GNU IceCat

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For the Debian Iceweasel package, see Mozilla software rebranded by Debian.
GNU IceCat
IceCat 38 Start Page.png
GNU IceCat 38.3.0 on Trisquel
Developer(s) Gnuzilla team
Stable release 38.8.0 (10 May 2016; 6 months ago (2016-05-10)[1]) [±]
Operating system GNU/Linux, OS X, Android
Type Web browser
License MPL[2]

GNU IceCat, formerly known as GNU IceWeasel,[3] is a free software rebranding of the Mozilla Firefox web browser distributed by the GNU Project. It is compatible with GNU/Linux, Windows, Android and OS X.[4]

The GNU Project attempts to keep IceCat in synchronization with upstream development of Firefox while removing all trademarked artwork. It also maintains a large list of free software plugins. In addition, it features a few security features not found in the mainline Firefox browser.


Origins of the name[edit]

The Mozilla Corporation owns trademark to the Firefox name and denies the use of the name "Firefox" to unofficial builds that fall outside certain guidelines.[5] Unless distributions use the binary files supplied by Mozilla, fall within the stated guidelines, or else have special permission, they must compile the Firefox source with a compile-time option enabled that creates binaries without the official branding of Firefox and related artwork, using either the built-in free artwork, or artwork provided at compile time.[5]

This policy led to a long debate within the Debian Project in 2004 and 2005. During this debate, the name "Iceweasel" was coined to refer to rebranded versions of Firefox. The first known use of the name in this context is by Nathanael Nerode,[6] in reply to Eric Dorland's suggestion of "Icerabbit".[7] It was intended as a parody of "Firefox."[8] Iceweasel was subsequently used as the example name for a rebranded Firefox in the Mozilla Trademark Policy,[5] and became the most commonly used name for a hypothetical rebranded version of Firefox. By January 1, 2005, rebranding was being referred to as the "Iceweasel route".[9]

In August 2005,[10] the Gnuzilla project adopted the GNU IceWeasel name for a rebranded distribution of Firefox that made no references to nonfree plugins.[10] The first Gnuzilla IceWeasel release was based on the[11] version of Firefox. There was no release based on Firefox or

The term "ice weasel" appeared earlier in a line which Matt Groening fictionally attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche: "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."[12]

Debian was originally given permission to use the trademarks, and adopted the Firefox name.[13] However, because the artwork in Firefox had a proprietary copyright license at the time, which was not compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines, the substituted logo had to remain.[14] In 2006, Mozilla withdrew their permission for Debian to use the Firefox name due to significant changes to the browser that Mozilla deemed outside the boundaries of its policy, changes which Debian felt were important enough to keep, and Debian revived the Iceweasel name in its place.

Subsequently, on 23 September 2007, one of the developers of the GNU IceWeasel package announced that the name would be changed to GNU IceCat from IceWeasel in the next release, so as to avoid confusion with Debian's separately maintained, unrelated rebranding of Firefox.[3] The name change took place as planned and IceCat is the current name.[8]


  • IceCat 2 (Version was, released January 12, 2008)
  • IceCat 3 (July 23, 2008)
  • IceCat 4 (April 10, 2011)[15]
  • IceCat 5 (June 27, 2011)[16]
  • IceCat 6
  • IceCat 7
  • IceCat 9
  • IceCat 10
  • IceCat 12
  • IceCat 13
  • IceCat 14
  • IceCat 17
  • IceCat 24
  • IceCat 31 (2014)[17]
  • IceCat 38 (2015)[18]

Releases usually keep up to date with the Mozilla Firefox ESR[19] source code.


GNU IceCat is available as a free download for the IA-32 and PowerPC architectures. Both binaries and source are available, though the current build is available only for GNU/Linux. Some distributions offer binary and source packages through their repositories, such as Trisquel,[20] Parabola GNU/Linux-libre[21] and Fedora.[22]

IceCat is also available for Mac OS X 10.4 & 10.5. Any Mac user with these versions of Mac OS X can install IceCat through Fink. For the Mac, it is available for both IA-32 & PowerPC architectures.

