Mozilla Advances Its Namesake Suite

The focus may have turned to Firefox and Thunderbird, but the open-source group continues to roll out updates for the Mozilla application suite.

The Firefox browser may have put the spotlight on the open-source Mozilla Foundation, but the groups namesake suite also continues to progress.

Mozilla has released an interim update to the 1.7 branch of the application suite, which incorporates about 350 security and bug fixes that previously were made in Firefox 1.0 when it came out in November, said Asa Dotzler, Mozillas release coordinator. The suite bundles a browser, e-mail application and Web-page editing tool into one.

Mozilla 1.7.5, made available Friday, is part of Mozillas last stable branch of its suite. The stable branches are used in other browser distributions, such as America Online Inc.s Netscape browser built on Mozilla, Dotzler said. The 1.7 branch was released in June.

The Mozilla suite was the groups initial focus when it was created as a part of AOL five years ago. Starting about last year, the now-independent foundation turned its attention more directly on individual applications—the Firefox browser, Thunderbird e-mail client and the Sunbird calendaring project.

"Firefox and Thunderbird are where youll see new and novel ways to change the Web browsing experience," Dotzler said.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Mozillas independent course.

Major feature enhancements will be introduced as part of releases of those individual applications, but that doesnt mean the suite is going away.

Instead, Mozilla already is working on Version 1.8 of the suite. A sixth alpha build is expected early in January, with a beta release to follow in another month to six weeks, Dotzler said. The full Mozilla 1.8 release is slated for spring.

Mozilla 1.8 will focus on improvement to the core rendering engine, called Gecko, which is used across the suite and applications, as well as the browsers compatibility with Web sites. Mozilla 1.7.5, for example, incorporates a technique for rendering pages designed for Microsofts Internet Explorer, Dotzler said.

/zimages/2/28571.gifWhat else is in store for Mozilla? Click here to read an interview with Mozilla president Mitchell Baker.

Firefox and Thunderbird, which hit a Version 1.0 release earlier this month, also should reach their first upgrades to Versions 1.1 in the spring, Dotzler said. It is not clear yet whether the suite or the applications will come out first.

While Mozilla isnt planning major feature leaps for the updates, it is working on a change to Firefox that should make it more compatible with the increasing number of desktop search applications. Mozilla plans to tweak Firefoxs storage format used for Web history and bookmarks to make it more compatible with outside applications, Dotzler said.

Mozilla has enjoyed a larger-than-expected adoption of its Firefox browser and has pursued a grass-roots marketing effort. Last week, marketing spilled onto the pages of The New York Times as the groups planned donor-funded ad appeared in the newspaper.

Also last week, another round of browser user-share numbers came out showing that Firefox had gained another percentage point in November. Firefox use rose to 4.1 percent between Nov. 5 and Dec. 3, while Internet Explorer use fell a percentage point from 92.9 percent to 91.8 percent during the same period, according to WebSideStory Inc., a San Diego-based Web analytics provider.

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