Mozilla--A Lizard for All Seasons

The ubiquitous Mozilla is a magnificent lizard that has changed his spots and morphed substantially since his early days as the fledgling Netscape browser code name.

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Series Introduction

In his current incarnation, the many-faced Mozilla is the application programming framework or stage upon which the Netscape 6 web browser suite is based. Mozilla, itself, is a browser suite as well.

Mozilla also refers to the organization and community of developers who produce the Mozilla code and products. And Mozilla is the Project encompassing Mozilla software development. Here, in Part I of our Mozilla series, we look at the Mozilla organization and the Mozilla project.

In part what makes the emerging Mozilla application programming framework so important is that it is compiled to run on Linux, Mac, Windows and various other platforms. That means Mozilla-based applications, in effect, are cross-platform applications.

To some extent the new Mozilla web browser suite and the Netscape 6 browser suite applications demonstrate the scope and power of the underlying Mozilla applications programming framework. Netscape 6 looks pretty similar to the Mozilla browser suite upon which it is based, with a few minor cosmetic changes. For more about NS6, please see our review of the third NS6 preview release, "Netscape 6 Preview Release 3--Strike 3: Is NS 6 Out?".

Incidentally, the NS6 RTM (release to manufacturers) is expected to be publicly available very soon. That could happen during Fall Comdex, November 13-17, 2000.

Today, we present a quick overview of Mozilla the organization, Mozilla the project and Mozilla the software development plan. In Part II of this series, we take a closer look at the Mozilla applications programming framework. In Part III, we'll examine the Mozilla web browser suite. Look for Part II tomorrow on the Linux Journal web site. Part III will appear on the web site on Monday, November 13.

Part 1: The Mozilla Organization, Product Development Plan and Relationship to Netscape

Mozilla the Organization--It's Not Netscape/AOL

There is a very strong nexus between Mozilla and Netscape. However, they are not the same. The Mozilla organization is responsible for and is in charge of the Mozilla application framework and the Mozilla web browser suite development and distribution. AOL's Netscape division is responsible for and has charge of Netscape Communicator development and distribution. Theoretically, Mozilla and the Mozilla Organization are independent of AOL/Netscape. Simply put, Mozilla the program is not Netscape the browser suite. Nor is Mozilla the organization, Netscape the company!

Mozilla is an independent entity and has its own, small core staff. In addition to that core staff, there are many other people involved with the Mozilla Project. Most of the people working on the Mozilla project are independent (mostly volunteer) developers or employees of companies such as IBM, Intel, Netscape/AOL, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems and Zero-Knowledge, who are assigned to work on the project.

The lion's share of people involved in the Mozilla project is from Netscape/AOL. So even though the Mozilla organization and project are technically independent of Netscape/AOL, as a practical matter Netscape has influence on the Mozilla project, simply because so many developers working on the Mozilla Project are Netscape people. Also, Netscape/AOL does provide some funding for the Mozilla Organization staff and infrastructure.

This alliance does bring into some question just how "independent" of Netscape/AOL the Mozilla project and organization are. However, we can speculate that as more companies and independent developers get involved, the more truly independent the Mozilla organization and project will become.

Mozilla the Software Product

The open-source code product the Mozilla Organization is now developing will be called Mozilla 1.0 when it ships; now anticipated to happen in the second quarter of 2001. The Mozilla source code is fully open and the source code product itself is distributed under several public licenses, including the MPL (Mozilla Public License) and the NPL (Netscape Public License). Please see the Resources section below for links to the MPL and NPL.

Perhaps even more interesting than the MPL and NPL is that the Mozilla development process is an open book too. Each day the source code as it stands is posted for public download on the mozilla.org web site. Moreover, each day updated binaries for the Linux, Windows and Mac platforms are compiled by the Mozilla Organization and posted for public downloading on the "mozilla.org" web site. (Links can be found in the Resources section below.)

Every so often (about every month or two), the Mozilla developers stabilize a selected daily build for a Milestone release. At publication time, the current Mozilla Milestone release is Milestone 18. The interim daily builds leading up to a milestone release have been designated by the letter "M" (for Milestone) and the release number to form the daily release label, such as "M18".

However the milestone and daily build numbering system is changing. After Milestone 18, the numbering system switches from the milestone scheme to a pre-Mozilla 1.0 scheme. So what now are called Milestone releases will be called Mozilla builds starting with Mozill1a 0.6, then Mozilla 0.9, etc. (There will be no Mozilla 0.7 or 0.8.)

At this point in the Mozilla 1.0 development tree, most of the features planned for Mozilla 1.0 are already in the daily builds. The focus of Mozilla development from now until the 1.0 release is "performance, stability, and correctness", according to Brendan Eich, a representative of the Mozilla organization.

For more information about the Mozilla software development plan, please check the "Mozilla Development Roadmap" link in the Resources section below.

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