Jamie Zawinski's "Fear and Loathing on the Merger Trail"

Tuesday November 24th, 1998

Jamie Zawinski of has put up an opinion piece regarding the AOL/Netscape merger and its relationship to Mozilla.

#1 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Stephan

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 9:29 AM

Mozillian Independence! Yeah!

#2 Hmmm.

by Matthew Miller

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 10:44 AM

Kind of reassuring. Still, I'll be surprised if AOL wants to pay 100 people to work on Mozilla full time.

#3 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by arielb

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 12:37 PM

I'd be even more surprised if they let MSIE win the browser wars which means fewer people going to Netcenter that they spent $4 billion on.

#4 no need to worry

by steve morrison

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 1:44 PM

#5 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Godfrey Lee

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 2:43 PM

One would hope that AOL understands they need a competing browser to keep Microsoft at bay. One can wish that they would jettison MSIE come next January and put all their energy into promoting Netscape browser. What we should all worry is whether AOL understands how the open source process works in the market place, or whether they are willing to trust the people at their (new) Netscape division to manage and promote it properly.

#6 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Jim Bowman

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 3:41 PM

What a bunch of bullshit! I never read so many contradictions in one article in my life.

No self respecting hacker is going to work on this project with AOL calling the shots.

#7 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by steve morrison

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 6:04 PM


Maybe you didn't read the article. AOL is not calling the shots. Repeat after me. AOL is not Mozilla. Netscape is not Mozilla.

It's a simple concept. Think of it like this. Red Hat employs some people to work on Gnome. They contribute resources and cash. Whatever they do, they contribute to the Gnome community. That does not mean Red Hat owns Gnome. The same holds true for Mozilla. End of story.

#8 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by arielb

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 9:03 PM

Open source means _you_ call the shots-not Netscape or AOL or anyone else.

#9 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Jim Bowman

Wednesday November 25th, 1998 12:50 AM

Oh please, spare me the ideological nonsense. With funding comes power. Who were the persons making the important decisions at Mozilla? Netscape employees, of course.

#10 Open Source Browser

by Alistair McLaurin

Wednesday November 25th, 1998 3:11 AM

As I understood it, the relationship between Mozilla and Netscape was that, every so often, Netscape would take a stable set of Mozilla Features, add non open source features such as Java and Security, and release the product as Netscape Communicator 5.x etc. I imagine that AOL will want to do exactly the same thing with additional portal integration features. Mozilla would continue as an almost permanent beta version of the next version of Communicator.

As anyone is allowed to product browser releases based on the Mozilla code shouldn't we think about producing a fully open source release, quality browser. This could include code from open source Java and Security projects but would feature no portal, search engine or OS integration. We could even think about developing a browser which was 100% HTML 4 compliant, no BLINK, floating frames, relative layer positioning etc. etc.

Any takers?

#11 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Waldo

Wednesday November 25th, 1998 9:04 AM

Put it this way-- AOL is going to act in its own interests. AOL has a reputation as being primarily interested in the lowest-common denominator when it comes to the end user. They've been selling a proprietary system for years-- Do they REALLY care about open source? AOL is the cathedral, not the bazaar.

If it decides to keep 100 programmers working full-time on Mozilla, we can expect that those programmers will be representing AOL's interests, not the good of Mozilla to non-AOL customers or to people using non-AOL OS's, etc. Netscape was different-- it followed a different philosophy and was I believe a very different company than AOL. Maybe I'm being nieve in qualifying companies as "good" and "evil" but come on...

Netscape had a lot of power in the development of Mozilla-- aside from the 100 programmers they were also supporting the site at, hosting the newgroups used for development, and netscape employees were the wide majority of module owners and were clearly in a leadership role (as they should have been, since Mozilla was their baby).

So what's going to happen now? Are hackers going to feel comfortable building an AOL-supervised project? Is AOL going to be supportive the cross platform nature of Mozilla if it doesn't make them a profit? What will they leverage their current leadership position on this project INTO? What will "Netscape Navigator 5.0" look like?

