Mozilla Nears Firefox Finale

With a preview of Firefox 1.0 ready for release, the open-source development group says it is also preparing for a grassroots marketing push.

Mozilla Firefox, the open-source alternative to Microsoft Corp.s dominant Web browser, is preparing for prime time with the first preview of its 1.0 release and a new marketing campaign.

The Mozilla Foundation on Tuesday plans to release a preview of Firefox 1.0 that incorporates the final set of features for the browsers full version, said Asa Dotzler, Mozillas release coordinator. Among the new features are a newsreader for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, updates to the "Find" feature and greater compatibility with Internet Explorer-specific Web sites.

"From here on out, we will only be taking in feedback on stability, security and minor usability tweaks, and this is the feature set we plan to ship with [Version] 1.0," Dotzler said.

The full release is expected in the fourth quarter, Dotzler said, though Mozilla officials earlier indicated that Firefox 1.0 would be out this month.

Up until this point, Mozilla has pushed out pre-1.0 "technology preview" releases of Firefox that came with a disclaimer about their performance and stability. The most recent was the Firefox 0.9 branch, released in June.

Firefox, formerly known as Mozilla Firebird, is one of Mozillas standalone applications. Mozilla also will release the latest technology preview of its standalone e-mail application, Thunderbird 0.8, and a minor update to the full Mozilla suite that fixes a series of security issues, Dotzler said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifMozilla has not been immune to security issues. Click here to read more.

At the same time as the Firefox preview release, the Mountain View, Calif.-based development group plans to unveil a grassroots marketing campaign called "Spread Firefox" to attract more browser converts, Dotzler said.

Mozilla has touted Firefox as a safer and more advanced browser than Internet Explorer and saw a slight increase in market share earlier this year following a series of high-profile security holes in IE. But it still lags far behind in market share, with IE commanding a 95 percent share.

The "Spread Firefox" campaign will be focused around a new Web site, www.spreadfirefox.com, that provides a set of marketing tools and information to help Mozillas active user base proselytize the browser to a broader set of users, Dotzler said. The idea is to mobilize the open-source browsers community to "push the product to friends and neighbors," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifIs Microsofts Internet Explorer browser really too dangerous to keep using? Click here to read one opinion.

"It will be our first wave of pushing beyond the early adopters," Dotzler said.

With the Firefox 1.0 preview, Mozilla also has targeted some of the new features at everyday users. The new RSS reader, called Live Bookmarks, is focused on helping users discover and subscribe to RSS feeds as they browse the Web.

Dotzler said Live Bookmarks is a simplified newsreader more focused on occasional or new users of feeds. It automatically discovers feeds in both RSS and the Atom formats, displaying an "RSS" icon in the browsers status bar. By clicking on the icon, users can subscribe to a feed and track it from Firefoxs bookmarks.

Extensions to Firefox, including one called Sage, already provided RSS aggregation for Firefox, but Live Bookmarks is the first time Mozilla has integrated an RSS newsreader into the browser.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Apples embrace of RSS in its Safari browser.

With the preview of Version 1.0, Firefox also gains a new toolbar for finding words and phrases in a Web page. Instead of using a dialog box that appears overtop of a Web page, Firefox now uses a toolbar alongside the bottom for its "Find" feature. Users also can highlight words in a page when they search for them.

To improve Firefoxs compatibility, the browser will support more Web sites written specifically for Internet Explorer by better handling of pages that assume they are being viewed by IE, Dotzler said.

Mozilla also integrates automatic updating capabilities into the Firefox release. It will automatically check the update Web site both for updates to third-party Firefox extensions and for new browser versions or security fixes, Dotzler said.

Further information about the new features in the preview release is available here. Firefox will be available as a free download from the Mozilla Web site, and it supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

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