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Mozilla The Internet

Mozilla Rising ... As A Platform 397

Posted by timothy
from the it-sure-works-for-me dept.
ceswiedler writes "Salon is running a story about Mozilla's potential dominance as a platform for application development. They discuss the community development centering around Mozilla, and point out that its cross-plaform GUI environment is 'exactly the kind of thing Microsoft was trying to prevent when it launched its war against Netscape. It didn't want Netscape around, because Netscape was becoming a platform.' In what might be a Salon first, they even include a reference to a Slashdot comment by SkyShadow."
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Mozilla Rising ... As A Platform

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  • OooO! (Score:5, Funny)

    by scaramush (472955) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @03:52PM (#4231071) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if this is Salon's attempt to /. Slashdot for all the times Slashdot has hammered Salon? ;)
    • Re:OooO! (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by kasperd (592156)
      Salon's attempt to /. Slashdot

      Which site has the largest number of zombies reading the articles and clicking on all the links?
      • Re:OooO! (Score:5, Funny)

        by scaramush (472955) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:32PM (#4231442) Homepage Journal
        Which site has the largest number of zombies reading the articles and clicking on all the links?

        Well, if you'd just said "which site has the largest number of zombies clicking on all the links", I'd would have to have given it to Slashdot.

        But when you throw in that tricky "reading" thing...

  • by bashbrotha (41617) <todd AT toddg DOT net> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @03:53PM (#4231082) Homepage
    ...about a salon article in which a slashdot comment is used. the thought is just funny.

    now only if salon would write an article about the comments posted on slashdot referring to the article on salon that referenced a slashdot comment. than, slashdot would have to post a story about the article on salon about the story on slashdot that arose from an article on salon that featured a slashdot comment...

    sorry, its been a long day.

  • by Luke Skyewalker (585866) <skyewalkerluke@hotmail.com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @03:53PM (#4231085)
    it seems that mozilla, as a whole, will evolve into a framework of reusable components that will transcend the browser application itself.

    this will pose to be a problem for microsoft; why bother using microsoft components, which are bound to windows, when i can program across multiple platforms using mozilla components?

    • by NineNine (235196) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:00PM (#4231166)
      a framework of reusable components that will transcend the browser application itself.

      IE's already there. IE has been there for several years. Hell, I use IE components daily.

      IE's already in place, and it works very, very well, and the components are well documented. I'm seeing *many* shrinkwrap programs coming out now that DO use IE as a framework. Quickbooks Pro 2002, for example, is built on IE.
      • by 1010011010 (53039) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:32PM (#4231437) Homepage

        IE! Ooo... it's sooo cross-platform...
      • by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:40PM (#4231499)
        IE's already in place, and it works very, very well, and the components are well documented. I'm seeing *many* shrinkwrap programs coming out now that DO use IE as a framework. Quickbooks Pro 2002, for example, is built on IE.
        What was that quote attributed to Lenin? "The capitalists will sell us the rope we use to hang them"? It amazes me when I see independent software developers build their products on Microsoft tools when Microsoft has already announced their intention to attack that market in the future!

        A good example here is midrange ERP systems. Vendors are embracing Microsoft tools including .Net and IE. Of course, Microsoft acquired Great Plains and has already stated that it plans to "embrace" 90% of the functionality of the ERP products. Yet there the ISVs go, paying for the privilage of using the tools that will make them obsolete.

        It makes Microsoft's statements in the antitrust trial that its competitors were just too stupid to keep up seem more believable.

        sPh

    • Mozilla is a bit cumbersome as a programming platform or common library. But I suppose it still beats the alternatives--large C or C++ toolkits that people use to create even larger and more inflexible desktops and applications.
    • I believe the browser war is going to really be over soon after pallidium is released and when .NET matures sadly enough.

      I have a very nasty feeling that Palidium is going to be Microsoft's answer to fix things like interoperability and Linux. First it will wipe out Linux due to legal issues rather then technical. Second Alot of websites especially porn websites or hollywood movie websites will have drm protected pictures and video's. If I was in charge of www.2bigirls.com for example, I would love to drm the pictures and video streams for obvious reasons and raise my rates. With people using the net more and more for entertainment purposes, this market will explode and sadly the RIAA/MPAA really do have a clue. They want hardware protection in place and then they will offer as many .wma's to your hearts content.

      Then it wont matter how good mozilla is as a browser or its components. People have shown over and over again that they buy things for compatibility and to get things down with the least amount of effort. If they can not view web pages with anything but drm pc's with IE then thats what they will use. Isn't porn and entertainment how VHS won over the supperior beta?

