If a group of developers at Canonical have its way, we may not see Firefox as the default and pre-installed web browser in Ubuntu starting version 13.10 (Saucy Salamander). Support for replacing Firefox with Chromium has been increasing inside Canonical, where many developers believe they can provide a better end-user experience through Chromium.
Both Firefox and Chromium are open source, and so including Chromium doesn’t go against Ubuntu’s ideal model of a 100% open source operating system. Note that Chromium shouldn’t be confused with Google Chrome, which is a freeware (some parts are propreitary) browser based on Chromium’s code base.
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The topic of switching browsers was first brought up by some Canonical developers at the second ever online Ubuntu Developer Summit in May. In a Hangouts session, Jason Warner and Chad Miller (chromium-browser maintainer), among others, discussed this idea with session attendees and asked for users’ opinions. With Google Chrome being today’s most used web browser according to popular statistics, it didn’t come as a surprize to Canonical developers when most users agreed on the idea of replacing Firefox with Chromium.
Jason Warner recently made a follow up email on this development. Excerpts:
In the past few weeks I’ve seen quite a few articles and comments on the
possible switch, and in light of those I’d like to focus this discussion a
1. This is NOT about which browser is better.
2. This is NOT about which browser has more features or X, Y or Z feature.
3. Openness and freedom are still part of our core values. However I’d
rather not turn this thread into a “who is more open/free” debate.
What is important, and ultimately should be the deciding factor, is the
common end user experience. Which browser, in the common case, will be the
best for the general end user? Things I consider relevant to this
discussion are quality/stability/robustness, familiarity, ease of use, and
overall user experience.
Jason ended his email with a reassurance that whatever be the final result of this debate, both Firefox and Chromium would continue to be available in Ubuntu App Store even if one of them doesn’t end up in the next release of Ubuntu.