The history of Mozilla is one of the most interesting, and important, stories of the Internet. Here's a timeline of its progress:
March 1993: Marc Andreessen announces Mosaic. Mosaic was written as a joint effort between the University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).
Mid-1994: Mosaic Communications is founded by Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen.
October 1994: Mosaic releases Netscape 0.9, the first beta version of the Mosaic browser. This release of Netscape supports basic HTML 2 elements and has limited HTML 3 functionality.
November 11, 1994: A lawsuit between the University of Illinois and Mosaic Communications results in Mosaic losing all rights to the name. Andreessen and Clark rename Mosaic to Netscape Communications and remove all references to Mosaic in their product.
Late 1994: Mosaic's website leaves Netscape. It exists today at http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Software/Mosaic/NCSAMosaicHome.html. The Mosaic browser is still available at http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Software/mosaic-w/releaseinfo/mos30.exe, although it is not a competitive browser by today's standards.
Late 1994: Netscape's website comes into existence. Even though Netscape Communications has ceased to exist as an independent company, its web presence still exists today at http://www.netscape.com/main2.adp. Today Netscape's browser is based on Firefox.
Late 1994: Mozilla is now Netscape's mascot and is seen on its products and websites. The original inspiration for Mozilla came from software engineer Jamie Zawinski. (Zawinski now runs a nightclub in San Francisco, called the DNA Lounge.)
April 1995: Netscape Communications releases version 1.1 of its Navigator browser. This release includes support for tables and added proprietary HTML elements and attributes.
July 1995: Netscape's browser version 1.2 is released with the only changes being making the user interface more compatible with Windows 95.
Mid-1995: Netscape achieves more than 80% market penetration with its browser.
August 1995: Microsoft releases Windows 95, its revolutionary version of Windows, and a browser called Internet Explorer. Initially, Internet Explorer is not included with Windows 95 but is distributed freely by Microsoft.
Early 1996: The beginning of the browser wars occurs, in which Microsoft fights to topple the current #1 browser: Netscape. Netscape finds it difficult to compete with a free product.
Spring 1996: Netscape suffers a major blow in the browser wars when AOL is induced to include Internet Explorer with its software.
August 1996: Netscape releases Navigator 3.0. Codenamed Atlas, this version adds more plug-ins, table background colors, underlining support, frame border control, fonts, multicolumn support, spacing for controls, and an applet element.
October 1996: Netscape jumps into the server side of the Web with server products.
December 1996: A Netscape Communicator 4.0 beta becomes available, offering the LAYER element.
1997: The browser wars heat up, with both Microsoft and Netscape working hard to one-up the competition.
February 1997: The second beta of Communicator 4 is released, adding Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Java Security Services (JSS).
April 1997: The third beta of Netscape Communicator is released, improving on the CSS support of the second beta.
May 1997: Betas 4 and then 5 of Navigator are released, with the Netcaster technology added.
August 1997: Netscape's push-media product, Netcaster, is officially released. Until this time, content was only pulled from the Internet.
June 1997: Netscape releases the final Navigator version 4.0. This version sports improvements over earlier versions in Cascading Style Sheets, some added dynamic fonts, and OBJECT element support.
August 18, 1997: Netscape creates a partnership to allow 100 partners to bundle Navigator (but not the Netscape Communicator Suite) with their products. Navigator 4.0 includes Netcaster, a simple email client, and calendar software.
September 3, 1997: Netcenter, Netscape's new website featuring news, software, and chat groups, is released.
January 1998: Netscape makes its browser free and releases the source code to the public. The Mozilla.org is founded to utilize the open-source project. Netscape's Grommit (Netscape version 5.0) is announced and then dropped in when Gecko (the graphics engine behind Firefox) is chosen as the technology to be used in the future.
February 23, 1998: Mozilla.org fires up its website. This site supports the Mozilla open-source project.
March 31, 1998: Netscape makes the Communicator software, which is Classic Communicator based, available to the public.
May 18, 1998: Microsoft suffers a blow when U.S. federal courts rule that it has abused its power and has competed unfairly against competitors, including Netscape.
September 28, 1998: A marketing study now says that Internet Explorer is the predominate browser.
