The Future: The Mozilla Foundation and the End of Netscape

Thursday July 17th, 2003

There's a lot of confusion surrounding Tuesday's creation of the Mozilla Foundation and the disbanding of the Netscape browser development team.

While a major loss, the end of Netscape does not mean the end of Mozilla. There is no way that AOL can revoke the Netscape and Mozilla Public Licenses and make the code proprietary. The Mozilla code will continue to be available to all. AOL has also agreed to transfer the Mozilla trademark and other intellectual property (much of it dating back to when Mozilla was Netscape's mascot) to the new Mozilla Foundation. Netscape-owned hardware (such as the servers) will also be transferred to the new organisation. AOL will continue to employ some Netscape staffers, such as Asa Dotzler, for a couple of months to help with the transition.

The Mozilla Foundation marks the first time that the Mozilla project actually has a legal existence ( was always just a more informal group). This new organisation, which is hoping to gain non-profit status under California law, will continue's work of guiding development. Teams such as staff, drivers, reviewers and module owners will continue to work as before. In addition, there will be a new Board of Directors, made up of Mitchell Baker, Brendan Eich, Christopher Blizzard and some new faces, including Open Source Applications Foundation head Mitch Kapor. The Mozilla Foundation will be funded by donations from individuals and companies, such as Sun Microsystems and Red Hat. AOL will provide $2,000,000 of funding over the next two years.

Up until this point, has produced builds of Mozilla for development and testing purposes only, with end-users encouraged to download distributions from vendors such as Netscape. However, the new Mozilla Foundation plans to target end-users directly. The beginnings of this strategy can be seen with the redesign of the front page.

#74 it's a long shot, no doubt

by lazytiger

Friday July 18th, 2003 2:17 PM

You are replying to this message

There are definitely a lot of pro and cons attached to the Netscape moniker. Here's a breakdown:

The word Netscape simply sounds better than Mozilla. This is no accident. "Netscape" was created because it sounds good and is related to the internet. Mozilla always was and still is (up until 2 days ago, at least) an insider's code name not intended for a mass audience, and has seemingly no connection at all to the function of the software.

As I stated in my original post, Netscape is a very familiar brand name to everyone. Unfortunately, it was dragged through the mud with the stagnation of the 4.x releases and with the premature release of 6.x. Marketing 101 can tell you though that establishing a wide public recognition of a brand name is EXTEREMELY, EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. No matter what bad connotations may have come to be associated with a brand name, it is almost always easier to revive the old brand than to start a new one. When the public already knows what the brand is, you have a huge advantage. All you have to do then is convince them that the brand has come back with a vengence.

Netscape itself, and then AOL after they purchased it, totally dropped the ball as far as effective marketing. Back to marketing 101, the presentation of the product is often more important than the quality of the product itself. Microsoft has done their homework; they are masters of this principle and they've kicked the shit out of everyone as a result. Mozilla/Netscape is a great product, but it just doesn't matter. It's all about the marketing. Like I was saying in my original post, the ease of how Joe Public can FIND, understand, and download Netscape is essential. AOL's presentation of Netscape is absolutely horrible. It's like they're not even trying. The FUD (finding, understanding, downloading) process on Netscape's homepage (and now Mozilla's less-than-clear new site) has to be completely revamped. That process is completely separate from the product(s) themselves. Mozilla/Netscape has done pretty well with the process of creating the products, but they've been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the FUD for Joe Public.

I am adamant about this point: The process of finding, understanding, and downloading is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PRODUCT ITSELF. I'm going to repeat that.

The process of finding, understanding, and downloading is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PRODUCT ITSELF. We need a website that absolutely sets the standard for clarity and ease of use.

Unfortunately, we're also dealing with another force here that may make even the best marketing completely futile: Joe Public's laziness and ignorance. As we're all painfully aware, IE is on EVERY Windows user's desktop right out of the box. And it works. Joe doesn't want to bother with downloading a few megs worth of stuff and deal with installing it. IE works, doesn't it? What's the difference? That's where effectively marketing Netscape could at least make a difference - showing Joe how there is life beyond IE, and making it easy as pie to find, understand, and download. But of course we can't make it any quicker to download several megs of bits.

If Netscape was on every desktop like IE, we could blow it away easily. But it's not and it won't ever be. THAT's the central issue that we simply cannot get around. But we need to make every effort to make it seem easy and worthwhile to the average user. We have to eliminate every possible confusion.

And that process starts with using a name they already recognize: Netscape.