"Netscape is dead." "Mozilla was a fluke." "Microsoft wins again." "The war is over."

There's been a lot of mainstream press lately indicating that the browser war has long been over with Microsoft Internet Explorer emerging as the victor over Netscape Communicator after a long drawn out battle.

ZDNet recently asked the question, "Has Communicator lost the browser war?" and an older News.com article points out that the development of open source Mozilla has largely been a failure because "the lion's share of the Mozilla work is still done by Netscape/AOL engineers." A recent Slashdot.org feature article suggests (somewhat ludicrousy, IMO) that because Netscape is such a terrible browser, the Linux operating system will never become mainstream (I didn't know that was the goal of Linux in the first place) and lose 'the war' to IE, and therefore Windows.

They, as well as the rest of the naysayers, are all wrong. Mozilla won't fail because of lack of outside developers, Linux won't lose momentum because Netscape 4.x crashes, and one browser will never dominate the Web like Netscape did in the mid 90s. Web Developers will never start designing sites that only cater to one browser as the ZDNet article suggests. Think about it: what e-commerce site will stop taking your money untill you use IE? Sounds crazy right? Exactly.

So why all the predictions of doom for Netscape?

Although the latest release of Netscape Communicator is version 4.7, the foundation for Communicator 5.0 has been in the works for over a year and a half now in a product we know as Mozilla. Since most of us have heard about the fact that its open source, highly customizable, fully standards compliant, and all-around coolness, I'll skip the usual intro. If you haven't heard of it before, our good friend Taylor wrote a good article, "Why designers should care about Mozilla" that ran a couple of months ago in Webmonkey.

There are many reasons that Mozilla will in be (and already is in terms of an open source project) a monumental achievement, but I don't have the prose to adequately put them into words. To help me out, I recently talked to Chris Hofmann, one of the lead engineers for the Mozilla project, about the future of Mozilla, why it will be a success, and what kind of response they've received from outside developers.

On Netscape/AOL commitment:

chofmann:
"I've worked at Netscape almost four years and been closely involved in every 3.x and 4.x release of Navigator and Communicator, and now on the Seamonkey Project. In all these years Netscape has never put more time, effort, focus and committment into building great client software on a single project."

On future growth of Mozilla:

chofmann:
"At current growth rates the number of "non-Netscape" Mozilla developers will eclipse the number of Netscape developers with direct CVS checkin privileges in a few short months. I think we are at around 50-60 now and about 15-20 of these contributors are checking in modifications to the code every week. There are close to 250 additional testers that download the daily Mozilla builds assisting in testing, file bugs, and help to triage and manage the bug system.

"..at the most recent milestone we had over 8,000 downloads of the source file packages. It's amazing to think what the future will bring when you have source code for the most popular software application in the universe in the hands of 8,000 software developers that are learning, tweaking, poking at, extending and improving the code."

On real world uses of Mozilla:

chofmann:
"Universities like West Virginia University are starting to include the study of Mozilla code and development methods into their curriculum. There is a whole lineup of commercial companies that are about ready to announce support for Mozilla and fund active participation in the seamonkey project."

On outside developers:

chofmann:
"These hundreds, and even thousands, of folks are quietly, methodically, and rapidly going about their work undisturbed by 'lost the browser war, Mozilla's not producing' stories in the mainstream press. Not everyone understands that the current effort we have been engaged in and started working on last December is a complete rewrite of the client from the ground up, taking into account everything that we have learned from the past 5 years. We just finished up what I called the Seamonkey Summer of Love. A tremendous amount of work went in to developing the next generation client in milestones 3-10."

On the upcoming release of Mozilla's first 'real' beta:

chofmann:
"At the end of the Summer of Love we looked at the progress of the project, evaluated how we were doing on size, speed, stability, standards, and some of the other project goals and agreed on the key areas that needed refinement before the software would be ready for a large public beta. We have crested the summit on several backend development areas and are on that downhill march into a public beta where a lot of the major press and the public at large catch their first glimpse of some remarkable software."

Thanks to Chris Hofmann for taking time out of his busy schedule and Catherine Corre from AOL for her help with PR. After Milestone 11 is released and some other engineers and managment types have some more time to talk, I hope to take questions from evolt.org members to them and get some responses (watch thesite for details on this), so stay tuned. If you have questions or comments for me personally, please drop me a line or let everyone know what you think of Mozilla's future below.