  • On a not entirely unrelated subject, the main differences between Mozilla 1 and Netscape 7 are:
    * ICQ/AIM integration in Netscape
    * No pop-up killer in Netscape

    I like the first, but I don't like the second. Is it possible to add the ICQ integration to Mozilla, or, alternatively, to add the pop-up killer to Netscape?
    • by SquadBoy (167263)
      This might work. I *love* Jabber just get a server that has a good ICQ gateway and you should be rocking.

      http://www.jabbercentral.org/clients/view.php?id =9 71468490
    • by aengblom (123492) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:54PM (#4231625) Homepage
      Add in pop up blocker to Netscape 7:

      (it exists. I think this is it)

      Download the adblocker.xpi [techaholic.net] file (Shift+click to download). When you download the adblocker.xpi file in Netscape 7, it will add .txt to the filename (adblocker.xpi.txt). Before saving the file, remove .txt from the filename and save the file to disk. Then in Netscape 7 click File | Open to install.

      In Netscape 7 click Edit | Preferences | Advanced - Scripts & Windows to unselect or select the Open unrequested windows

    • by antidigerati (195379) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:57PM (#4231650)
      When the absolute best things going for Mozilla for developers is its array of integrated development tools. Mozilla's DOM Inspector and JavaScript debugger are absolute heaven after coding for IE and MS's poor excuse for a browser development environment.

      The DOM Inspector lets you interactively walk through the DOM of a page viewing each containers attributes and children. You can interactively change values and appearance. You can turn on the 'blink' feature to temporarily 'blink' whatever element you are selecting in the DOM. You can also view all CSS elements on the page and inspect how they are cascading. And lots more. Wow!

      The JavaScript debugger is everything we have come to expect in a 'standard' development environment... but it is for JavaScript. Set breakpoints.. set watches.. step through code.. evaluate javascript in context.. change code on the fly..

      And included in the JavaScript debugger app is JavaScript profiling! Turn it on and play with the page.. then save the results to a number of different formats. You get an excellent breakdown of what code was executed and for how long, how many calls were made, where the execution time was spent etc etc.. just like you would expect from a Profiler. Now I can definitively show how much overhead comes with using DynAPI!

      And all of this built into the browser! I think from the development standpoint alone, it will boost productivity by an order of magnitude. Takes out so much of the guesswork that usually goes along with front-end development.

      I think Microsoft should be afraid. Very afraid. Mozilla is what browsers should have been 5 years ago. I've now switched my development environment to developing under Mozilla and then testing IE later for any quirks. The dev time is radically decreased.
  • SVG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @03:57PM (#4231119) Homepage Journal

    My vote is for SVG, even though the current support for it in Mozilla is pretty fragile [YMMV, I'm on 1.1 Linux].

    With full support for SVG, Web applications could really take off in a big way (graphical and not just text interaction) that is unhindered by platform specific nonsense.

    One big hitch though seems to be in rendering quality outline fonts. Everyone would love to have the precision of PostScript for determining exactly where text is located, how far it extends, etc, but there seems to be big players that are nervous about releasing outlines of their fonts and have punted about precise layout of fonts inside SVG, deferring to upper level CSS specifications and what not that permit layout decisions to change when we really need a web layout engine that doesn't change from platform to platform (and is free and open).

    • by g4dget (579145)
      One big hitch though seems to be in rendering quality outline fonts. Everyone would love to have the precision of PostScript for determining exactly where text is located, how far it extends, etc, but there seems to be big players that are nervous about releasing outlines of their fonts and have punted about precise layout of fonts inside SVG,

      Why do you need "the big players" to do anything? If you got scalable fonts on your system, whether free or proprietary, you already got plenty of outlines.

  • by adamy (78406) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:00PM (#4231165) Homepage Journal
    I've been looking forawrd to the Mozilla Programiing book from O'Reilly coming out. According to their web site it is coming out this month. Conspiracy anyone?

    I've played with Mozilla some. Java script with CSS is a powerful way to do UI development. The question is how are we going to build apps that

    1) Havethe install flexibility of a website
    2) Have access to the local hard drive.

    One cool thing about Mozilla is that you can remote an XUL reference just like an html, and it will render. This means that you get a pretty huge toolbox of UI available for anyone browsing using mozilla. One development tactic might me to use a XUL interface for layout, and swap out the javascript file to have different behavoir if you want to process locally or remotely.

    I'd love it if SVG got into the main branch. As I understand it, the reason it hasn't was due to Licensing Issue. The original is under LGPL and GPL, but Mozilla is also licensesd under the MPL. Not sure what the SVG authors view on the MPL is.

