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Mozilla's Phoenix, Minotaur Get New Names

Just weeks after proposing a major shift towards the lightweight Phoenix its standalone default browser, the AOL-backed Mozilla organization has announced new names for the Phoenix and Minotaur projects.

The Phoenix browser, launched last September to strip away browser bloat will now be known as 'Firebird' and the Minotaur mail client will adopt the 'Thunderbird' moniker, the open-source group said.

The new names were needed for Phoenix because of undisclosed legal issues. Mozilla's Asa Dotzler, who made the announcement on his Weblog, said the new names were chosen "after months of discussion and further months of legal investigation."

"In addition to securing Firebird, we've also got the OK from those contributing legal resources to use the name 'Thunderbird' for a mail client. Hopefully this will be the end of naming legal issues for a while," Dotzler said.

However, Mozilla fans were quick to point out that the 'Firebird' name was already taken by another open-source project. Dotzler could not be reached for comment on the use of 'Firebird' as a relational database offering ANSI SQL-92 features that runs on Linux, Windows, and a variety of Unix platforms.

The shift in branding comes at a time when the minds behind the Mountain View, Calif.-based consortium outlined a new roadmap with the suggestion that Mozilla adopt a new application architecture based on the Gecko Runtime Environment (GRE) and make Phoenix its standalone default browser.

Longtime Mozilla project leaders Brendan Eich and David Hyatt also advocated that Mozilla version 1.0 should be replaced with 1.4 as the stable development path.

The Mozilla project, backed heavily by AOL's and Netscape, has struggled to grab market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer and security-related problems have not helped matters much.

"It's clear to us that Mozilla needs a new roadmap, one that charts a path to an even better future," Eich and Hyatt said recently. "The 1.0 branch is almost a year old. It's time to move from 1.0 to 1.4 for mozilla.org-blessed stable development and product releases, to get all the stability, performance, and security fixes made on the trunk since 1.0 into the hands of distributors and users."

The new plan also includes the adoption of Phoenix's partner mail application (Minotaur, now 'Thunderbird'), a move to ease up the complication of integrating with different applications.

The Phoenix browser was first rolled out last September with a promise to strip away the bloat and double the speed in which Web pages are displayed. It was positioned as a redesign of the Mozilla browser component, similar to Galeon, K-Meleon and Chimera.

"Phoenix is not your father's Mozilla browser. It's a lean and fast browser that doesn't skimp on features," Mozilla said of the new browser, which was built using the XUL user interface language and designed to be cross-platform. XUL is an XML-based UI definition language/schema used to describe the layout/composition of the browser window.

Popular features in Phoenix include a customizable toolbar where users can re-order the buttons and address bar. Phoenix users can also choose to show large or small icons or to display buttons and text, instead of having the application make those choices. The browser's bookmarks and history managers also contain a quick search bar for filtering the list of bookmarks or history items.

Phoenix developers can also configure behaviors for pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, and other features to allow users to manipulate the way content is displayed in the browser.