Linux Mint and Mozilla have announced a new partnership deal.

Announced today, the commercial tie-up means Firefox will continue to remain Linux Mint’s default web browser but, crucially, no longer ship with Mint-specific customisations.

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Don’t panic unnecessarily; Mint say Firefox will continue to be distributed as a .deb package through the official Linux Mint repositories.

But the way the browser is built will change — and soon.

At present Linux Mint ships with Mozilla Firefox as its default web browser but it’s a customised version of Firefox that includes settings, search engines, and start pages that are different from the ones found in “vanilla” Firefox, which any Linux (Mac or Windows) user can download from the Firefox website.

With this deal most (if not all) of those changes will be removed and replaced:

  • Start page will no longer point to linuxmint.com/start
  • Google becomes the default search engine
  • Other search engines are Mozilla partners, not Mint’s
  • Default settings now set by Mozilla
  • No patches outside upstream
  • App will use the default Firefox icon

Why the change?

Money, permission, and lowering the technical burden on Mint’s devs, from the sound of things.

“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,” says Linux Mint lead Clement Lefebvre.

All Ubuntu-based Linux distributions who don’t wish to ship the Firefox Snap app (the default in Ubuntu 21.10 and above) need to investigate alternatives. So while this ‘commercial and technical’ partnership may annoy the most ardent of Mint fans, there’s nothing but upsides for Mint itself — and in the long run they benefit all users.

Still, it remains to be seen if any of Mint’s other modifications, like supporting a download progress bar in the task switcher, make their way upstream. Additionally, the browser needs some tweaking to better support the rounded corners introduced in the new Mint Y theme.

When can you expect the transition to happen? If you’re on Linux Mint 19.x or 20.x you’ll get the Mozilla version of Firefox with the release of Firefox 96, which is due January 11, 2022. Any settings users have changed will not be affected during the update.

If you installed or upgraded to Linux Mint 20.3 you should already have the bulk of changes on your system. On my Mint 20.3 system the start page, start engines, and default settings are all Mozilla defaults, but the app icon is still the customised Mint one.

What do you think of this deal? Let me know in the comments.

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