I don't know the answers, but I don't like having to think about the questions.

It's been my experience, incidentally, when two companies merge that the buying company starts out by saying "everything will be the same as it was so don't worry" and then, step by step, when the spotlight is pointed somewhere else, drastic changes are made.

I'm just dreading a situation with two Microsofts each trying to embrace and extend new protocols so that they can tighten their grip on new standards.

I see an Internet divided.

Is there any possibility that Netscape's shareholders could reject this deal? W

#12 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Lee S. Bumgarner

Wednesday November 25th, 1998 2:29 PM

I've read enough.

If there is a question about what AOL/Netscape will do, then a new browser development needs to begin. I'm no programer, but as an end-user I should would like at least _one_ browser that isn't beholded to The Man. 8-)

#13 Egad

by Brian

Wednesday November 25th, 1998 6:09 PM

Even though I've seen a lot of people write articles that try to put this into a rosy context, I still don't see it. There's a couple of facts that are inescapable: AOL has a bad reputation among people in the computer industry (especially open source folks), AOL is known even less than Microsoft for innovation, Netscape stock has doubled in value in the past week.

If I were a software engineer who worked at Netscape, I would have bought as many shares of stock as I could since day one. Right now I would be sitting and waiting a few months and see how things pan out. If and when I realized AOL even gave the slightest hint of not Doing the Right Things (making things proprietary, firing friends, etc) I would be selling my stock for a bunch of money. Then, I'd move to Greece for a few years and take a break (whilst calling my friends on my Iridium phone and talking to them about y2k issues).

If Netscape suffered a brain drain I wouldn't be surprised. At this point there's a lot of programmers not worrying where their next meal is coming from.

And like other's have mentioned, there's a ton of code sitting out there for a bunch of people to get together, develop, and market. Just look at Cygnus and egcs.

#14 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by arielb

Wednesday November 25th, 1998 9:28 PM

well I don't want to see Mozilla fragmented into a zillion forks. If mozilla is going to be forked just so it wouldn't be under any AOL control whatsoever then it should be done with some kind of organization and consensus. Otherwise we'll see many crappy versions of Mozilla instead of one killer version.

#15 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Waldo

Thursday November 26th, 1998 12:39 AM

Agreed. If Mozilla forks, it will have to branch based on the bold leadership of a recognized major open source proponent-- an organization or individual who is respected enough by the community that everyone else will say, "Yeah, screw AOL. This is The Way."

If there is more than one major branch, forget it. AOL wins. It's going to be hard enough to combat the AOLzilla that appears on a million CDs in a year. The raw "real" Mozilla distribution will have to come from somewhere else (bundled with Red Hat, etc.? Would someone take up being a Mozilla distributor for other platforms?).

Before, the Netscape name stood proudly behind the Mozilla product. (Netscape Communicator would have been "Mozilla+". Now who knows.. AOLzilla may be Mozilla or Mozilla- or "" or something else..)

We are indeed heading for an interesting period... as if Y2k wasn't enough :)


#16 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Armando Rodriguez

Thursday November 26th, 1998 2:10 AM

I woke up the day the news broke and couldn't believe the horror of the tale. This is the worst news I have had all year. I will sorely miss Netscape and hope the open source Mozzila project continues. I will not be assimilated by Microsoft's IE software. The last thing I want is embedded AOL crap in my browser though.. So resistence may be futile.

But the more I think about the future of our browser company the more I realize there is a big player that will not let it die. This player is the king of Java, Sun Microsystems. If the browser wars end and microsoft's browser rules then Sun and Java will be left out in the cold. I don't believe Sun will let this happen. Even if they have to through money at the mozzila project.

Ahh.. what an interesting time we live in..

Long live Mozzila..

#17 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Alex Chudnovsky

Thursday November 26th, 1998 11:26 AM

if that's Independance Call (like in US), I wonder who would become to role-play ENGLAND's Expeditional Forces???? AO..??? Mic...? you guess?

