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Importance of Brand

February 09, 2004

As has been reported everywhere this morning, Mozilla has renamed Firebird. The new Firefox trademark is the result of a naming conflict with another open source project, and the process has been written up by those involved: Ben Goodger, Steven Garrity, and Jon Hicks.

firefox logo

As might be presumed from my earlier work with the Mozilla Foundation, I was privvy to the conversations that took place during the brainstorming. When it became apparent that Firefox was the candidate of choice, I noted my personal opinion. I didn’t like it. It just didn’t sound right. It’s not a browser, it’s a fighter jet or an 80’s hair band. It’s too easy to mistake the second syllable for a vulgarity when pronounced. It’s abrupt, and the alliteration doesn’t work. All the way up until this morning I still thought it was a poor choice.

But that was before I saw Jon Hicks’ brilliant logo, and the new pinstripe theme for OS X, and realized that as a brand, Firefox is actually going to work. This is one example where the sum is much greater than the individual parts. Though Hicks’ logo stands alone as an excellent piece of illustration, the browser context is needed to give it meaning. Though the pinstripe theme is great, it needs the logo to give it character. Though the browser is top-notch, it needs the branding to give it a public face that so far it has been lacking.

Safari now has some real competition and thanks to the new installer, using Internet Explorer on Windows is no longer a justifiable decision. Hats off, way off, to all involved in this effort. I can’t wait for the servers to unclog so I can grab my copy.

Ray Henry has noticed that Firefox has stopped rendering the :hover state of everyone’s favourite accessible CSS tabs. By paging through FastCompany’s tabs, I’ve found that if you leave the mouse over a menu item on page load, it may load in the :hover state but then stick like that, without allowing actual hovering. This is in both OS X and Windows 2000, by the way. Anyone know why this is? Comments are open.

And further on Firefox growing pains, Dunstan Orchard has noted a problem with Firebird extensions spawning XBL errors. He’s got an easy fix, so if any of this sounds familiar, it’s worth a quick look.

Reader Comments

February 09, 01h

I assumed that the logo was done that way to avoid having to try to replicate or replace the detail in a face when the logo is at smaller sizes for icons.

ray says:
February 09, 01h

Nice fix Jeremy. With a little repositioning the change worked perfectly

John says:
February 09, 01h

re Mike D and other comments on the Firefox logo.
You may like to read the comments by Jon Hicks who was involved in the logo project.
The link is…

re the rollover issue, yes its the same in Moz 1.6 on w2k as well


Maurice says:
February 09, 02h

Another background bug: the body background color doesn’t apply to the whole viewport when an XHTML document is sent with the right MIME type.

RafG says:
February 09, 02h

Maurice, that is in fact correct behavior:

If you want the entire viewport to be covered, you should specify a background for the html root element, rather than for body.

jgraham says:
February 09, 02h

The SimpleBits page works for me using a 24th January trunk build of Mozilla Firebird. Given that the Firefox 0.8 branch was cut in about December, this is probably a short term regression that has been fixed since then.

Oh and I think the new name sucks :-) IIt doesn’t tell someone encountering the product for the first time what it does; they have no idea if Firefox is an ISP, a search bar, a piece of spyware or a new type of herbal viagra. It’s also far too masculine and aggresive for my liking. I’m sure that I’ll get used to it soon enough though.

The icons, however, are beautiful.

February 09, 03h

I read somewhere on MozillaZine or somewhere recently that the “birds” will no longer be replacements for the Application Suite. Fire(bird|fox), Thunderbird, and Mozilla Suite will all continue development.

According to the Firefox roadmap, 1.0 should be here by springtime (well, spring in the northern hemisphere at least). According to the things I read from the Firefox pages, “Firebird” was the PROJECT CODENAME for a product that did not yet have a PRODUCT NAME. That product was to replace the application suite, and take it’s name – being “Mozilla”. “Firefox” is the PRODUCT NAME for the project formerly known by the PROJECT NAME of “Firebird”.

“Firebird” was always intended to be a temporary codename. They had every intention of changing it sooner rather than later. I’m just curious if they’re going to change the name of Thunderbird at all…

sergio says:
February 09, 03h

I think the problem with the tabs is related to this bug:

The overflow:hidden property in nested divs causes the right padding to double. This is true for Firefox and Mozilla 1.6. I think it’s a problem with all 2004 Gecko builds. It almost drove me insane this morning when I got rendering problems in my site after upgrading the browser formerly known as Firebird.

February 09, 03h

We’ve taken to calling them FireSquirrel and ThunderBadger in our house.

