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November 24, 1998

WHAT WILL AOL DO WITH NETSCAPE’S MOZILLA.ORG?

By CBR Staff Writer

Jamie Zawinski, a leader of the open source browser project Mozilla.org, has sought to reassure a developer community concerned over the merger of Netscape Communications Corp with America Online Inc. Mozilla.org, Zawinski says, is not Netscape. This is something many people don’t understand, or don’t believe, he writes, but as we described in out original mission statement, the Mozilla Organization has a different agenda from Netscape. So what will the acquisition mean to Mozilla? Hopefully nothing, Zawinski says. It’s hard to imagine that they would spend $4bn on Netscape just to throw away the client, he observes. Indeed, when the question as raised in a three-way press conference between AOL, Netscape and Sun on Tuesday morning, Netscape’s Mike Homer replied that Mozilla.org was a key developer liaison group and that it would continue in the same way (see separate story). Zawinski goes further: Let’s think about nightmares, he says, what if AOL hates ‘open source’? What if they want to undo everything we’ve done, and make Mozilla be evil and proprietary again?… Well, they simply cannot undo what has been done. The Mozilla code its out there and it cannot be recalled. It has been distributed under an open source license, and nobody can ever take that away from you. He maintains that the worst havoc AOL could possibly wreak is to fail to contribute to Mozilla in the future. Since Netscape recognized that releasing the source to its browser was a logical step, Zawinski argues, AOL should recognize that too, especially as: It is in their best interest to do so. What Zawinski fails to address, however, is what will happen if AOL does pull the plug. Will a volunteer organization or alternative sponsor come forward to pay staff salaries and host the mailing lists and web site? This is how Linux and Perl function today. Or will Mozilla go the way of the dinosaurs? á

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