Major Roadmap Update Centers Around Phoenix, Thunderbird; 1.4 Branch to Replace 1.0; Changes Planned for Module Ownership Model

by ALEX BISHOP | In one of a string of changes, today announced a new plan that would have future Mozilla development focussed around the soon-to-be-renamed stand-alone Phoenix browser and the Thunderbird mail and newsgroups client (also known as Minotaur). Mozilla 1.4 would be the last milestone release of the traditional Mozilla browser suite and the 1.4 milestone would replace 1.0 as the stable development path.

According to the plan, aggressive and ambitious changes will take place during the 1.5 and 1.6 milestones to accommodate the switch to Phoenix and Thunderbird. Mac OS X versions of Phoenix will become available but the new Roadmap stresses that Camino, a project to create a Mozilla-based OS X browser with a native Aqua user interface, will continue to be fully supported.

The Phoenix project started life in 2002 as redesign of the Mozilla browser component known as mozilla/browser. Phoenix is designed to be a browser for average users with the features that most people want. Thunderbird is a project to create a stand-alone mail client that uses the Phoenix toolkit and follows its aims of simplicity and usability. Thunderbird now incorporates the work of Minotaur, an effort to create a stand-alone version of Mozilla's Mail & Newsgroups component. It is anticipated that Thunderbird will be available as both a completely separate application and a Phoenix add-on that will integrate more closely with the browser.

The plan also calls for the module ownership system to be refined. Changes will be made to ensure that all code modules have strong leaders with the authority to make decisive and final decisions. In some cases, the need for mandatory super-review will be removed, as is the case in Phoenix today.

It was also announced that plans to allow Gecko developers to have more leeway in making large architectural changes, so that Mozilla's rendering engine becomes easier to maintain and more extensible. In addition, the milestone development cycle will be altered, with a week being transferred from the Beta period to the Alpha period to allow for more major changes to be made early on. is proposing these changes for many reasons. Moving to a collection of stand-alone applications and extensions will address criticisms that the monolithic Mozilla suite is too bloated. Anointing 1.4 as the designated stable branch will answer concerns that the 1.0 branch is too far behind the trunk. The new module ownership model should ensure a greater coherency in many aspects of the project, in particular Mozilla's user interface, which has often being criticized for lacking direction. Many feel that Mozilla's two-stage review process is overkill in some places and the removal of mandatory super-review for certain areas will tackle this issue. Finally, rearchitecting Gecko will ensure that Mozilla's rendering engine remains world-class and does not further suffer because of excessive modularisation and poor design decisions that have been made in the past.

More information about this new development plan can be found in the updated Mozilla Development Roadmap.

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