This article is a pre-cursor to an article I'm publishing tomorrow that also

relates to Mozilla and the newly released Netscape 6. Hopefully by providing

some background on Mozilla project
separately, some points in my piece

tomorrow will make more sense.

In January of 1998, Netscape made href="http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-325840.html?tag=" target="_new">the

announcement that it would stop selling its Communicator software and

would open up the source code to its entire Communicator suite of applications,

including Navigator, the application which displays and renders Web

pages. At the time, this was a revolutionary annuoncement and marked one of

the first times that a company would release the source code for software that

it had previously sold to consumers. This in turn led to increased interest

and acceptance in the 'open source' model of successfull products like

the Linux operating system and the href="http://www.apache.org" target="_new">Apache webserver.

The move was applauded by open source / free software advocates around the

world, and on March 31 1998, the 8Mb of source code was released to the world

from the newly formed Mozilla group. This group

would be responsible for managing the open source effort and coordinating the

work of internal Netscape (and down the road, Sun, AOL, and RedHat) engineers

and independant developers. In retrospect, it was a very

exciting thing to be a part of. I remember staying up all night on IRC waiting

for the word that the source was released on the servers, along with many many

other people just like me. It felt like we were making history, and that this

move would redefine the way people used and developed for the Web.

After the hysteria calmed, people started to realize just what a huge project

this was going to be. It was rather chaotic with everyone trying to figure out

just where to start digging in the code. It was a big deal when someone

finally got it to compile about 2 or 3 days later.

Over the next year, things went pretty quietly. Netscape href="http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-328469.html?tag=" target="_new">announced that

Gecko, its new and improved rendering engine - the piece of software that

turns HTML into a readable webpage - would fully support HTML 4.0,

CSS1, limited CSS2, XML, and the Document Object Model(DOM) as specified by the W3C. This was a big

announcement because it showed that the open source influence had some effect

on how standards-compliant this software would be. Web developers were

extremely pleased to know that they would finally have a rendering engine in a

major browser that was fully standards-compliant. Things got heated when

Netcape hinted they would release a 5.0 browser without the gecko engine,

ensuring that developers would have to wait another generation before

they'd get standards-compliance. Thanks to pressure from groups like the href="http://www.webstandards.org" target="_new">Web Standards Project, Netcape put

off the release of a 5.0 browser until it could include the gecko engine.

America Online also made it clear that it was looking into

purchasing Netcape Communications Corp., which raised fears among many that AOL would either kill

off or limit resources (by cutting engineers, money, etc.) that went toward

this free, open source project. To its credit, AOL quickly made its href="http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-335990.html?tag=" target="_new">intentions

clear that Mozilla would continute on as planned.

That spring was plagued by delays and questions asking if Netscape would

release a product under the Mozilla flag by its one year anniversery.

April 1st, 1999 was the one year anniversery of the birth of the Mozilla

project. It also proved to be a rather sad and uncertain time with lead

evangelist Jamie Zawinski href="http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-340670.html?tag=st.ne.1005-200-341225-1005-200-341225." target="_new">leaving the project

and no 'product' shipped after a year's time. However, life moved on and the

summer of '99 proved to see some major improvements in the Mozilla browser.

During this time, Netscape also href="http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-387924.html?tag=st.ne.1005-200-808813-1005-200-808813." target="_new">released

minor upgrades to the 4.x series of the Communicator suite including the

Winamp MP3 player, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and higher profile shopping links in

the Netcenter portal.

Time rolled by, new milestones were reached. Thousands of bugs were squashed.

Some shrugged off Mozilla as a 'Never-has-been' technology, but still the work

continued.

Yesterday, the preview release of Netscape 6.0 was released to the general public

amid fanfare and Steve Case's predictions of href="http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2522291,00.html" target="_new">AOL

Anywhere. Indeed, AOL's top man predicts that the company's new strategy

will revolutionize the way we use the Internet. Much of Case's predicted

revolution will rely on Mozilla technology - which is a revolution in itself.