Mozilla Impresses From All Angles

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2002-06-06 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Long-awaited Version 1.0 lacks nothing except the baggage that comes with other browsers.

Finally, Mozilla 1.0 is ready. The much-anticipated fruit of the open-source browser effort has left the long road of beta testing and is finally ready for regular use. And to quote the Grateful Dead, "What a long, strange trip its been." Back in 1998 when Netscape Communications Corp. made the surprising decision to take its Navigator/Communicator browser and make it open-source, most of us expected to see a Mozilla browser within about a year. We were off by a little bit. Instead, we got the ill-advised release of Netscape 6.0, which for all intents and purposes was based on Mozilla alpha code.
But Mozilla developers made the right call when they decided to scrap the original Netscape browser code and build a new browser from the ground up, because it is the underlying structure that makes Mozilla such an important development for the modern Web.
In eWEEK Labs tests of Mozilla 1.0, which was released yesterday and is available at www.mozilla.org, we were impressed with almost all aspects of the browser, from its user configuration options to its usability features to its excellent mail client. We also appreciated the absence of the AOL product and link overhead that weighs down current Netscape browsers. Short of users who love Instant Messaging integration, we cant think of any reason to recommend Netscape over Mozilla. But the most impressive thing about the browser is its code, which makes fantastic use of XML and other standard technologies such as JavaScript to create the most extensible browser, and one of the most extensible applications period. Basically, Mozilla makes it possible for any developer or company to customize the browser to be whatever they need it to be.
The technologies that make Mozilla so customizable range from the well-known, such as JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets, to the less-well-known, such as XUL (XML User Interface Language) and XPCOM (Cross Platform Component Object Model). XUL is the technology behind Mozillas interface. Its use of XML and other standard Web technologies not only makes it simple to customize the Mozilla interface and to build new themes, but also makes it very easy for developers to integrate applications into the Mozilla interface. XPCOM, which is based on C and C++, and also uses standard development code such as JavaScript and Perl, is the object model engine for Mozilla. Both of these technologies are major factors in the easy portability of Mozilla and in why it runs identically on all platforms (Mozilla runs on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, many Unix variants and OS/2). The fact that most developers wont have to learn anything new also means its extremely easy to write to the Mozilla platform. Anyone interested in what can be done with these tools should take a look at the Mozilla development community site at www.mozdev.org. Here they will find everything from advanced calendar apps to messaging clients to system extensions. Many of the core features of Mozilla were developed here and are still being extended, such as the tabbed interface from the Multizilla project. While most of these tools are still in beta, they illustrate how easily just a few developers can extend the Mozilla browser. Features Most of the features in Mozilla are the same as those in the Netscape 7.0 Preview Release that we recently reviewed. The tabbed interface, improved search, Quick Launch and improved mail client are all there. And, of course, Mozilla has excellent support for Web standards. Most users will probably welcome the differences. Mozilla has no built-in IM, and while it doesnt have all the integrated IM features that Netscape 7.0 PR 1 has, at least we could choose to not have an IM client at all. We could opt to install the Chatzilla IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client during install, and those looking for more can try the beta of the Jabberzilla universal IM client available at www.mozdev.org. Also, in many areas in the preference menus, features were disabled that were turned on in Netscape. Still, it was easy enough to activate any features we wanted, and we appreciated the opt-in model of Mozilla, rather than having to find and turn off features that we didnt want. It was easy to tell that Mozilla is geared toward developers when we installed the browser. Most of the options in the custom install are debuggers and script testers, rather than the plug-ins and media players that are available during the Netscape install. However, the start page that launches after install directs users to a page on www.mozdev.org that provides links to all standard browser plug-ins. East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com. Related stories:
  • Mozillas Chief Lizard Wrangler Speaks
  • Whither Internet Explorer?
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    Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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