This issue is just a symptom of the problem of packaging applications with the distribution rather than distributions focusing on making a simple base operating system and letting users get the applications from the application provider. I love linux for servers, but I hate it for the desktop. I've tried using Ubuntu, Fedora, and a few others, and I'm a paying Red Hat user at work, but they all suffer from the same problem: The distribution packages the applications instead of leaving that to the application provider. Worse, they fiddle with them and change them before they package them up, so what you get may not be what the developers wrote. Just look at the mess that was caused when some Debian developer screwed around with OpenSSH. Or how Red Hat hosed up Perl's performance and didn't fix the issues for years. If users are going to use Ubuntu's packaged Firefox, they can hardly act surprised when Ubuntu makes a change, even one that benefits them.
Packaging the applications as part of the distro is great for newbies who want a controlled environment and experience à la Apple. Packages are mostly irrelevant to linux experts who want to do their own system administration and are happy to compile and install applications themselves. But for power users like me that are in the middle of that spectrum, they have to choose between the two extremes. I administrate systems and compile software all day long at work. I don't want to have to do it when I come home as that's time I won't get to spend with my family. At the same time, I don't want to have the versions of applications dictated to me by my distro.
It sucks when I upgrade my Ubuntu system to the latest release and it upgrades all of my applications to new versions even if I didn't want it to do that. The inverse is also true. Just because I want to stick with a "long term stable" release of Ubuntu doesn't mean that I don't want to upgrade my music player or OpenOffice to the latest version.
It's disheartening that the community isn't addressing this issue. Maybe it's just me and I'm the only person who desires the separation of maintaining the OS from maintaining the apps that other operating systems enjoy. When using a linux distro for my desktop, I miss the convenience of downloading an installer for the version of my choice of an app, clicking on the icon, and installing it. If we could reach that point then the drama that spawned this LWN article likely wouldn't have even occurred.
Note: I know each distro has different libraries and there are different architectures, but the linux community is really good at solving technical problems. I don't see that as something that can't be overcome. Also, if you're planning on posting an immature comment such as "Maybe you should ask your vendor for a refund," there is a story at Slashdot on this same Ubuntu issue where you can post such comments. I'd rather have an adult discussion here on LWN about the merits of this issue, or lack thereof.