October 19, 1998: Netscape releases Communicator 4.5. This version is primarily a bug-fix version and adds no functionality.
October 1998: Mozilla first publishes a timeline for its next browser that will be based on the Gecko graphics engine and will support multiple platforms.
November 1998: Netscape drops version 5.0 and decides to create a new product based on Gecko.
November 1998: AOL buys Netscape, and Netscape becomes a division of AOL. AOL has now gone from including Internet Explorer (in the spring of 1996) with its products to using the Internet Explorer rendering engine in its products, to owning Netscape a strange turn of events.
1999: Internet users wonder whether with the demise of Netscape signals the end of the browser wars. It would be a few years before everyone realized that this was just the calm before the storm.
November 2000: Netscape's version 6.0 is released. Now Netscape's browser is based on Mozilla, whose browser would be released as Firefox. Many die-hard Netscape fans decide that they would be better off with Internet Explorer, and jump ship. Microsoft pulls ahead in the browser wars, achieving an almost insurmountable lead over all its competitors.
February 2001: Netscape version 6.01 is released but does nothing to attract users.
2001: Netscape no longer orients its website toward the browser and instead becomes almost a clone of MSN. As well, AOL turns off Netscape's servers and moves the site to its servers. Netscape continues to lose its identity in favor of AOL.
August 2001: Netscape releases version 6.1, a major improvement over version 6.0. However, the damage is done, and Netscape continues to lose what little market share it still has.
September 19, 2001: Mozilla relicenses about 6,000 Netscape Public License (NPL) files under an NPL/GPL/LGPL combination.
October 2001: Netscape releases version 6.2 and, once again, manages to have a superior product.
December 2001: Netscape releases version 6.2.1, while many wonder what will be next from Netscape.
March 2002: Netscape releases version 6.2.2 without any major changes from the 6.2.1 version.
April 19, 2002: Mozilla makes RC-1 of Mozilla Suite available on its website, allowing users to download the product.
May 10, 2002: Mozilla 1.0 RC-2 is released.
May 11, 2002: Netscape releases version 6.2.3, again a relatively minor change from previous versions.
May 22, 2002: Eleven days after releasing version 6.2.3, Netscape releases pre-version 7.0.
June 5, 2002: Mozilla Suite 1.0 is released, with a browser, email, and other applications. Later Mozilla will split off the browser as the Firefox product and the email as Thunderbird.
August 25, 2002: Netscape releases Communicator version 4.8.
August 29, 2002: Netscape releases the final version 7.0. Netscape turns off Mozilla's pop-up blocker in this version, however.
December 10, 2002: Netscape releases version 7.01 and turns the pop-up blocker back on.
December 2002: Black Wednesday, on which Netscape lays off virtually all its programmers. This event is viewed by many as the final admission that Netscape cannot compete.
January 23, 2003: Netscape releases Netscape 7.01, without an AOL tie-in.
February 18, 2003: Netscape releases Netscape version 7.02 with minor bug and security fixes.
May 2003: Netscape announces plans to release Netscape version 7.1 in July or August 2003.
May 29, 2003: As the final settlement of the lawsuit between Netscape and Microsoft, Microsoft pays AOL $750 million. In turn, AOL gets a free license for Internet Explorer until 2010.
June 30, 2003: Mozilla releases Mozilla Suite version 1.4. This version offers the capability to block pop-up ads in the browser and a junk (spam) mail filtering system in the email client.
July 15, 2003: AOL provides $2 million to create The Mozilla Foundation. As well, Mitch Kapor, who founded Lotus Software, becomes the chairman of the board of directors.
July 2003: Netscape is gone. Virtually all Netscape employees are laid off; AOL even scrapes the Netscape logo from the building. This hurts Mozilla because Netscape was paying many of its programmers.
January 2004: AOL's absorption of Netscape is now complete.
January 2004: AOL decides to no longer sell Netscape CDs and print media.
February 17, 2004: Mozilla Europe is formed.
March 2004: In a surprise move, it seems that AOL will release another version of Netscape! No one saw that coming….
June 17, 2004: Mozilla releases version 1.7, offering better performance.
June 18, 2004: AOL says that the new Netscape 7 will offer the standard features and will be Mozilla based.