From my experience and history NO SINGLE independence calls go easy


#18 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Alex Chudnovsky

Thursday November 26th, 1998 11:28 AM

sorry forgot to add, my guess about name of new AOL browser might be:

Mozilla/0 just _infinitly_ best browser in the world (for those who could not recall theory of limits (or how it's called in English not sure) division by zero is sorta infinity)

khe ;)


#19 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by C. Jimmy Yang

Thursday November 26th, 1998 12:03 PM

Should we continue arguing about this? How should we know that Microsoft is not one of the responders in this list? Should we fall again for the same trick with OS/2(MS has been trashing OS/2 in newsgroups, for those of you who don't know)? Open Licence is open licence, let's just get onto the project, won't that be a much better option?

#20 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by arielb

Thursday November 26th, 1998 7:48 PM

Netscape distributed on millions of cd's? maybe even tv commercials (like the one for Compuserve I saw today)? Far cry from how Netscape promotes Navigator today

#21 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Jason Kersey

Friday November 27th, 1998 10:02 AM

I don't like the fact that almost everyone in this thread, is guilty to the same kind of FUD that MS is guilty of.

I am fully aware of AOL's poor reputation in the computer industry. But, I am also fully aware that Steve Case has said twice now that they like what is happening at, and they want to do MORE with it. That, along with the Netscape exec's comments on the matter, lead me to believe that their will be no changes for the worse, only for the better.

Give it a chance before you completely blow it off.

#22 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Paul Borgermans

Friday November 27th, 1998 11:28 AM

Just a little addition to the comments from Jason:

On -> news, there is now also an encouraging email from Mr Chase to Jamie about the future of

Just go read it!

#23 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Waldo

Friday November 27th, 1998 12:38 PM

>On our press call yesterday, Mike Homer said > Mozilla is larger than Netscape. I know it's larger than AOL, too. --from


I gotta say, I'm suprised and encouraged by Steve Case's words. I truly hope he means what he says about Mozilla's autonomy. I take it the Netscape programmers will continue working on the project too then...right?

So a fork may not be the best thing YET, but I'm curious to see whether he means what he says above or he's just telling us what we want to hear.

After all, his strategy may be to "embrace" Mozilla for now only to "extend" it later. It will be harder to start a fork later if the "extending" is being done gradually.

For now though, I think it's too early to make a call. I think we should see what happens in the next few months, see how NGLayout development goes, etc.

That's my reaction anyway.


#24 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by Guy Honore

Friday November 27th, 1998 2:10 PM

I agree with both sides of this debate in a balanced view:

Healthy skepticism is well warranted, given the somewhat shady background of AOL in past dealings with both Netscape and Microsoft. And in my experience, when an independent vendor is swallowed up by a proprietary company, its former customers become competitors and drop its product line.

On the other hand, if Sun takes over the development and funding of Mozilla as part of this 3-way deal, and AOL is only a value-added licensee of Mozilla NG, this would reassure the existing customer base. The key word here is independence, even if it means AOL has to sell or spin off the browser division. The world needs open (non-proprietary) standards...

All I can say is: watch AOL and SUN very carefully for their strategy clues. If AOL tries to kill or frankenstein Communicator, lets make Mozilla behave like Apache: a great product, widely supported, beholden to no special interest!

#25 Re:Jamie Zawinski's

by george

Friday November 27th, 1998 4:41 PM

>And in my experience, when an >independent vendor is swallowed up >by a proprietary company, its >former customers become >competitors and drop its product >line.

true, but in the computer industry lots of companies are huge competitors, but work with each other in other areas. Netscape Netcenter is a competitor of InfoSeek, but Infoseek still pays to be one of those random search engines.

I think ISP's will still choose Netscape, because the only other choice is IE, and well, Microsoft will do much more damage if they get too much power and everyone knows it.