Mozilla is not a dragon. He is a dinosaur. Think Godzilla. Furthermore, he has no wings.

The fact that he is a dinosaur shouldn't cause any inferences on the age or obsolescence of any Netscape browser or of the Mozilla project.

The name was meant to indicate that Netscape (both the product(s) and the company) would become a ferocious beast, which would ravage the earth, and would be impossible to defeat. Some of this is true. Netscape Navigator did become a beast, and it did help ravage the earth, or at least the Web.

According to him, the name Mozilla was coined by jwz. The character was originally designed and drawn by Dave Titus, and the mascot had a strong presence in the early post-release logo and branding of the Netscape company.

The original design of Mozilla was a short, Hanna-Barbera-ish lizard, with light green skin, maroon chest scales, and blue spikes from the back of his head to the base of his tail, which was about four to five feet long itself and thick at the base. He had a large Bullwinkle-like snout with large flared nostrils, and big, cartoony, expressive eyes. He was sometimes seen breathing fire in his atypical moods of vengeance.

There is, of course, a built-in about:mozilla link in most if not all versions of the Netscape Navigator browser. The effect of this link on the UNIX versions is the best.

The Mozilla imagery was shelved by Netscape as a branding gimmick around the release of Netscape Navigator 2.0.

The ODP editorship revived the Mozilla imagery shortly after it was bought by Netscape. The images at the bottom of category pages at www.dmoz.org exhibit this.

The mascot's name has been given not only to the image of the lizard, but also to the Netscape Navigator browser, the Mozilla.Org project, and the ODP.

There is also a Book of Mozilla, of which little is available, and from which the following ominous verse comes:

"And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days."

Mozilla is the name of the open source browser created by mozilla.org, with funding and support from Netscape and its evil taskmaster, AOL. Netscape announced it was opening mozilla and founding mozilla.org on January 22, 1998, and the source was released on March 31, 1998. After more than four years of development, the long awaited version 1.0 was released on June 5, 2002. AOL has since turned over development to the Mozilla Foundation.

Mozilla attempts to be revolutionary in several ways:

  • It is open source. Mozilla wasn't the first open source browser, but it is certainly the most high profile and has the most momentum.
  • It was redesigned from the ground up. There should be a minimum of legacy cruft.
  • It is standards compliant. It attempts to match the existing standards exactly, in hopes of ending the one-upsmanship of proprietary features that has created the current mess that is the world wide web.
  • It is component-based. Microsoft deserves the credit for making COM-style component based programming mainstream, but mozilla has taken it cross platform with its XPCOM framework.
  • It has an cross platform XML-based user interface. The whole user interface is written in XUL, a type of XML, which makes it easy to customize and truly cross platform.

Mozilla and Netscape

Netscape Communicator, versions 6 and up, are based on mozilla, as are other projects such as phoenix, chimera, galeon and beonex. The new Netscape suite consists of the mozilla seamonkey framework repackaged, and bundled with extras like an integrated AIM compatible instant messenger and Netscape Radio.

Though mozilla is a complete rewrite, it mirrors the functionality of Netscape 4.x quite closely. It provides a web browser, webpage editor, and an e-mail and USENET news client, but it is missing a few minor features like roaming access, Palm synchronization and the calendaring client (though a new calendaring client based on open standards has been added recently). However, mozilla adds some useful components that Netscape never had, like an IRC client and a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) editor.

Features

Some of the features that make mozilla popular are:

  • Tabbed browsing - more that one page can be loaded into a single window and accessed by tabs at the top of the page; additionally, pages can be bookmarked together as a group of tabs
  • Image and cookie blocking - images and cookies can be blocked on a site by site basis; for example, all images and cookies from advertising sites like doubleclick.net can be banned
  • Pop-up window blocking - or more accurately, unrequested pop-up window blocking -- this feature blocks so-called pop-up ads without interfering with most web applications that open new browser windows for legitimate purposes
The mozilla name

Mozilla was also the original code name for the classic Netscape browser, and was often used by the developers to describe it. There were always small references to Mozilla in the old Netscape: the user agent string identified the browser as Mozilla, not Netscape. Of course, almost all browsers now identify themselves as Mozilla, a holdover from when websites would inspect the user agent string and only serve the coolest content to Mozilla. There were easter eggs, too; typing about:mozilla would bring up a page from the "Book of Mozilla" and change the throbber animation to a fire-breathing lizard. The name itself comes from Mosaic + Godzilla (i.e. Mosaic killer), and was coined by Jamie Zawinski (jwz) when Netscape's primary competition was Spyglass Mosaic.

Mozilla isn't actually a web browser - it's a platform. It supports writing UIs with XUL that incorporate different kinds of components (using XPCOM, which is cross-platform!).

One of the things it implements is the Navigator, which uses the Gecko (aka NGLayout) HTML rendering component. But, of course, this is not the only thing that has been implemented for the Mozilla platform. Some examples:

...and more, including completely outrageous projects like MozQuake... A nice list of different Mozilla applications can be found from http://www.mozdev.org/projects.html.