    • I'm not sure why the LGPL presents a problem for the Mozilla project, other than it not conforming to their tri-license policy.
    • > The question is how are we going to build apps that
      >
      > 1) Havethe install flexibility of a website
      > 2) Have access to the local hard drive.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "the install flexibility of a
      website", but XPI are very easy for the user to install. If
      we assume that JavaScript and Software Installation are enabled
      in the prefs, the user clicks on a link that says something
      like "click here to install SomeCoolApp", clicks "Install" on
      one dialog box (the other choice is cancel), watches a progress
      bar, clicks "ok", and restarts Mozilla.

      As far as access to the hard drive goes, the app will run
      with chrome privileges once it's installed, so in most cases
      that means the same access that the user has, which generally
      should be adequate for normal applications.

      If you want to see an example of this in action, go over to
      xulplanet.com and fetch the Preferences Toolbar. It's a very
      simple app, a toolbar addon for the browser, but it demonstrates
      how the install works very nicely. Plus, it's useful.
  • I would disagree. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gnomepro (588995)
    Netscape 4.x, imo, was never a platform. It was only a crappy, behind the times web browser. It still is. Mozilla, on the other hand, is a viable platform. It is much different than the 4.x series and it's crappy predecessors. IE3 was a better browser than NS4. Oh, well! Now is the time for Mozilla to rule the world. :-)
  • Just beacuse it pisses M$ off does not mean its a good idea. Mozilla might be very nice but I dont think a web browser should be the basis of all applications. After all isnt that what Windows did?
    I hate using machines with web mode desktop on.
    • by RgnadKzin (594150)
      I was working on a client server project up in Michigan. Oracle/Delphi. They had wonderful development boxes, but the rest of the company had 486 or PI machines. They were getting to the testing phase and one of the users wanted to try it out on her machine - no dice. The company was in such a tizzy because to upgrade all of their boxes it was going to be mucho buckos. I suggested that they output the screens in html and just use a browser for read only. What a concept. For a company where the hardware is ancient, an application development environment based on Mozilla makes a lot of sense.
  • by daoine (123140) <moruadh1013@yaho o . com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:03PM (#4231195)
    ...I really do, but so long as that little IE icon is sitting on the Windows boxes that ship, I'm not sure Mozilla will gain enough foothold to beat down Microsoft. Not yet, anyway.

    I think that in order for it to really drive the nail in the coffin, it's going to need a niche market. Incredibly good functionality really isn't enough to make the average user go out of their way to get it. The future is likely in the ability to discover the niche application that makes it undeniably more useful -- then all it has to do is hang on for a couple of years (which is harder than it sounds...)

    • by Fugly (118668)
      ...I really do, but so long as that little IE icon is sitting on the Windows boxes that ship, I'm not sure Mozilla will gain enough foothold to beat down Microsoft. Not yet, anyway.

      There is an easy solution to this. Most geeks know about Mozilla. Lots of us really like it a lot. Most non-geeks have never heard of mozilla (and if they have heard of it, they'd never bother to switch anyhow because they're afraid of their own computers).

      Here's the great part though. Who do those non-geeks call to fix their computers when something goes wrong? Us geeks. Why pay for tech support when you've got some weirdo that will come over just about anytime 24/7 to fix your computer for a 6 pack of decent beer? Everytime I fix somebody's computer, I download Mozilla, install it, remove their desktop and task bar icons for IE and replace them with mozilla icons. I then tell them a little bit about it, show them how it kills popups, and show them where their last remaining IE icon is in Start->Programs in case they need it.

      My dad, brother, aunt, mom, neighbor, and most of my high school friends that are still around are now all happy running Mozilla 1.0 or 1.1. Half of them are running OpenOffice now too :)
    • Incredibly good functionality really isn't enough to make the average user go out of their way to get it.

      I don't know about that. I recently built a new PC for myself, and I ran IE exactly once - long enough to go to opera.com and download Opera.

      To date, I've convinced my parents, my in-laws, and my brother to dump IE for either Opera or Mozilla.

      I've also converted the entire office staff at my church to running Mozilla.

      The point? YOU CAN DO THIS, TOO! Tell anyone who will listen the virtues of Opera and/or Mozilla. When they gripe about the hundreds of pop-up ads, then tell them Opera and Mozilla can squelch them.

      Even better, is when they get comfortable running Opera / Mozilla, they'll be more willing to try OpenOffice instead of M$ Office, and then you're 75% of the way there (if not more) to getting them to dump Windows altogether.

