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Mozilla Inches Towards 1.0 Browser

After three months since its last version change, the Mozilla Web browser took another baby step Thursday towards its first official product launch.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based open-source project is celebrating its 0.9.9 release but has its sights squarely fixed on the release date for Mozilla 1.0, which Mozilla Chief Lizard Wrangler Mitchell Baker says is somewhat ambiguous.

"We're looking at a couple of weeks," said Baker. "We still have to run this by our release candidates and then decide if that is suitable or if we have to run it by a second set of candidates."

Baker stresses that Mozilla is not a consumer product designed to compete with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator or Opera but a set of appliances and application development framework for Web enabled content. Several companies have lined up to use Mozilla as soon as it is ready including Intel , World Gate, Active State and of course Netscape.

But Baker could not say if anyone from the Microsoft camp had expressed an interest in the technology.

"We have had 200,000 to 300,000 downloads of the testing version, and while no one from Microsoft has come out and identified themselves, there are some developers with semi-anonymous Hotmail and Yahoo accounts," said Baker.

The latest improvements include support for SOAP; a new method for disabling pop-up and pop-under windows; MathML - the W3C specification for describing mathematics on the Web; a JavaScript debugger, (aka Venkman) which can now profile JavaScript in Web content and browser chrome; and support for TrueType fonts on Unix using the FreeType2 library.

Mozilla was the original name for Netscape's browser, now called Navigator. Some people claim that the term is a contraction of Mosaic Godzilla (e.g., Mosaic killer), since Mosaic was the number one Web browser at the time Netscape began developing its product.

In 1998, Netscape decided to make the source code for Navigator freely available to the public. The Netscape group responsible for releasing the code is called mozilla.org.

But the project was disrupted by AOL's purchase of Netscape in 1999 for $4.2 billion.

Also hindering the development process was the decision to depart from the Netscape 4.X code base and start from scratch with the addition of tool kits and applications.