MozillaZine Review of the Year 2003

2003 has been perhaps the most tumultuous year yet for the Mozilla project. Major updates were made to the Roadmap, project names changed, Netscape died and transformed into the Mozilla Foundation. In our second annual review of the year, MozillaZine takes a look back at the events that have shaped the last twelve months.


The first release arrived less than 48 hours into 2003 when a trio of Bugzilla updates were unleashed. A few days later, it was announced that Mozilla Calendar would be included in the default Mozilla builds, though this is yet to happen. Meanwhile, the commitment to the 1.0 branch was restated with the release of Mozilla 1.0.2. Unable to find a maintainer for the Classic Mac OS port, announced that the Mac OS 8.x and 9.x build would be removed from the tree. The month ended with MozillaZine assuring its readers that the standalone Phoenix browser had not died and that Chimera for Mac OS X was also alive and well.


April began with the release of Mozilla 1.4 Alpha and the unveiling of a major Roadmap update. The revision heralded plans for a move towards standalone applications, with Phoenix and Thunderbird (another name for Minotaur) becoming the focus of future development. It also anointed 1.4 as the successor to the stable 1.0 branch, outlined changes to the module ownership system and authorised architectural changes to the code behind the Gecko rendering engine.

After months of discussion, announced that Phoenix and Minotaur were to be renamed to Firebird and Thunderbird respectively. This did not please supporters of the Firebird database project, who claimed that had stolen their name. As part of a campaign organised by the leaders of the Firebird database community and commercial backer IBPhoenix, supporters of the database flooded the MozillaZine Forums with messages and sent hundreds of emails to high-profile Mozilla developers. After twenty-four intense hours, IBPhoenix called for an end to the widespread attack and initiated a more focused campaign targeting just Mitchell Baker and Asa Dotzler. To get their side of the story, MozillaZine interviewed Ann Harrison, an administrator of the Firebird database project. A few days later, published a branding strategy, which stated that the standalone browser and mail projects should be referred to as Mozilla Firebird and Mozilla Thunderbird respectively. Meanwhile, the Firebird database project asked Jonathan Walther to mediate the dispute and Ann Harrison apologised to for the mass emailing campaign at his request. In a further statement issued at the end of the month, the Firebird database admins said that they may be satisfied if only ever used the name Mozilla Firebird and revealed that they were considering legal action.

In other news, Bugzilla 2.16.3 and 2.17.4 were released.


May saw Daniel Glazman outline his plans for the future of Composer and the releases of Mozilla 1.3.1 and Mozilla 1.4 Beta. The Firebird naming conflict continued, as Mitchell Baker contacted the leaders of the Firebird SQL Foundation. With many media outlets claiming that the publication of the Mozilla branding guidelines meant that was backing down from the name, MozillaZine interviewed Christopher Blizzard to get the Mozilla project's version of events. In a bizarre twist, the supposedly impartial mediator Jonathan Walther posted a series of messages to an article about the interview, in which he revealed that he had actually supported the Firebird database group all along and accused the Mozilla project of "criminal negligence". Shortly after, Mozilla Firebird 0.6 was released, the first version of the software to use the new name.


Users of Mozilla-based GNOME browsers were spoilt for choice in June when Galeon 1.3.5, Galeon 1.2.11 and Epiphany 0.7.0 were released. Later in the month, Netscape 7.1 was launched and Mozilla 1.4 came out on the very same day. The 1.4 branch then superseded the 1.0 branch as the stable option for developers.


Changes were afoot in July, with Mike Potter resigning as head of the Calendar project and Mostafa Hosseini taking over. The Mozilla community was shocked when mozdev was taken out for a few days by a denial of service attack. Many people came forward with offers of help and information about the possible attackers and the exploits they used.

Tuesday 15th July 2003 will go down in history as a significant date for the Mozilla project. Two events occurred on that day: the non-profit Mozilla Foundation was created to continue development and America Online laid off or reassigned the members of the Netscape browser development team. The media giant agreed to transfer hardware and intellectual property to the new foundation and promised $2 million in donations over two years. However, there was much confusion over what exactly the changes would mean, leading to MozillaZine publishing an article about the impact of the developments on Mozilla's future.

In other news, a project to build a standalone version of Mozilla Calendar, dubbed Mozilla Sunbird, launched and Epiphany 0.8.0 was released. The Mozilla Foundation began accepting donations from the public, MozillaZine completed its move to a new server and the Mozilla Marketing project launched. Releases marked the days towards the end of the month, with Mozilla 1.5 Alpha, Mozilla Thunderbird 0.1 and Mozilla Firebird 0.6.1 all coming out in quick succession.

See also: MozillaZine Review of the Year 2002

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