RealTime IT News

Mozilla Growing, Moving Up

The foundation formed in the wake of a failed Web browser initiative by AOL celebrates its first anniversary Thursday.

The Mozilla Foundation, an open source project that develops a standalone and bundled browser, e-mail client, HTML editor and IRC chat client, has in recent times gotten help from Microsoft , the most unlikely of sources and the company that indirectly helped spur the formation of the organization in the first place.

"The tide is finally beginning to turn: after years of increasing monopolization of the Web browser market, Mozilla-based browsers (browsers based on the Gecko rendering engine, that is) are now gaining modest but noticeable market share," the Mozilla.org Web site stated Thursday.

According to statistics at W3Schools.com, Mozilla-based browsers market share has increased from 8.2 percent to 12.2 percent since January. Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0 presence grew from 71.3 percent to 72 percent in the same time frame. Both are growing as Web surfers switch from IE 5.0, but Mozilla seems to be the new choice for many.

Its success comes at the expense of IE and its recent spate of security vulnerabilities. Windows XP Service Pack 2 features a revamped IE but doesn't include support for Windows 95/98/NT/2000 users.

Warnings from agencies like the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) might be prompting long-time IE users to look at Firefox and the Mozilla as a secure alternative.

That doesn't mean Mozilla isn't without its own security faults. Earlier this month, the organization released a patch for a vulnerability that could have given crackers full use of a user's PC. It's the consensus of many in the online community that as Mozilla's success grows, so will the number of malware applications targeted at the open source browser.

The Mozilla Foundation spun out of Netscape Communications -- a division of AOL -- after it moved to the Mozilla.org open source project July 15, 2003. AOL still retains developers for the Netscape browser and plans to release an update in the near future, said Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesperson.

The move signaled the official end of the so-called Netscape-Internet Explorer (IE) browser wars, which climaxed when former AOL Chairman and CEO Dick Parsons brokered an antitrust lawsuit settlement with Microsoft. The deal involved joint development projects and AOL's free use of IE technology for seven years.

But Netscape technology is once again making waves in the browser community, with Firefox 0.9.2 pitted against IE. Developers are working on version 1.0 to increase the pressure on Redmond's browser.

In addition to improving Firefox, Mozilla also plans to improve Mozilla 1.7, its bundled Web browser, e-mail client, IRC chat client and HTML editor. Wednesday, developers released the second alpha build of Mozilla 1.8, with features like initial support for the new Netscape Plugin API , consolidation of all POP3 e-mail accounts into one global inbox and unblocking blocked popups.

Mozilla's future success rests in the numbers. According to officials, Firefox recorded 3 million downloads in the past 30 days, its Firefox Web page is linked with more than 20,000 other sites and Mozilla.org has gotten 10 million visitors in the past 16 days.