[This is a copy of http://www.mozilla.org/mission.html from launch day]
Netscape Communications made two important announcements on January 23rd, 1998:
- First, that the Netscape Communicator product would be available free of charge;
- Second, that the source code for Communicator would also be free.
On March 31st, the first developer release of the source code to Communicator was made available.
But what now? For the product to grow and mature and continue to be useful and innovative, the various changes made by disparate developers across the web must be collated, organized, and brought together as a cohesive whole.
A group exists within Netscape that is chartered to act as a clearing-house for the newly-available Netscape source. That group is mozilla.org. We will provide a central point of contact and community for those interested in using or improving the source code:
- We will collect changes, help authors synchronize their work, and periodically make new source releases which incorporate the best work of the net as a whole.
- We will operate discussion forums (mailing lists, newsgroups, or whatever seems most appropriate.)
- We will coordinate bug lists, keep track of and publicize works in progress, and generally attempt to provide “roadmaps” to the code, and to projects based on the code.
- And we will, above all, be flexible and responsive. We realize that if we are not perceived as providing a useful service, we will become irrelevant, and someone else will take our place.
- We are not the primary coders. Most of the code that goes into the distribution will be written elsewhere, both within the Netscape Client Engineering group, and, increasingly, out there on the net, at other companies and other development organizations.
- We are code integrators. And, through our forums, we will try to help people reach consensus, and thereby provide direction and coordination for future improvements.
It can be observed that all successful open-source software projects follow this model of distributed development and centralized integration. One of the fears that open-source software software neophytes often express is that open availability of the source will lead to balkanization, that there will eventually be thousands of different descendants of the original software, and confusion and chaos will result. But, in reality that doesn’t happen; organizations like mozilla.org tend to appear. Eric Raymond tries to explain why in his excellent paper, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. We hope to operate in the “Bazaar” style, and be to the public Netscape source code as Linus Torvalds is to Linux.
“Mozilla” was the original code name for the product that came to be known as Netscape Navigator, and later, Netscape Communicator.
Later, it came to be the name of Netscape Communications Corporation’s dinosaur-like mascot.
Now, we intend to use the name Mozilla as the generic term referring to web browsers derived from the source code of Netscape Navigator.
Netscape Communications Corporation holds trademarks on the names Netscape, Navigator, and Communicator; it has not yet been decided what, if any, restrictions Netscape will place on the use of those names. However, a generic term for browsers is still needed, and “Mozilla” is as good a name as any.
So, Mozilla is a family of web browsers, but not a specific web browser (in biologic terms, Mozilla is a genus; Netscape Communicator is a species.) And mozilla.org (pronounced “Mozilla Dot Org” or “The Mozilla Organization”) is this group of people, the coordinators of the project.