The short story is that Chimera is a web browser. Just that. Don't look any closer; the story gets more complicated if you do.

You just couldn't leave it alone could you? You had to ask a question didn't you? Alright, hang on, this gets a little bumpy.

Let's start at the beginning. The beginning for Chimera is in the fall of 1993, around October. What's that you say? Yes, yes, chimera is a web browser for Macintosh OSX, but that's not the beginning of the story, but rather the end. Please, let me finish.

In the fall of 1993 a young programmer by the name of John Kilburg, then in the employment of the Information Science Research Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, began a software project to develop a small, fast, and dependable web browser for X-windows. At the time, the web browsers available for UNIX occupied two very different ends of the software spectrum. You could use LYNX, which was small and fast, but was text based and unintuitive for the uninitiated. Or, you could use Mosaic, a visual browser that while being mostly dependable and intuitive was not fast and was large. Kilburg aimed to strike the middle of that road.

A partner of John's, whose name has slipped my mind, came up with the name of Chimera for this ambitious project. Although the internet was hardly new in 93, the World Wide Web certainly was and web browsers were hot and exciting technology. It was only March of the same year that Marc Andreessen had announced Mosaic 0.10 and just a year before he announced Netscape 0.9 and split from the National Center for SuperComputing Applications and the University of Illinois. Chimera seemed an apt, and at the very least, a very cool sounding name. What good is cool software after all, unless it has a cool name? No one would use a web browser called Slothful Hypertext Reader.

Being a nice kinda guy and generally an ethical person, Kilburg used the search engines of the time to investigate whether or not anyone else was using the name Chimera for a web software project. He found none, although he later discovered that there were other non-web software projects with the name Chimera. Development began and eventually led to release 1.x of Chimera for X-Windows. It was fast, reliable and damn small. Kilburg had succeeded and for a few years his browser was The Browser for X-Windows.

Chimera lacked some features though that the user base desired. Kilburg unfortunately, no longer worked for the ISRI and had a new job that didn't offer as much time to tinker with pet projects. Chimera 2.x was a complete rewrite of the previous code done on John?s own time and included many of the features requested by the user base, although it retained its look and feel, but it took too long to finish. By the time Kilburg had finished ver 2.x, his users had gotten antsy and began adding the features they desired themselves to the core of ver 1.x. Development of Chimera ver 1.x continues to some degree and confused the issue of which was which for many people. There were now three different versions of Chimera, all of which looked and acted very similar but were all very different programs under the hood. To further complicate the issue, there was never any indication made as to which was which. To be fair, Kilburg followed his development pattern and promoted the product to ver 2.x, the other project though, continued to use the Chimera name and ver 1.x naming convention.

Kilburg's Chimera has pretty much been in a development halt for the last two years or so and the user developed Chimera, while still enjoying some development, has a small user base. Most people therefore seem to believe that the Mozilla Chimera is the greatest browser for Mac OSX ever made. Yep, you guessed it; someone else made another, completely different web browser and called it Chimera. Now there are four different Chimera browsers, all using the same name, and similar version naming conventions.

One could suppose that Mozilla knew nothing of Kilburg's work and were ignorant of their error. It's possible, unlikely, but possible. Had they even done the most rudimentary amount of investigation they would have discovered the previous Chimeras. I think a fairer assumption would be that they just didn't care.

The Mozilla Chimera is a completely different web browser than the other Chimera's and is available for use exclusively on the Mac OSX platform. It uses the Mozilla engine and is being developed under the Mozilla license. The four Chimeras really don't share a common platform, although, if one was so tempted, Kilburg's Chimera could be installed on OSX using Darwin and X-Windows. In its defense, Mozilla Chimera is a good little pre version one web browser. It's fast and fairly reliable, although it's not as fast as iCab or as reliable as Internet Explorer for the Macintosh. Likely what problems there are will be resolved by version one. And, although it's smaller than IE or Netscape, it's not nearly as small as Kilburg's Chimera which can be measured in kilobytes, not megabytes. Knowing the Mozilla development record, I suspect that most of the time between now and ver 1.x will be spent on adding more features and not on trimming bloat.

When I asked Kilburg about the whole mess, he laughed a little and then talked my ear off for nearly ten minutes. He seemed perturbed but not terribly upset about what Mozilla had done. More than anything else, he was upset that despite having stopped development on Chimera, he now had to receive bug reports from users who weren't even using his software. He told me that he didn't really know what was going on until a friend of his noticed the Mozilla project and notified him. Mozilla eventually contacted him and claimed they would put a link and note of explanation on their web site when they went to version one. He's not holding his breath though, when was the last time Mozilla took anything out of beta?

Kilburg's final words to me on the subject just about size up the entire Mozilla project. "Do I think they're [Mozilla] being assholes about it? Naw, I don't think it's malicious, they're just being the normal type of retarded."


The following vague vague project update was posted to in the beginning of March. It's unclear what the motivation for the change was, but I intend to find out.

03 March 2003: Due to circumstances beyond our control, the project has been renamed Camino.

Kilburg, John. Personal Interview. December 2002