If Mozilla's automatic installation is turned on, adding applications to Mozilla is very easy - just click on download link, confirm, and it gets downloaded and installed.


Mozilla folks seem to have some obsession with Ghostbusters movie - XUL files have XML namespace "http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul" and the JavaScript debugger is called Venkman, with motto "Don't cross the streams".


Some reasons why I like Mozilla a lot:

  • Bookmark keywords. Zillions of search engines effortlessly on the location bar! (Yes, works with E2 too. Detailed in E2-related browser tips)
  • Tabbed browsing. Helps in X11 a bit, and a great deal in Windows.
  • "Block images from this server", cookie restrictions, Javascript security policies, and that nice "no unrequested popups" option. No more annoying web advertising!
  • Gestures and - this is great - pie menus as a recent addition, both from Optimoz at mozdev.org - Great things, great things!
  • "Lo-Fi" theme. You can't get Opera, or even MSIE, to look this neat and uncluttered with same amount of money invested =)
The history of Mozilla dates back to 1993 when Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina created the first release of Mosaic, a graphical browser for the World Wide Web. The two undergraduate students from NCSA at the University of Illinois created the browser for the X Window System. Eric Bina handled the lions share of the coding, and Marc Andressen kept careful watch on the quality assurance.

After graduating from college, Marc joined forces with Silicon Graphics chairman Jim Clark to form Mosaic Communications to create the Netscape browser. The original plan was to call the product Mosaic, but it was immediately prevented by a threat of a lawsuit from the University of Illinois. The company instead chose the Netscape Communications company name, and the name Mozilla for their web browser.

In October of 1994, Netscape released verson 0.96b of the Mozilla browser. On December 15th, 1994 Netscape released Mozilla 1.0, the first commercial web browser.

A short explanation of the virtues of Mozilla in the context of Everything2.

I assert that Mozilla is the perfect tool for experiencing E2. It simply fits this environment like a glove. The tabbed browsing* is a godsend.

With some simple configuration, Mozilla opens a new tab when a link is clicked on with the middle mouse button. So if you are reading a long write-up, and you come across a link that sounds interesting, just click it with the middle mouse button. The link is opened up and loaded in a new tab, behind the tab you are currently reading. When you are done reading, you close the current tab to expose the tab beneath it.

You can continue this process seemingly forever. There will always be fresh write-ups in new tabs beneath your current working tab. And as you read those tabs, you will open new ones. This could ruin your life.

Additionally, you keep all of your E2 browsing in one window. There's only one Mozilla entry on the task bar, no matter how many write-ups you have open, so no more juggling dozens of browser windows. This makes node browsing at work much less conspicuous.

Finally, there are grouped bookmarks. With Mozilla you can create bookmarks composed of several tabs. So when you select that bookmark, a group of links is opened up into several different tabs. You could create a bookmark group composed of your homenode, E2 Scratch Pad, HTML Symbol Reference, Reference Desk, E2 Source Code Formatter, Text Formatter, and whatever utility nodes you may need quick access to, or any other nodes, utility or not, or any other websites at all for that matter.

If you've never even tried Mozilla, you should at least give it a shot. With a few minutes of open-minded adaptation, you will likely come to love it. Most of the people I have convinced to try Moz have eventually converted to Moz completely. Even if you don't choose it for all of your web needs, it will at least improve your E2 experience.


*For a more thorough explanation of tabbed browsing, see other write-ups in this node. Or wait until I create a new node devoted entirely to the subject.

On April 3, 2003, mozilla.org announced the largest shift in their development roadmap since the decision to scrap the worn Netscape Communicator codebase and begin anew with Gecko and XPFE. The basic points are:

  1. Switch Mozilla's default browser component from the XPFE-based Navigator to the standalone Mozilla Firefox browser.
    Firefox has been shown to be significantly faster and lighter in all respects, and as development continues it continues to speed up and thin down. Its robust extension support is much more usable and versatile than Mozilla's, and it doesn't have with every possibly-useful feature built into it like Mozilla does. The interface is also simpler, partly because Firefox is only a browser and not an application suite, and partly because of the decisions of the Mozilla Firebird team, which were much freer from inertia than those which produced the Mozilla Navigator interface. The Preferences dialog especially highlights this.

  2. Develop further the standalone mail companion application to Mozilla Firefox already begun as Minotaur, but based on the new XUL toolkit used by Firefox (this variant has been codenamed Thunderbird).
    The same rationales which apply to the browser apply to the mail client. The only real difference is that while the standalone XUL browser is already feature-complete and usable, the standalone XUL mail client is in its infancy. The plan is for Thunderbird to hook into Firefox as an extension if the user desires.

  3. Deliver a Mozilla 1.4 milestone that can replace the 1.0 branch as the stable development path, then move on to make riskier changes during 1.5 and 1.6. The major changes after 1.4 involve switching to Firefox and Thunderbird, and working aggressively on the next two items.
    There is a perception that the year-old and static 1.0 milestone is significantly behind the times. This is bolstered by mozilla.org's own recommendation that people not committed to the 1.0 branch use 1.3 instead. A new stability point will give third party developers a chance to use all of the improvements to the Mozilla core without having to track the sometimes hazardous trunk, and frees up the Mozilla developers to make major changes.

