What Is the Point of Mozilla?

Is Mozilla a software organization or an advocacy group?

Few journeys in the world of open source
have been as exciting as Mozilla’s. Its
birth was dramatic
. Netscape,
the pioneering company whose Netscape
Navigator browser
shaped the early Web, had enjoyed the most
successful IPO up until then, valuing the 18-month-year-old company
at nearly $3 billion. That was in 1995. Three years later, the
company was in freefall, as the browser wars took their toll,
and Microsoft continued to gain market share with its Internet
Explorer, launched alongside Windows 95. Netscape’s response was
bold and unprecedented. On January 27, 1998, it announced that it
was making the source code for the next generation of its web browser freely
available under a GPL-like license
.

Although of huge symbolic importance for the still-young Free Software
world—the term “open source” was coined only a month after
Netscape’s announcement—the release and transformation of the code
for what became the Mozilla browser suite was fraught with difficulties.
The main problem was trying to re-write the often problematic legacy code
of Netscape Navigator. Mozilla 1.0 was
finally released in 2002
, but by then, Internet Explorer dominated the
sector. The failure of the Mozilla browser to make much of an impact
ultimately spurred development of the completely new Firefox browser.
Version 1.0 was launched in 2004, after three
years of work
.

Microsoft’s failure to update its flabby Internet Explorer 6 browser
for more than five years meant that successive releases of Firefox were
steadily gaining market share—and fans. As I wrote in Linux
Journal in June 2008
:

Three things are striking about the recent launch of Firefox 3.
First, the unanimity about the quality of the code: practically everyone
thinks it’s better in practically every respect. Secondly, the way in which
the mainstream media covered its launch: it was treated as a normal,
important tech story—gone are the days of supercilious anecdotes
about those wacky, sandal-wearing free software anoraks. And
finally—and perhaps most importantly—the scale and intensity of participation by
the millions of people who have downloaded the software in the last
week.

Source: Linux Journal