      • I've also converted the entire office staff at my church to running Mozilla.
        I'm sure Jesus is very happy with you!
      • Even better, is when they get comfortable running Opera / Mozilla, they'll be more willing to try OpenOffice instead of M$ Office, and then you're 75% of the way there (if not more) to getting them to dump Windows altogether.

        That's nice and all, but why does the eventual goal always have to involve dumping all Microsoft products out the window? Now, I, too, try to convince others that Mozilla-based browsers offer a pile-and-a-half of features that MSIE doesn't. I do it not to dislodge them from Windows (with which most are content) but to provide them with the better browser.

        Have I missed the point in leaving it at that, or have you in not?

  • by jukal (523582) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:04PM (#4231205) Journal
    "But the best part about Mozilla is that it is not just a browser. Scores of developers are now talking about using Mozilla as a "platform" -- that is, using Mozilla's underlying code to build non-browser applications, like calendar programs and e-mail programs"

    Law of Software Envelopment jwz edition [jwz.org]
    ``Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.''

    • by Uruk (4907) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:27PM (#4231395)
      Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can

      Yep, that's one of those quasi-funny computer "laws" that actually has a very disheartening core of truth to it. Of course some programs such as emacs expanded until they could read mail and then kept going :) I think the ultimate stopping point of development on emacs is going to be when the emacs hackers sit down to make improvements in the program, and the program ends up responding, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Dave"

      Here's another one of those informal computer laws that's ha-ha funny...but serious:

      Greenspun's Tenth Rule of Programming:
      "Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad-hoc informally-specified bug-ridden slow implementation of half of Common Lisp."
      • As we got started with this, let's add a bunch ;)

        - Any programming project that begins well ends badly.
        - If a programming task looks easy its tough.
        - If a program is useful it will have to be changed.
        - Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capability of the programmer who must maintain it.
        - The probability that a given program will perform to expectations is inversly proportional to the programmers confidence in his ability to do the job.
        - There is always one more bug.
        - If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in.

      • by William Tanksley (1752) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:10PM (#4231755)
        Greenspun's Tenth Rule of Programming:
        "Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad-hoc informally-specified bug-ridden slow implementation of half of Common Lisp."


        "Including Common Lisp."

        - Robert Morris

        (I love this one -- I found it on Graham's webpage, you know, the one developing the 'arc' programming language.)

        -Billy
    • And thus we have GNU Hello [gnu.org], a Hello World program which includes, amoung other things, a frickin' mail reader.

      (Although it's main purpose is as an example of GNU coding style, it's still pretty nuts...)

      J
  • by gblues (90260) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:06PM (#4231226)
    Sure, there is initial appeal to having your application look the same on all platforms. Who really wants to write the same application N times? However, cross-platform consistency isn't necessarily a good thing.

    Each platform has its own quirks with how it should behave. For example, menus in Windows are expected to be static (that is, they stay visible after the user releases the mouse button), while Macintosh menus tend to be rubber-band (menu disappears when user releases mouse button). In Windows, a menu action simply happens while on Macintosh, the selected menu item flashes several times.

    I could go on and on with the differences between the Windows and Macintosh platforms (to say nothing of UNIX!). The point is that an application that acts differently from every other program is an application that is harder to learn. Users are forced to keep two sets of expectations, which completely defeats the purpose of using a cross-platform GUI!

    Yes, you can tweak the UI so that it looks more like the host operating system. This is a thin veneer, however, as the emperor's proverbial clothes come into view when the OS theme is changed.

    It makes sense that the UI should be abstracted from the rest of the application, but XUL is not the answer.

    Nathan
    • My preferred solution would be a platform-independent API that implements its calls using native widgets. For example, you create a menu, and let the native toolkit deal with the menu's behavior as it sees fit (the Mac/Win differences you mentioned). The main problem with this is that the various platforms don't have 1-to-1 correspondences amongst their various native widget sets. For simple things like menus, the Mac menu is essentially a drop-in replacement for the Windows menu, but not all widgets will have the functionality you want on all platforms. The only good ways to resolve this seem to be either implementing your own cross-platform widgets (as Mozilla is doing with XUL, and as wxWindows is doing with a more traditional toolkit library), restricting yourself to a subset of features that do exist in similar forms on all your target platforms, or convincing the OS designers to implement all your favorite features.
      • The lack of native support is supposed to be one of the selling points of using XUL (e.g. "you don't have to worry if the OS supports it.") However, this only reinforces bad design principles.

        For example, let's say your application is a Playstation game. You cannot simply change a few API calls to get the game working on the Dreamcast--the Dreamcast controller does not have the same number of buttons!

