Mitchell Baker on and Phoenix

by MITCHELL BAKER | is hosting a small, experimental project exploring development of a cross-platform, XUL and Gecko-based stand-alone browser application. The project is known as Phoenix. Phoenix is roughly analogous to the Chimera project, which is also hosting. Chimera is a new browser for the Macintosh platform built using Gecko and a native toolkit for the Macintosh to give Mac users the native look and feel they so desire. Phoenix is our stand-alone browser experiment for Linux and Windows. Although we don't yet know how far Phoenix will evolve, we've already seen some interesting results such as customizable toolbars, satchel for form field autofill, and first-class add-on/extension support.

We're interested in this project because:

  1. Phoenix exercises the Mozilla application framework in an illuminating way. We now have an application toolkit which has reached a 1.0 status, and which was created with browser-related projects in mind. What better way to test it out than to iterate once again a build a focused browser application. Our current application suite showcases what can be done to promote integrated applications. A project focusing on using Mozilla technology to create a single, stand-alone browser application may teach us new things. Perhaps we'll find shortcomings in our XUL 1.0 capabilities. Or perhaps we'll find that it's an even better toolkit than we expected.
  2. Phoenix explores the idea of decoupling the various applications that create our current application suite. We've received requests for a stand-alone browser for quite some time. Now that Mozilla 1.0 has been released, we can accommodate this type of experimentation.
  3. Phoenix aims to provide a "layered" approach to building a web browser. In other words, allowing to ship a simple, stable base with core functionality, and provide a means for managing extensions and layering add-ons, so that a user could build up the browser to be as complex as he or she wants. This allows some users to have the range of features found in today's Mozilla releases (or even more) while also providing a convenient path for those who want a lean, quick, simple browser.
  4. It has been proposed by a group of XUL experts who have been leaders in the development of Mozilla's browser application, and whose creativity we want to encourage.
To do this, we've created a separate browser partition in our CVS tree. This will allow the cohort of hackers who proposed this project some room to experiment without affecting either the branch or the trunk of the browser application suite (aka SeaMonkey). This is a restricted partition, meaning that it is open only to its designated owners and peers. In other words, CVS write access to the SeaMonkey tree does not include write access to this partition.

Development of the SeaMonkey browser application suite in the CVS tree will not be affected at all. Review, super-review, check-in access, involvement of drivers and other policies will continue for SeaMonkey without change.


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