Mozillas New Focus: The End User

The Mozilla Foundation launches a beta of the latest version of its open-source browser and applications suite, which marks the beginning of the project's journey to focus more energy on end users and promotion of its efforts now that it is an independent

The Mozilla Foundation this week launched a beta of the latest version of its open-source browser and applications suite, the first release since the project separated from America Online Inc.s Netscape Communications subsidiary.

With the Mozilla 1.5 Beta, the project is promising improvements in performance, stability, standards support and Web compatibility. But new features are not the primary focus. The beta release marks the beginning of the projects journey to focus more energy on end users and promotion of its efforts now that it is an independent organization, Mozilla President Mitchell Baker said.

In July, Netscape broke off Mozilla and pledged to provide $2 million in cash over two years to help form the new foundation. Netscape founded the Mozilla project in 1998 as a way to move its browser code into the open-source community.

"The 1.5 timeframe will be a significant marker for us not so much in the improvements from 1.4 but in the general approach, packaging and how we approach our releases and the customer," Baker said.

While she said it is too early to provide details, Mozilla is planning changes in coming months in how it approaches releases and outreach. The full Mozilla 1.5 release should follow the beta in about a month, Baker said.

Mozilla 1.5 provides not only the latest incarnation of a Web browser but also a set of applications—Mail/News for e-mail and newsgroups, Composer for Web-page creation and ChatZilla for Internet Relay Chat. Among new features in the application suite is a spell check for Mail/News and Composer, support for printing attachments lists in Mail/News, and an overhaul of ChatZilla that allows users to set specific network and channel preferences and adds more style options in the message area such as user-specific photos.

Along with the suite, Mozilla offers the applications components separately. Firebird 0.6.1 is the stand-alone browser, and Thunderbird 0.1 is the stand-alone mail and news application. Baker expects updates to those individual applications around the same time as Mozilla 1.5s release. A release candidate for Thunderbird 0.2 already came out this week, Baker said.

Mozilla is the third most popular browser, though it has only a 1.6 percent share of global users, according to Web analytics vendor OneStat.com. That is an increase of 0.4 percentage points since February. Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer dominates with a 95.4 percent share.