August 18, 2004: Mozilla Japan is established.
August 17, 2004: AOL releases Netscape version 7.2, a major bomb because it contains a major security flaw.
September 14, 2004: Mozilla provides an incentive for users to find and report bugs in its products.
September 30, 2004: AOL Netscape's server products are sold to Red Hat. Red Hat plans to release the software as open source and to include it with its version of Linux. All that remains of Netscape is the browser and the website.
November 9, 2004: Mozilla releases Firefox version 1.0. This prompts the feeling that the Web will never be the same Internet Explorer now has real competition.
December 6, 2004: AOL celebrates Netscape's 10th birthday.
December 7, 2004: Mozilla releases the Thunderbird 1.0 email client, a direct competitor to Outlook Express.
February 17, 2005: Netscape gets ready to release version 8.0, a product that will offer some powerful security features.
March 4, 2005: Mozilla forms its Chinese organization.
April 29, 2005: Mozilla records that Firefox downloads have reached 50 million. Thought the browser wars were over? Think again.
May 8, 2005: Mozilla begins its Community Awards program to acknowledge the work by the many contributors to the project.
May 31, 2005: Mozilla releases Alpha 1 of Firefox 1.1 (codenamed Deer Park).
July 12, 2005: Mozilla releases Alpha 2 of Firefox 1.1. The July 2005 date for beta release slides by with little notice.
July 20, 2005: Mozilla estimates 75 million copies of Firefox are now in use.
July 20, 2005: Mozilla changes the next release from Firefox 1.1 to Firefox 1.5. This is a name change, with some additional functionality.
September 8, 2005: Mozilla releases Firefox 1.5 Beta 1, and the long wait to see what the next release of Firefox will bring is over. Beta 1 is considered to be feature complete, with only bug fixes officially being considered.
September 9, 2005: Mozilla releases Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 1 and keeps the two products in synchronization. The plan is that Thunderbird and Firefox will share both versions and release dates in the future.
This timeline takes us through late September 2005, the date this was written. The next part of this section will be a look at the future.
What does the future hold? For one thing, it is clearly evident that Firefox and Thunderbird are becoming mainline products. More and more users are embracing these products, and functionality continues to grow.
One thing that I feel is good is that there's no going back. AOL bought up Netscape, and eventually Netscape was reduced to a browser based on Mozilla (and Firefox) and a website. It existed in no other fashion for some time, before being resurrected as a browser site, an ISP, and a content provider.
Mozilla, because of its nonprofit basis and the various open-source license agreements, will not be a buy-out target for any large corporation. This protects Mozilla from the same fate that befell Netscape.
On the other hand, even nonprofit organizations need some form of income. If income cannot be generated by selling a product, the organization is dependent on the largesse of the user community both individual and corporate.
Many corporations are sponsoring Mozilla employees by assigning their employees to work on Mozilla projects. Other corporations are providing various forms of support, especially financial support.
We all are awaiting the final release of Firefox 1.5: the version of Firefox previously codenamed Deer Park. This version is not a major revolutionary change to Firefox, but instead is a relatively minor release fixing bugs and smoothing out rough areas in the user interface.
Firefox 1.5 is a surprisingly stable and usable product. The way that Mozilla works, development is an iterative process, a formula that converges to be a better product.
As this list shows, many new capabilities have been added to the Firefox 1.5 release, with many improvements being made to parts of Firefox that control how content is rendered.
Following Firefox 1.5 will be Firefox 2.0, a version that has been codenamed Ocho.
The current product plan for Firefox 2.0 is to include these as main topics to change. There is nothing to suggest that more items will not be added; in fact, new items will certainly be added. Additionally, none of the following items are guaranteed to be done in the final version. Version 2.0 is well off in the future, possibly coming in 24 36 months.
One important thing to keep in mind is that you (yes, you) can suggest items to be included in future releases. An excellent way to influence the future of Firefox is to create an extension that offers the functionality you think is missing from Firefox. If the extension becomes popular, there is a good chance that Mozilla will choose to include it in future releases. Of course, if your extension isn't popular, you will know that even though you feel it is a good idea, not everyone else agrees with you!
Try that with other software makers and see what happens….