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Industry Standard on Commercial Software and Open Source

by CHRIS NELSON | Here is the text of my response to Jason Krause's request during his research for his most recent Industry Standard article.

How successful has Mozilla been?

That's a difficult question to answer. No product has been released yet, so we don't have any way to rate their success on that basis. On the basis of their open source release, that is also difficult to judge at this point. Being Open Source has allowed them to make the difficult decision of moving to entirely new layout engine, which also precipitated a move to a new User Interface paradigm. How successful will it be? The new UI is just starting to come online in the nightly builds, and shows great promise. It's new benefits are quite impressive: cross platform, easily configurable and reconfigurable, adaptable to different application uses. Once it is completed, MozillaZine plans to utilize the new standards based UI to create an interface extension for our site administration. We expect to have it done in a day.

What kind of involvement is there by outside developers?

Although it hasn't been as obvious as it should have been (I take some blame for it myself - I handle the status updates at Mozilla.org's web site), third party contributions have been impressive. You can divide up the third party help into two distinct categories: those who help in the Mozilla 1.0 effort on the platforms that Mozilla.org is developing for, and those who are porting that work to new Operating Systems and creating new applications from the code. I think it is safe to say that the code would not be as far along today as it is without the help of that first group. Impressive contributions to bug fixing, UI development and Internationalization issues have been made. Developers are contributing in many more areas - too numerous to list here. I would suggest contacting Mozilla.org for clarification.

The second group is equally as impressive. Ports are being developed for OS/2, Be, and Amiga. An application called DocZilla has sprung up from the Mozilla code that will render SGML. Apple has contributed their ColorSync technology to the code. Expat has entered the code. Expat, created by James Clark (an XML pioneer), is considered the definitive XML parser. An ActiveX control is being developed by a gentleman named Adam Lock. Screenshots are available at MozillaZine that show the 2 Mozilla ActiveX controls rendering in an IE browser window.

In addition, the people at Mozilla.org and Netscape are working with commercial application developers to integrate their browser into upcoming applications. I have no more information on that at the moment.

What are the incentives for outside developers to get involved in the Mozilla project?

Although we've been trying to get the word out at MozillaZine, my feeling is that this will become clear when the first rev. is released. At that point, Mozilla is expected to be 100% compliant with the existing CSS1, XML 1.0, and DOM level 1 standards. The benefits to web site and application developers are obvious.

Web application developers will also benefit from an open UI framework and small application size, which will allow for added flexibility in the creation of web based applications.

Getting involved early allows these developers to actively participate in the construction process of the browser, pointing out bugs and design problems, so in the end they get the application they need.

What is the future?

The future is Mozilla. Even at this stage of development, it is clear that it will radically change the concept of the browser.. Microsoft attempted to do that with their application/OS integration and their HTML rendering control, but they didn't have the vision to see beyond their own company. By opening the source code and encouraging third party development, Mozilla.org has ensured that no matter how the computing landscape changes, Mozilla will be in the best position to adapt.

Chris Nelson http://www.mozillazine.org/

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