February 09, 04h

And as yours truly first reported on the flashcoders list, the browser will incorrectly position flash movies that are set to scale 100% and align to the left top of the browser window if the salign attribute does not precede the scale attribute in the flash movie’s embed tag.

The correct order should be:

salign=”LT” scale=”noscale”

However, if it appears as:

scale=”noscale” salign=”LT”

which is the default order when published from flashmx, it will not be rendered correctly in this browser or Mozilla 1.6

February 09, 04h

I love the new logo, the new branding effort, and I presume I’ll love the new version (waiting for the server’s to unclog myself). Long live Firefox.

Tom says:
February 09, 06h

If you check Dunstan’s place, someone posted this link in the comments:

(maybe it was after everyone made the posts here, I’m too lazy to compare times)

stylo~ says:
February 09, 06h

Personally, I thought the logo was a lizard on fire at first. Nice colors, though.

The name is extremely cheesy. Why did they even use “fire” if firebird (another bad name) was only temporary?

It really is a shame that no one at Mozilla has a clue about branding and “selling” software, because the browser is excellent. They repeatedly insist on shooting themselves in the foot.

Ray E. says:
February 09, 09h

I was wondering aobut the name change…personally, I liked the Firebird name…it matched up well with the companion mail app Thunderbird….but stylo is definitely correct in that the Mozilla folks could definitely use some branding/marketing help.

The xbl errors people are experiencing…is this happening because they didn’t follow the installation instructions? (disabling all extensions in Firebird prior to installing Firefox). Or are there extensions that are being added that are actually creating the errors?

February 09, 10h

Ray E, it’s people not following instructions and disabling old extensions.

ray says:
February 09, 11h

Just to clear up Dave’s update, the errors that I am experiencing are occuring in Win2000 :)

Stinn says:
February 09, 12h

I can also confirm that it is occuring it WinXP as well. Very strange.

February 09, 12h

I noticed that as well.

At first I thought it could be that for some reason Firefox was ignoring the background-position, but Pixy’s Fast Rollovers ( )seem to be working just fine.

If you have the hover state set to -20px, then that would put the white text/grey tab at 0, and -40 for the active and selected states would put the white tab/grey text at 0.

could this be the problem?

It could also be that Firefox is not seeing the hover state because it is applied to #nav, and it is not able to see past the id applied to each .

February 09, 12h


By removing the overflow: hidden that is applied to “#nav a”, the rollovers work again.

I am assuming that it is accepting the hidden value from the main #nav id, and sees the second overflow as redundant, possibly cancelling them out, or throwing the background-position settings off.

I have tested the following in: Firefox, Firebird 0.7/Win, IE6/5.5/5.0 Win

February 09, 12h

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox slated to become the Mozilla Browser when it hits 1.0? I recall hearing that somewhere and I also heard that Thunderbird will become Mozilla Mail when everything is said and done.

Can anyone back that up or shoot that down?

Stephen says:
February 09, 12h

Hey, the rollovers don’t work for me either and I’m not even on Firefox! :)

Mozilla 1.6 on Win2k here. Oh, and Jeremy’s fix works perfectly.

February 09, 12h

The other Dave S, I also recall reading that. I don’t think i have used Mozilla since Firebird 0.6. I also really like Thunderbird.

Mike D. says:
February 09, 12h

The illustration skills displayed in the logo are excellent and I like the style quite a bit, however, I find it a little weird that the main subject of the logo is looking directly away from the viewer. I know when people critique my logowork, I cringe frequently, but I think this is a valid criticism. I would expect more of a profile view of the fox or a 3/4 view peering forward from behind the globe.

Oh well… just my two cents.

jgraham says:
February 10, 01h

> The xbl errors people are experiencing

Are a result of the fact that a directory name changed from ‘widgets’ to ‘bindings’ then back to ‘widgets’ again (or maybe the other way around. I /think/ they broke Seamonkey compatibility for no obvious reason and then realised they needed to be compatible again so that the DOM Inspector would work. But don’t quote me on that). This means that extensions which use XBL and were designed for an older version of firebird are looking for a directory that doesn’t exist anymore. One problem is that the error handling needs to be improved; if there is a problem loading an extension rather than part of the main browser, it should bail loading that extension, disable the extension, and report the problem, rather than refusing to load the browser.

Of course nobody bothered to mention this is the release notes.

stylo~ says:
February 10, 02h

>>I liked the Firebird name…it matched up well with the companion mail app Thunderbird

But who would figure out or recall from the names which did what? Fire surfing, thunder email?