        This leaves you with two options:

        1. Shoe-horn it and lose some functionality. Fast, but makes the Dreamcast version inferior.

        2. Redesign the UI with the Dreamcast in mind to support the analog stick/trigger buttons.

        Using XUL is essentially choosing the first option and leaving the XUL libraries to handle the "shoehorning." Given the choice, it is almost always beneficial (from a usability standpoint, not necessary financially) to redesign the UI with your target platform in mind.

        Nathan
    • But if all your applications are Mozilla-based then they all will share common UI traits in the way applications share UI traits in an OS. If Mozilla is shared between the majority of the OS's then applications are easier for users to use regardless of the used OS. So initially your statement is true but as more applications are created for the Mozilla platform eventually it'll flip-flop to the other extreme. As Mozilla makes these applications easier to write than the native OS does then applications should appear quickly allowing Mozilla to catch up with the native OS and as programs that are easy to write and develop are cheaper to produce more companies will consider switching their already existing apps to the Mozilla platform especially at key points where major rewrites are required anyway.. for example from Win98 to WinXP.
    • Yes, you can tweak the UI so that it looks more like the host operating system. This is a thin veneer, however, as the emperor's proverbial clothes come into view when the OS theme is changed.

      The answer, of course, is to have the OS's WM provide information about the default behavior to the various applications.

      Think of it as skins++. Not only can the layout and look be adjusted, but also these specific behaviors can be dictated (or suggested, I suppose -- you should be able to override if you really want to) by the central WM. This would have the side advantage of making development easier and allowing older apps to stay "current" in terms of basic look-and-feel.

    • Mozilla does use native widgets insofar as it can, This is possible because XUL is very high-level. Under Linux, for example, I'm using Gtk+ widgets. Under Windows I use MFC widgets. It all looks roughly the same by default, but the tools are the hosts, not Mozilla's.
    • by jabber (13196)
      Not only can Java apps use the "native" (mostly but not quite) Look-n-Feel of the platform on which they run, they can also give you the LnF of that platform on any other platform.

      Sure, it's not perfect, but it's a better step in the right direction than anything else out there now.
    • by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3 AT phroggy DOT com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @09:28PM (#4233873) Homepage
      For example, menus in Windows are expected to be static (that is, they stay visible after the user releases the mouse button), while Macintosh menus tend to be rubber-band (menu disappears when user releases mouse button).

      Actually since Mac OS 8, Mac menus behave the same way that Windows menus are supposed to. I say "supposed to" because Windows is a buggy pile of crap.

      Want to see something amusing?

      Open Notepad. Click-and-hold on a menu. Drag down, below the menu, off to the side. Release the mouse. The menu disappears. This is the correct behavior.

      Open an Explorer window. Click-and-hold on the Favorites menu. Drag down, below the menu. Release the mouse. The menu disappears, just like in Notepad.

      Click-and-hold on any other menu within Explorer. Drag down, below the menu. Release the mouse. The menu remains open.

      Explain to me how this behavior can be inconsistent between different menus within the same application? Mozilla's behavior is Bug 32494.

      In Windows, a menu action simply happens while on Macintosh, the selected menu item flashes several times.

      This is Bug 66120.

      Mozilla has multiple versions of the Classic skin, one for each platform. I don't use it. I use the Modern skin, which looks and behaves the same way on all four platforms I use.
  • Tutorial here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cap'n enigma (239593) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:12PM (#4231274)
    If you want to get an idea of what is possible, check out this tutorial.
    http://www.xulplanet.com/tutorials/xult u/

    I played with it about a month back and was amazed at how easy it makes GUI development.
    • by ink (4325)
      While that tutorial gets you quite a bit for XUL coding, the overall documentation for Mozilla is sparse. I've been working on a bug for a couple weeks now, and in the process I've learned a lot of how Mozilla works, but I've had to do it the hard way. I use a lot of find and grep to trace conceptual maps of data flow and how Moz keeps track of certain things. There need to be at least one comprehensive reference manual (I wouldn't mind paying $100 for it!) so that I don't waste 8 hours to figure out which abstract method of what class implements the proper method for me to get a char* out of some object. There are tons of books on Qt, Gtk, Cocoa, Carbon and Win32. There aren't really any out there for Mozilla.
  • The fact that bits and pieces of Mozilla are being used for other projects, or as the article implies, that Mozilla is used as a platform for application develpment is an expected outcome of a well guided and well executed Open Source project.

    I'd say the fact that the Mozilla team took all that time to get its building blocks right is a major contributing factor, despite the widespread misgivings about Mozilla being so late.