It is also available for Windows (Vista or newer) and Android (2.3 or newer).[4]

Additional security features[edit]

IceCat includes additional security features, such as the option to block third party zero-length image files resulting in third party cookies, also known as web bugs[8] (This feature is available in Firefox 1.0, 1.5, and 3.0, but the UI option was absent on 2.0).[8] GNU IceCat also provides warnings for URL redirection.[8]

In version 3.0.2-g1, the certificate of, a certificate authority, has been added to the list of trusted root certificates. Concern[according to whom?] about that decision has been raised in a discussion on the savannah-hackers-public mailing list.[23]

The GNU LibreJS extension detects and blocks nonfree non-trivial JavaScript.

IceCat also has functionality to set a different user agent string each for different domains in about:config. For example, setting a non-mobile user agent string for a desired domain would make it possible in Android to visit a non-mobile version of a website.


Gnuzilla was available under the MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license that Mozilla used for source code. Unlike Mozilla, IceCat's default icons are under the same tri-license.

Google Summer of Code 2008[edit]

There were some suggestions made for the Google Summer of Code for 2008 to improve GNU IceCat.[24][better source needed] These included:

  • Porting IceCat to the Firefox 3 codebase
  • More support for free plugins such as Gnash
  • Privacy features changes

The proposal to port IceCat to the Firefox 3 codebase was accepted and completed by Giuseppe Scrivano.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GNUzilla - News: IceCat 38.8.0 release". 25 Jun 2016. Retrieved 2 Jul 2016. 
  2. ^ "COPYING". Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Berry, Karl (23 September 2007). "Ice Weasel". bug-gnuzilla (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Rodriguez, Ruben (9 March 2015). "IceCat 31.5.0 release". GNUzilla. 
  5. ^ a b c "Mozilla Trademark Policy". 
  6. ^ Nerode, Nathanael (27 February 2004). "Mozilla Firefox's icon and trademark". debian-legal (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  7. ^ Dorland, Eric (27 December 2004). "Mozilla Firefox's icon and trademark". debian-devel (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Gnuzilla Homepage". Retrieved 4 September 2016. 
  9. ^ Aelwyn, Joel (1 January 2005). "Mozilla and Trademarks". debian-legal (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  10. ^ a b "Gnuzilla/IceWeasel Project Application". 
  11. ^ "IceWeasel Download location". 
  12. ^ Groening, Matt (1986). Love Is Hell. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-74454-3. 
  13. ^ Markham, Gervase (14 July 2005). "Ongoing Firefox (and Thunderbird) Trademark problems". debian-devel (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  14. ^ Markham, Gervase (19 June 2005). "Firefox/Thunderbird trademarks: a proposal". debian-devel (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  15. ^ Scrivano, Giuseppe (11 April 2011). "GNU IceCat 4.0". bug-gnuzilla (Mailing list). Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  16. ^ Scrivano, Giuseppe (27 June 2011). "GNU IceCat 5.0". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "GNU Icecat 31". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "GNU Icecat 38". Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "IceCat - Free Software Directory". Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  20. ^ "Trisquel - Details of package icecat in belenos". Retrieved 4 September 2016. 
  21. ^ "Parabola GNU/Linux-libre - icecat 38.8.0_gnu2-2 (x86_64)". Retrieved 4 September 2016. 
  22. ^ "rpms/icecat - PkgDB". Retrieved 4 September 2016. 
  23. ^ Berry, Karl (7 October 2008). "CAcert, GNU IceCat, and savannah". savannah-hackers-public (Mailing list). Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  24. ^ "Summer of Code project suggestions for GNU". Retrieved 13 April 2008. 
  25. ^ "Google Code - Summer of Code - Application Information". Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2008. 

External links[edit]