Browser" becomes the "Mozilla Browser." Even this is not a simple or easy change. currently hosts several projects: The Mozilla Application Suite, which includes browing, mail, news, editing and chat functionality; and a set of stand-alone applications representing the next generation of development. Our plan to rename Mozilla Firebird Browser to Mozilla Browser requires us to eradicate use of "browser" in connection with the browsing functionality in the Mozilla Application Suite. We need to educate our developers that Mozilla Browser means the new stand-alone application, not the browser inside of the Mozilla Application Suite with which they are familiar.

We intend to do this in the timeframe of the 1.5 release cycle. We are currently in the 1.4 release cycle. We expect 1.4 to be the last development cycle focused on the Mozilla Application Suite, and that the 1.5 cycle will shift to the new stand-alone applications. As part of the move to the new development paradigm, we will revise our development tools and culture so that "browser" refers to the Mozilla Browser, and not to the browser in the Mozilla Application Suite. We intend to make these changes as soon as we can in the 1.5 release cycle.

The 1.5 release cycle is soon, but not immediate. We will be making a few milestone releases of the Mozilla Firebird Browser before the 1.5 release cycle. So there will be additional discussion of the Mozilla Firebird Browser as we do these releases. The good news is that we are all eager for the Mozilla Firebird Browser to become the Mozilla Browser. is working toward this goal.


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