    If you have great code - clean, well documented and full featured -, make it freely accessible to everyone who asks, AND have the high profile that Mozilla has, who can beat that? Definitely not a commercial platform, whatever its merits.

    Congrats to the Mozilla dvelopers, inside Netscape and elsewhere!
    • Well, you'd be right, except that IE-based apps have been around for several years now. I'm using Quickbooks Pro 2002 right now which is heavily based on IE. I don't think that Open Source had anything to do with it. If anything, people are so used to using IE in third party apps, that somebody decided to try to do it with Mozilla.
    • I'm still irated at the bugs that are STILL on my voted list, and I publicly gripe at them for not fixing them. I'm not a C++ programmer, so you can't just say "if you don't like it, code it yourself", but I try to contribute the best way I can: buglisting, comments, voting, and bitching. Most of these bugs would be VERY simple fixes for the programmers that are familar with the system, but even with that, some of them are over a year old.

      Some of these include:
      122927: java can't open window in response to click (when opening unrequested windows is disabled) [mozilla.org]
      33732: [MW]Mousewheel scrolling scrolls listbox, not page [mozilla.org]
      99997: "Copy email address" doesn't copy name [mozilla.org]
      118905: Reply All Does not reply to all [mozilla.org]
      (and any bug linked to 92997: Bugs that make Mozilla advocacy harder [mozilla.org])

      The cancellation of bug 122927 really angered me, especially when I get a comment like: "Since the UI for this Mozilla feature has been intentional removed from Netscape, it is difficult to justify wasting any of my company's resources on fixing related bugs. There are plenty of other crashers on my plate which are much more important than a pref Netscape customers will probably never discover!"

      Don't get me wrong: I love Mozilla. However, the corporate politics are starting to interfere with Mozilla's development, despite its open-source status.
  • Just look up the word "Slashdot" on Salon. Hundreds of references... Randomly picking one I find:
    The CD player, the Slashdotter wrote, displayed "a playing time of 100 minutes, 30 seconds -- not! ... So the trick seems to be that the playing time of 100:30 is interpreted as 00:30."
  • by goon (2774) <goonmail&netspace,net,au> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:20PM (#4231330) Homepage Journal
    mozilla with xul/js allow you to build some interesting tools. But try building a simple front end tool that reads a RDF as a remote datasource. I have yet to see an online working example displayed in a tree.

    While the responses on the mozilla newsgroups [google.com] are excellent (with the actual netscape engineers responsible [mozilla.org] responding), the lack of consistant *complete working examples* is a pain.

    I had to laugh when I stumbled upon Mark Hammonds site [python.net] and found a mozilla /xul python search page [python.net]. Quickly I checked the xul source to see if mark used remote RDF only to see the code commented out with a remark along the lines of, 'almost got going'. Marks example works ,but like the code I was working on it had to use a different approach.

    I just want to to use remote RDF feeds.
  • Woo!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Skyshadow (508) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:21PM (#4231334) Homepage
    This is where I do my little dance and feel special. Salon quotes me, *and* I get an article on the front page! Then I post this OT, worthless post and burn off my karma.
    • Ok, now, when you guys talk about "burning" karma, as you so often do, what does that mean? The context makes it sound like it means "receiving large amounts of", but that's not very intuitive.

      Also, is my sarcasm in the face of your narcissisticly-motivated reverse psychology a bit to thinly disguised? Or is it ok?
  • by ZillaVilla (605321) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:24PM (#4231364) Homepage
    there already is a MozillaOS, it's called:
    ByzantineOS [sourceforge.net] it's bare bones Linux with Mozilla and sawfish. Boots and runs from a CDrom without touching the local harddrive. it's small...and I tried it on 2 machines, all I had to do was pick low or high res, get my connection "dhcpcd" , and start the GUI "startx" real slick once it loads you can remove the cd, and when you're done you don't 'shutdown' you just kill the power....and it's FAST.

  • In Mosaic, you clicked the "throbber" (Mosaic's logo) for stop.

    I remember using Netscape 0.9 and kept clicking the logo for 'stop' and being continuously bounced to Netscape's web page. I found that quite annoying and counter-intuitive at the time. heh.
    • In Mosaic, you clicked the "throbber" (Mosaic's logo) for stop.

      Now you tell me ! I've had a page that's been downloading for 7 years. Now I can finally stop it and reboot !

