Christopher Blizzard of mozilla.org Speaks on the Firebird Naming Conflict
Wednesday May 14th, 2003
Last week, CNET News.com published another report on the Firebird naming conflict. Claiming that the application of the Mozilla branding guidelines is tantamount to a back down on the part of mozilla.org, the article credits Jonathan Walther with resolving the disagreement. Walther was asked to mediate by Ann Harrison, one of the administrators of the Firebird database project. The article also reiterates the database project's claims of legal righteousness, which have since been challenged by Mitchell Baker. The open-source advocacy magazine Open has also printed an article about the dispute, featuring interviews with Harrison and Walther. The piece appears to fully support the position of the Firebird database project and lavishes praise on Walther. Neither article contains any statements from mozilla.org.
More recently, the Australian LinuxWorld also awarded victory to the Firebird database project. While the article is decidedly in favour of the database group, it does at least quote sixteen words from mozilla.org's Christopher Blizzard (compared to 478 from representatives of the Firebird database community). The report makes several bizzare statements (including a claim that MozillaZine is run by Asa Dotzler), mentions an open letter allegedly sent by Walther to Harrison and MozillaZine (we've never seen it) and finishes off with an advert for the next week's Firebird database conference. It looks like you'll have to go to sites like MozillaNews if you want to read any remotely pro-Mozilla coverage. Thanks to everyone who sent us links to articles.
We at MozillaZine weren't satisfied with the rather one-sided reporting from the mainstream tech news sites, so we got in touch with mozilla.org to find out their real position. As a result, we're pleased to present an exclusive interview with Christopher Blizzard, the Red Hat employee and mozilla.org staff member who authored the Mozilla branding guidelines.
Update! LWN.net have a report on the interview. The first reader comment on their article is from Jonathan Walther. It makes it very clear where he stands on the issue.
#73 Re: ...
Friday May 16th, 2003 6:17 PM
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>I must say, from reading the first posts/emails/etc from the 'mediator', everything was fine...
Yeah, that seemed to be the case, which is why it was alarming when he posted things like "Mozilla, and before it Netscape, has had a culture of extreme arrogance. I have observed this over a period of more than 5 years.", suggesting he had strong opinions prior to this incident. I think he was wrong to offer himself as mediator in this situation and in my eyes, his reputation has suffered more than either the Mozilla or Firebird project teams. I'm sure others would disagree though.
>Well, simple: it doesn't...
I had heard that too. But like I said, I don't know anything about law and my experience is that what lawers know about law is different to what normal people think they know about law. That doesn't mean you're wrong of course, but it makes it difficult to know who is legally in the best position. If I was guessing I'd guess that AOL laywers would be right, and if they cleared the name it would hold up in a court (subject to the stipulation that they were properley informed and so on). Of course they might just be incompetent :) But what would hold up in a court room has never (as far as I can see) been the real issue here.
>Fact is, Mozilla.org as an organization isn't as easy to reach as it wants to believe.
Maybe. In general, I have found them to be easy to communicate with (that's not saying much, I haven't had much need to contact them. But, for example here <http://www.mozillazine.or…rums/viewtopic.php?t=8383> Asa was willing to engage in constructive dialog). Perhaps the problem was the thousands of extra emails they recieved at the request of IBPhoenix? In the same situation, that action would make me less willing to make compromises than I might otherwise have been. In fact I think it might tempt me to send all mail containing the word 'firebird' to /dev/null (although I guess that the drivers didn't actually do that). I think people realise now that that was a mistake to engage in an unfocused email campaign and although IBPhoenix apologised later, I fear that the initial impression created by the mail deluge was not so easilly reversible. It's sad that mistakes have been made but they do have consequences even after apologies have been made.
>"internal codename" (as it's being called _now_)
David Tenser claims to have an email prior to the renaming announcement in which Asa stated that Firebird (then Phoenix) was going to become Mozilla Browser. I have no reason to disbelieve him about this. You have to remember that the whole naming debate has been mixed up with a major shift in the products that Mozilla.org is offering, and it's unclear (internally) which order these changes occured in. In any case the 0.6 release of Mozilla (Firebird) Browser has been substantially delayed, in part because of the need for a name change from Phoenix. I believe the plan was to launch 0.6 under the Firebird name and then change to Mozilla Browser once the seperate applications become the primary Mozilla.org distributed products. As for going through AOL legal - the mozilla project has had some recent history of problems with project names. Phoenix had to rename (obviously) as did Chimera (now Camino), because Chimera is the name of a UNIX web browser (with some HTML 3.2 support, no less). So I guess they wanted to clear the name in advance to prevent further legal threats.
>I DO believe that Mozilla Firebird will cause problems in relation to documents on the web...
Probably, in some cases it will - like people will search for something and find the results refer to a different product. I guess people are pretty good at dealing with that though because in general I don't hear people complaining that they were looking for a holiday in Venice, Italy but accidentally booked a holiday to Venice Beach, California, USA. So although names may be important, people are quite capable of filtering the results on other criteria. If it becomes a problem, people will learn to deal with the duplicate firebird name pretty fast by (say) searching for 'Firebird Database' rather than just 'Firebird'. Moreover, given the wide ranging demographic that uses the internet, this name collision is a common and unavoidable problem - to a car collector, it might come as a shock to see that an "I'm feeling lucky" search on the term 'firebird' produces a page that has nothing to do with automobiles. Similarly a search for 'Chimera' produces results referring to a wide range of companies and products (including several software products), but no matches for the mythological creature on the first two pages. Searching for 'Chimera Mythology' produces much better results.
The potential for confusion also exists in third party documents but, in general, it is in the author's best interests to provide enough context to make it obvious which product is being referred to either through the general nature and scope of the article (for example a review of database software is unlikely to contain a web browser for good measure) or by providing the context explicitly (e.g. a link to the project page or a longer description such as 'Firebird, the database'). So, whilst I see a possible problem of confusion in documents, it has, in my opinion, been somewhat overplayed.