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02 April 2013, 11:19

Mozilla Project celebrates 15 years

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The Mozilla Project is celebrating 15 years of "a better web" this week. Fifteen years ago, Netscape Communications released the source code to its web browser and mail suite and created the Mozilla Project. Netscape had been under commercial pressure as Microsoft had begun bundling Internet Explorer for free and the company took the then quite radical step of open sourcing its core software, looking to build a community around that code. Over the next few years, development continued based on that original code and in 2002, Mozilla 1.0, the first major version, was released with various improvements. Mozilla 1.0 arrived into a world where Internet Explorer had a 90 per cent share of the browser market. It was also a world in which the newly released Mozilla 1.0 would make little impact.

But, others, who had found the original Netscape code unwieldy and inefficient, had begun work on a lighter, cleaner web browser called Phoenix; this also had its first release later in 2002. The new lighter browser caught people's attention; it was faster and had a smaller memory footprint than other browsers. It did have to change its name though, first to Firebird, and then to Firefox. In 2003, the newly created non-profit Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla Organisation announced that it would be putting its weight behind Firefox.

In 2004, Firefox 1.0 was released and started to have the impact on the web business that the organisation had hoped for. By 2005, it had been downloaded 100 million times and by 2008, it had managed to reach 20 per cent market share, a feat that didn't go unnoticed elsewhere as it was that year that Google announced Chrome, its own web browser. The Mozilla Foundation's chair, Mitchell Baker, notes that the first phase of its mission was to bring competition and choice to the web. That the success of Firefox inspired another, open source based competitor to enter the market can be seen as successfully completing that part of the mission.

Mozilla has now moved on to trying to maintain an "Open Web" and, while it continues to develop the Firefox browser, it is also driving open standards forward and taking on the proprietary mobile device ecosystems with its own, HTML5/CSS/JavaScript platform, Firefox OS. The organisation has also taken to expanding its educational programs such as Mozilla WebMaker; this sets out to democratise the skills needed to create web content. "The world needs Mozilla", says Baker, "Mozilla has been key to getting us where we are and it’s key to getting us where we want to be."

As part of the week of celebrations, Mozilla is suggesting ways to contribute to the many projects it is involved in and for others to tell their story of what Mozilla and Firefox means to them.


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