    • Heh! I remember always clicking the Netscape logo and being bounced to their web page. I guess this must have been why I was always clicking that thing. Pretty effective advertizing, the stop button makes more sense so they wouldn't piss off users too much, but anyone sitting using your Netscape install will learn where to get the browser that can lay out the text and download the pictures as it goes.

      Mozilla still doesn't seem to have the incremental layout capabilities of Netscape 0.9... I remember that thing had some kind of priority queue, fetching pictures actually on the screen first, making as many connections as you wanted (later capped at 20). These days the thing will freeze as it loads some plugin or other, maybe this is somehow harder than images, but we've had multi-threading for a few decades now...
      • Mozilla still doesn't seem to have the incremental layout capabilities of Netscape 0.9

        "incremental layout" depends a lot on the HTML complexity and the HTML author. you need to define the sizes of layout objects before you can lay out things past them. the IMG WIDTH and HEIGHT tags introduced by netscape helped this a lot, where you can say "hey, I'm blocked on getting this image, but I know what size it will be, so let me render the stuff after it and I'll worry about putting the image in later". Tables and CSS add to the complexity of determining sizes. You never really know the size of a table until after you read the trailing TABLE tag and you may even need to know the sizes of multiple elements inside the table until you load them, so you essentially have to grabthe whole table before you can show anything inside. The state of HTML at the time of Netscape .9 was nothing like it is now, probably at least an order of magnitude simpler. Compare the First early specs of HTML [w3.org] with HTML 4 [w3.org] and that doesn't even include CSS. HTML 2 (which your comparison browser couldn't even render because it was too complex) is a 77 page spec [ietf.org], HTML 4.0 (linked above) is close to 286 pages.

        making as many connections as you wanted (later capped at 20)
        It still does this, defaulted at 4. You can change this in user.js, it's just not a pref you can see in the UI anymore because folks abused it too much, and there definitely is a diminishing returns thing, and mostly - you just don't need to change it. HTTP 1.1 also lessens the need for this, drastically reducing the overhead for small objects, where socket start and teardown time is a much more significant part of the overall time.

        These days the thing will freeze as it loads some plugin or other, maybe this is somehow harder than images
        This is harder, and the memory requirements are huge. You're loadoing a bunch of new code, having to dynamically link stuff all over the palce, establish communication links, allocate memory, a nuch of stuff. The image library is already loaded, and showing an image takes a lot less memory than say, showing a 10 meg shockwave game.

        It's hard to make comparisons now, since our browsers are required to do so much more. I tried to look at some old browsers just for the hell of it, and I couldn't even get NCSA Mosaic to run, just blew up on me.
  • "But it's a disgrace that you still can't print Web pages correctly," Nielsen says. "If you've ever printed any receipt from an e-commerce site, half the time the price is cut off. Why can't the browser say, 'I'm printing out on a higher-resolution device and I can easily shrink things to make them fit'?"
    Mozilla has this, you'll see the option in the File|Page Setup dialog.
    • Usually the reason those pages get choppped off is because web designers are stuck in the "must control every pixel" mode, so they set up fixed pixel widths in tables (or use absolute position in css) and don't let the browser resize to fit the display (or printed page).

      I really hate going to a site with a fixed 600 pixel width using my 1600x1200 maximized browser window. I get a sea of white space on the right hand of my page (and sometimes a duplicated background pattern...)

      Sigh...

    • I haven't tried myself, but doesn't CSS support this sort of thing nicely?
  • Until you can hook XUL up to Java Components I don't see it taking off in the business (corporate) world. XPCom is cool, but most corporate developers are doing Java or VB. VB components can be used in all of M$' client tools. Moz could be like an applet container on steriods, without Java powering the UI.

    BlackConnect was supposed to offer a Java->XPCom bridge, but it seems really dead in the water. I'd love to just write an EJB backend or maybe frontend the EJBs with servlets or SOAP to marshall the data into the browser, move validation to the client side.

    I could do my UI in XUL and have bridge code to hit the backend. Client-Server with the client management taken care of by Moz. It would be better than WebStart IMNSHO. Plus I could build off the other apps available to Moz.

    This would reduce my development costs and by integrating XUL devel into IDE's like Eclipse and Dreamweaver, I could beat the socks off VB/ASP/.NET developers with a superior solution (cross-platform too!). I'm sure once the tools arrived quite a few corporate environments would look to Moz + J2EE as a competitor to traditional M$ client-server style apps.

    It's almost there... just please give me Java support!!!!
  • Eclipse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Developers who are looking at Mozilla as a platform for creating application interfaces should also take a look at another open source project which was designed to do just that, Eclipse [eclipse.org].

