RealTime IT News

Mozilla.org Suffers Another Defection

Open-source effort Mozilla.org lost another key player this week. Developer Mike Shaver became the latest executive to leave the group working on innovations that will be incorporated into the next version of Netscape Communications Corp.'s browser.

Shaver did not reveal reasons for his departure, and said his new employer, who remained anonymous Thursday, asked him not to disclose any details about his new position.

In a letter released Thursday, Shaver said his departure was not meant as a signal that the Mozilla effort is in trouble.

"I'm certain that Mozilla will be a resounding success, and I think the state of the M12 release supports my position pretty well," Shaver said. "My time on the Mozilla team has been tremendously rewarding, and I will honestly miss my excellent co-workers -- within AOL/Netscape and beyond! -- very much."

Launched in February 1998, Mozilla.org is a site that aims to guide the open dialog and development of Netscape's client source code. The resource became the focal point for developers looking to modify and redistribute the Netscape client source code.

Shaver's departure is one of a string of defections from America Online Inc. (AOL) by key Netscape figures. Bob Lisbonne, a four-year veteran of Netscape and senior vice president of client products, left the division last October. Netscape co-founder and browser pioneer Marc Andreessen stepped down as AOL's chief technology officer in September. Barry Ariko relinquished his post representing Netscape in the Sun-Netscape alliance, saying he may stay on at AOL. And senior vice president Lori Mirek left the company earlier this summer.

Shaver's comments were mild compared to those made by former developer Jamie Zawinski, who began the exodus in April 1999. Zawinski left the company shortly after AOL (AOL) closed its acquisition of Netscape Communications Corp. Zawinksi said Netscape got too big to continue being an innovator.

Zawinski said January 1998 was its darkest period. He said employees realized the company was not invincible and that the browser wars were already lost. A bright spot for Zawinski came when Netscape decided to release its source code. He hoped that decision would once again make Netscape a daring company. He designed Mozilla.org and started lobbying Netscape employees, hoping to get them to support open source. The problem with the Mozilla.org effort, Zawinski said, is it still belongs wholly to Netscape and only Netscape people are working on it. Were it a true open-source project, Zawinski said, Navigator 5.0 would have already shipped.

Netscape Communicator 5.0 continues to be a sore spot for the behemoth, which originally intended to have it completed and shipped by the end of 1999. Two weeks into the new year, progress is still lacking.

Since missing a summer deadline for Communicator 5.0, Netscape has seen Communicator 4.7 continue to lose market share to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, whose trial of version 5.5 was released last September.

To catch up with Microsoft, Netscape is rebuilding the product from the ground up, replacing its legacy software with a leaner architecture composed of independent components that developers can use more easily with their applications.