  4. Fix crucial Gecko layout architecture bugs, paving the way for a more maintainable, performant, and extensible future.
    Many ideas were integrated into Gecko early on that have been proven to be dead ends. They have persisted because other code was built on top of it assuming many of its quirks. It is also divided up in ways that do not improve its modularity, resulting in a system that is more opaque, rather than less.

  5. Continue the move away from an ownership model involving a large cloud of hackers with unlimited CVS access, to a model, more common in the open source world, of vigorously defended modules with strong leadership and clear delegation, a la NSPR, JavaScript, Gecko in recent major milestones, and Firefox.
    Mozilla is a very large project, and like other large projects a certain 'decomposition' of the development process would help to streamline things. Since I am a user and not a developer, further explanation would be better found on the Mozilla web page.

This re-architecting of the Mozilla suite will bring many changes to the project. The other parts of the SeaMonkey suite, including Composer, the Calendar, Chatzilla, and the DOM Inspector have had to find their own way through alll this. Composer and Calendar have been split into separate applications (outside the mozilla.org umbrella) as Nvu and Mozilla Sunbird, respectively, while Chatzilla has been re-released as a Mozilla Firefox extension. Mozilla Firefox itself had to be ported to Mac OS X, to replace the Mozilla suite for that system. This bold new move by the Mozilla developers should result in a lighter and more usable Mozilla application.

The Mozilla roadmap is found at http://www.mozilla.org/roadmap.html .


This writeup is released into the public domain by D.G. Roberge.

You and Your Middle Mouse Button

Mozilla has some behavior differences across platforms. One of the most noticeable differences for those of us who appreciate tabbed browsing is the behavior of the middle mouse button. By default, on Windows and OS X, depressing the middle mouse button over a tab will close that tab.

Among those I've asked, this behavior becomes very ingrained, and when switching back and forth between Windows and Linux machines, it is cause for great consternation. It doesn't work right. This is due to a user interface tradition. User interfaces work best if they're consistent. When was the last time you used a program that wouldn't copy with Ctrl-C or paste with Ctrl-V? (Substitute Command-C/Command-V on OS X.) When did you last double click on a word and not have that select it? So one would think it best if Mozilla worked the same everywhere, with middle click closing tabs.

But, on Linux, in X11 in general, middle click means paste. And Mozilla wasn't about to change that. So when you middle click, regardless of where on the screen, over a tab or no, the current clipboard is pasted to the location bar, and loaded. "That's not what I meant!" Annoying, but I learned to type Ctrl-W more often, which also closes a tab, and works consistently on all platforms.

But there's a better way. The setting middlemouse.contentLoadURL controls this behavior. Change this boolean value to false, and your middle mouse button will close tabs. Once more, your middle mouse button will continue to work for pasting into text fields.

Mozilla 1.4 or Greater

Starting with Mozilla 1.4, about:config allowed direct editing of preferences. This is useful for preferences which 'exist' but can't actually be changed in the normal Edit->Preferences dialog box. To change this setting, type about:config into your location bar. Now, click on the list*, type 'mi', and it should scroll down to the preference 'middlemouse.contentLoadURL'. Double-click on the preference and type 'false'. Hit 'Ok'. The setting should immediately take effect and automatically save.

(*) A digression. Formally speaking, Mozilla calls that list a tree. You can add and remove columns by clicking on the little box and arrow thingy as well as sort by any of the columns by clicking on the appropriate column heading. This complex widget courtesy of XUL.

Mozilla prior to 1.4

Since you can't change values in about:config in earlier versions of Mozilla, this is slightly harder. First, close all running Mozilla windows. Now find your user preference file users.js. The location of this file varies, but for me it can be found in ~/.mozilla/default/922do5t4.slt/. Typing find ~/. -name "prefs.js" on the command line will likely show you the location of this file. (This is not a good idea if you're root.) Open that file and insert a line containing user_pref("middlemouse.contentLoadURL", false);. Now, restart Mozilla and the change should take effect.

Middle Click to Paste

There is a related setting named middlemouse.paste which controls whether middle-clicking pastes in text fields, including the location bar. Again, this behavior is turned on by default in X11 versions of Mozilla and off in Windows versions of Mozilla. For the adventurous, this option can be turned on for that truly Linux-like experience on more stable legal commercial operating systems.

References

  1. "Mozilla Bug 110090 - provide edit field in about:config...", http://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=110090, Accessed 2004 Mar 04
  2. "Mozilla 1.4 Rough Changelog", http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/one-dot-four-changelog.html, references Bug 110090, Accessed 2004 Mar 04
  3. "Mozilla FAQ for Linux Users", Copyright R.K.Aa., 2002 Feb 23, http://www.mozilla.org/docs/end-user/dark-mozilla-faq.html, Accessed 2004 Mar 04
  4. A few running copies of Mozilla to play with including "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.2.1) Gecko/20030225" and "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.4.1) Gecko/20031114"

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