What was possibly wrong with Mozilla Mail, Mozilla Browser, all from the Mozilla organization? One word/brand to learn: “Mozilla.” (Then straighten out the whole apps vs. suite mess and you’re done.) For good fun read this post:

Sad, isn’t it? A case study in bad branding.

By the way, the old tab hover works fine again in new nightlies. Works in my 20040209 Firebird/0.8.0+. Also the new jeremyflint one works as well, so both new and old do.

ppk says:
February 10, 02h

Firefox is apparently a cute but endangered species of panda.
Will the Firefox browser proudly bear Cute but Endangered as its brand values?

stylo~ says:
February 10, 03h

>>Then straighten out the whole apps vs. suite mess and you’re done.

Oops, I forgot the need to use only ONE name on all OSs. Then redo the logo. -And then we’re done!

I think…

dennis says:
February 10, 06h

It’s probably due to poor CSS coding on my part, but Firefox renders a wonky-huge indent between text and container for my site (where there was none before – Firebird/Mozilla/IE).

I’ll have more time to investigate tonight, but I think I’ll be rolling back to Firebird. Firefox also breaks the turbo-handy spellchecker. :(

Vlad Dumitrica says:
February 10, 07h

I like Firebird better. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just because the Back/Next buttons are missing from Firefox. It also has problem with scrollbars on my Windows XP. They are totally absent. I don’t know why. They show up just fine in Firebird. The icon’s nice, and so is the name. But I’ll switch back to Firebird. :(

jgraham says:
February 10, 07h

> It also has problem with scrollbars on my Windows XP

Use the default theme. Most themes haven’t been updated for the new version yet.

> Back/Next buttons are missing from Firefox

Which buttons? Back / Forward (from the default install) or Next/Previous (from the link toolbar extension). If the former, it’s a theme issue, the latter is an extension issue; try reinstalling the extensions.

beto says:
February 10, 08h

The new name was a shock at first. It will be hard to remove the 80’s association - but after seeing the logo, it all looks like it’s gonna work great, implicit cheesiness notwithstanding.

And your site, Dave, still looks great on it.

Funkatron says:
February 10, 12h

the lack of scrollbars and back buttons is probably firebird messing with FireFox. You have to re-install your skin from the mozilla site to get it working right

Gabe says:
February 10, 12h

Funny, this post is EXACTLY what I was thinking while downloading Firefox yesterday. I’m still not crazy about the name, but the logo is really top-notch. Unlike previous logos, this one communicates ‘web browser’ to me immediately.

I do wish someone would put some serious marketing behind Mozilla, but there is sadly no profit potential. At this point I’m just thankful for a good browser existing at all…

Tony says:
February 10, 12h

Gabe said: “I do wish someone would put some serious marketing behind Mozilla, but there is sadly no profit potential. At this point I’m just thankful for a good browser existing at all…”

I agree. At this point, though, the best marketing we can do is word of mouth. One by one I’m getting co-workers to make the switch. Every time someone comes by my desk for something, I make sure they see me working away in my browser…opening links in a new tab, etc. I slowly chip away until finally getting them to *try* a new browser. I have yet to lose a convert…It’s the first step that’s the hardest.

February 11, 04h

A lot of people are saying it doesn’t matter what the browser’s called, they’ll still use it.

I had only just downloaded Firebird 0.7 when a couple of days later, Firefox 0.8 got released! It downloaded slowly, but somehow I was able to get it straight away.

I had no problems installing it - my customised toolbar of icons was just like it was before, along with my bookmarks. Odd because it was installed into a different directory!

Has the DOM Inspector always been included? I noticed it was if you choose “Custom” when installing. See my website for my thoughts on this versus the Mozilla version.

The logo does indeed rock. Hopefully the name won’t change again, so when version 1.0 comes out, we can start promoting this browser en masse. (It’s not advised to do so yet, as it’s still a “Technology Preview”, with features half-working or not at all.) Shame - to me it seems already superior to IE6.

February 16, 04h

Chris, all of your settings are stored in your profile:

and not in the application directory.

One of the next big features for the next milestone will be migration from other apps (Safari, IE, Mozilla, Netscape, etc) including bookmarks and prefs (?).

Rob Halff says:
February 17, 09h

I really don’t understand what’s the big deal about the branding of firebird/firefox.

As far as I know, when firefox is stable, it will become the replacement of the Mozilla browser anyways. Or will it always keep the name Mozilla Firefox instead of just Mozilla ?

cropmx says:
April 07, 05h

I reply to scott blanchard (#19) :
The truth is far more funny : if you reverse the tags order, the salign value will be ignored by others browsers.
So the good syntax is (guess!) :


it’s perfectly insane but it works.
Thank you MoziBird, my life was drab before…