I was interested in finding Firefox 'clones' in Linux when I heard about Icecat and Iceweasel.

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Icecat can be installed via PPA, but Iceweasel is a different matter. At a certain point I was even directed towards Icecat, as if they were one and the same project. Their names might induce this impression. More here.


2 Answers 2


GNU Icecat was GNU Iceweasel, but the reason they changed the name was because Debian also used "Iceweasel" to rebrand their slightly tweaked version of firefox. What the "tweak" amounts to may just be the logo; since it involved a license Debian considers "non-free", they wanted a firefox they could distribute without it, which required a rename.

A bit odd, but I presume that Debian, GNU, and Mozilla have a mostly friendly relationship. Somewhere I while back I saw a GNU comment regarding "Why Icecat?" to which the answer was, "Because it's not Firefox", but clearly "Iceweasel" was a better inversion, and it sounds to me like this was used first to refer to any pseudo-firefox, which explains the eventual GNU/Debian confusion.

So, currently: Icecat is a repackaging (and modification) of firefox by GNU. Iceweasel is a repackaging (and modification) by debian. The Icecat wikipedia page states that "The GNU Project keeps IceCat in synchronization with upstream development of Firefox", so I would presume their version numbers match up. It looks like Iceweasel does almost the same thing, although it may skip more versions and be further behind at points in keeping with general debian practices.

  • but Icecat 'about' says it is also made by "changes to Mozilla Firefox". so, Mozilla-based, but not independent from Firefox. it's up to v.17 of Firefox, I guess, what else 17 could mean? I could not install Iceweasel until now, but it looks like based on Ff 3.5
    – user32012
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 12:21
  • Anyway, with Icecat roaming about, there's no point in bothering about Iceweasel anymore.
    – user32012
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 12:25
  • Yeah, "mozilla based, independently developed" is a little ambiguous...I changed that. The last time I saw the project-now-known-as-icecat, though, the interface only crudely resembled firefox, which shapes my (maybe exaggerated) impression of it being significantly retooled. I would say the version numbers match (see edit to the last paragraph).
    – goldilocks
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 12:53

To add onto what others have stated, Iceweasel is currently lacking development.
Debian now ships with Firefox-ESR.

IceCat is part or the GNUZilla project and also offers functionality like blocking certain trackers and comes pre-installed with LibreJS.

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