Mozilla Public License rewrite deletes Netscape


From the ‘Firefox 4 Isn’t Enough To Keep Us Busy‘ files:

Mozilla is perhaps best known today for its Firefox web browser. Underlying that browser however is the open source license that enables its development community to thrive. The Mozilla Public License (MPL) has remained nearly untouched since 1999 and now at long last is undergoing a process of evolution.

It’s a process that will at long last sever some of the last legal language links that Mozilla had with Netscape too.

Back in 2008, Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker told me that it was about time that the MPL get some attention. Strangely, it’s now that the first alpha release of the next MPL is now making the rounds, as Mozilla developers work on Firefox 4 and the leadership of Mozilla itself is in transition. I guess they just weren’t busy enough…

What makes the MPL important in my opinion isn’t just the fact that it’s one of the key licenses under which Firefox is developed, but the fact that the MPL is also a widely used license by others. No, it doesn’t have the same wide usage as the GPL in terms of project numbers, but it’s still a major force to be reckoned with.

Alot has changed in the last decade, patents are a bigger issue, web/cloud based delivery is increasingly becoming the norm and mashing things up is the way that most applications are built today.

The first draft of the new MPL is still quite early and it’s obvious to me that there is alot of work yet to be done. Among the goals of the new MPL is to make the language simpler and to be able to provide a template for others to use the MPL without (much if any) modification.

Among the changes that I noticed is the fact that in the new MPL 2.0 draft, the name ‘Netscape’ is now being deleted from the license. For example section 11.1 of the current MPL states:

“Netscape Communications Corporation (Netscape”) may publish revised and/or Mozilla Foundation is the license steward.”

That’s a change that’s a long time coming and shows the age of the MPL. When it was last modified, Netscape (the birthplace of Mozilla) was still a thriving concern. Netscape is now dead and gone and at long last its successor is moving on now too.

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