'The Guardian' Recommends Mozilla Firebird/Thunderbird, Criticises Mozilla Development Decisions

Thursday July 10th, 2003

Ian Deeley and A Wood both wrote in to tell us that today's edition of The Guardian, the UK broadsheet newspaper, features a column by Jack Schofield that recommends Mozilla Firebird and Mozilla Thunderbird. The article states that "Mozilla's Firebird browser and Thunderbird standalone mail software could make Microsoft's offerings look very shabby indeed." The bulk of the rest of the feature critically examines Netscape's and's browser development decisions (it is particularly damning of the team's cross-platform aspirations) and discusses Microsoft's plans to abandon development of the standalone version of Internet Explorer. Readers of the print edition of The Guardian can find the column on page 22 of the Life/Online supplement.

#67 Re: Re: shoulda done it sooner

by BrendanEich

Saturday July 19th, 2003 5:55 PM

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Netscape's original codebase was written by some talented people, and they saw clearly its limitations. They just didn't want to fix the code to be free of those limitations. That would have been a lot of work (not "impossible" -- bz, bite your tongue ;-). More to the point, the principals were no longer active on the project by the time Mozilla was released as open source. Most had moved on earlier.

Even more to the point, during 4.0 development (and starting during 3.0 development), the Netscape client was being managed toward a "groupware" market in which it never succeeded. Lotus Notes was seen as the competition. The only platform play, proceeding roughly in parallel with the groupware push, was centered around Java on the client (I had only one or two people helping with JavaScript, including LiveConnect and all DOM level 0 stuff, and while standardizing it with ECMA, until later in the 4.0 days).

By the time it became clear how complete a web platform IE4 was going to be (Scott Furman and I, beers in hand, watched a pre-release IE4 demo, including alpha-blending, run by Scott Isaacs of Microsoft at a San Jose brewpub after-conference-hours event, mid-'97, IIRC), there was no way to turn things around inside Netscape. The groupware push was fizzling, the 4.x codebase had not been reformed incrementally to support a DOM, CSS1, etc., and there was nothing much anyone could do about that sad state of affairs.

Later, some of us (fur, shaver, nisheeth, me) tried to start a "Hawaii 5.0" effort within Netscape to revamp the old codebase significantly, but we didn't get management approval. Raptor was all the rage.

Lot of water under the bridge since then. Back in the present, Mozilla is in good shape, and will get even better. The only reason I'm writing this is to tell the history accurately, so someone else can strive to avoid repeating it. First lesson: do not go after entrenched, long-lead-time Enterprise/groupware markets about which you know little, while growing madly by acquisition after badly-integrated acquisition.

Also, I'm writing to emphasize that "rewrites" can be incremental, and that little is "impossible" in software.