    Eclipse provides a fairly full featured set of APIs for for creating GUIs along with nice APIs for working with resources (files, directories, etc.), creating builders, compilers, etc. It's mostly suited for creating IDE type apps (as an example, WebSphere Studio Application Developer [ibm.com] developed by IBM who developed the initial Eclipse code base is built on Eclipse), but I've seen some fairly nice "proof of concept" type projects for more standard issue apps like Word Processors, etc.

    Eclipse is Java based, so the code is fairly "write once, run anywhere (debug everywhere (twice))" for whatever platforms the project's custom SWT widget toolkit works for (Linux and Windows included).

    As a bonus, Eclipse on it's own if a fairly nice (free as in speech) Java IDE that runs on Linux (even includes a built-in CVS client).
  • I think we should replace Karma with

    "How big is my ego today" ;-)

    So how's it go

    (Score:6, Published)?
  • by Fjord (99230)
    So Salon readers get to read a bitchfest as to whether or not it's "spell checker" or "spelling checker".
  • I don't really think that Mozilla could be much of an application development environment. There aren't enough engineers talented enough to use Mozilla as a platform. Sure, maybe a handful of companies/organizations can do something great with Mozilla but in order for it to be a real platform with a support network built around it, it needs to be brain-dead simple like Visual Basic or even MFC.

    With such a small group using Mozilla its inevitable that the people using it will fork the entire code base making incorporation of fixes in the core arduous and any documentation on developing with Mozilla will become inaccurate quickly. Maybe if someone wrote an extraction layer for Mozilla that would shield the core with lowest common denominator APIs then there would be a chance.
  • I tried checking the site of the stat-accumulating company quoted in the salon article, WebSideStory [websidestory.com], and couldn't find what they consider a usage statistic.

    I'm a fan of Moz's pop-up disabling abilities, but if this company uses TOTAL requests, then every other browser has an artificially inflated total.

    Like when I use IE, I send out requests via pop-ups all the time and each can, in turn, make more requests. With Moz, I don't make any such requests.

    With this in mind, to a particular site I can tally '1' visit with Moz and '1+x' visits with IE (x>=0).

    That's the easy way to track general browser use, but since Moz doesn't conform to this general rule, hopefully they have adjusted the numbers accordingly. Any idea how it's done?
    • I can speak on that. WSS tags your browser with a cookie containing, among other things, the number of times you've visited a site and the last time you visited that site. The WSS server software can take that and determine whether you're a unique visitor to the site that day and/or forever. The browser figures are based not on total hits, but on unique browser instances as determined by the cookies. So it doesn't matter if you hit the site once or 1000 times, you're one unique visitor for purposes of counting browser types.

      Note that identifying a particular browser instance isn't needed with cookies, the fact that WSS's servers got that particular cookie automatically does all the work that unique IDs would have been needed for. Of course, it also means that if you block third-party cookies WSS can't keep track of the timestamps and counts and so can't include you in the statistics.

      Disclaimer: I write WSS's front-end software, the stuff the browser actually talks to. Take this as you will.

  • But the best part about Mozilla is that it is not just a browser. Scores of developers are now talking about using Mozilla as a "platform"... which, if you think about it, is exactly the kind of thing Microsoft was trying to prevent when it launched its war against Netscape. It didn't want Netscape around, because Netscape was becoming a platform. So wouldn't it be rich if, in the end, Microsoft succeeds in killing Netscape and winning the browser war but still, somehow, doesn't eliminate the platform threat?

    Microsoft doesn't really need to worry about the so-called platform threat, and they never did. They made IE the platform, and then welded it to Windows.

    And could Salon really think that Moz as a platform could possibly compete with .Net? The API for the next Windows OS? Unlikely.

  • If Netscape dies [will] the dragon that it spawned burn Redmond?

    Unlikely, but I can dream, can't I?
  • Its funny, I develop web sites, I'd rather use Mozilla/Netscape as my browser, but I am forced to IE because its the corporate standard. This is especially true since I need to do have sites authenticate against the NT SAM(with integrated, not Basic) which only IE is capable of doing. If they want to open up the choice of browsers then
    the Mozilla/Netscape/Opera's of the world need to be able to do this. All of my sites work in every browser for every feature except the authentication piece. ADD NT integrated challenge response, and the numbers might start to shift corporately...
  • Unfortunately Mozilla apps are cross-platform only in the sense that Qt ones are, or Visix Galaxy ones used to be - you need a compiler and a decent size machine to build on.

    Times are changing - platform today means a VM like Java or Dotnet. Tying builds to specific low-level hardware, whether Itanium in the server room or ARM in a phone, hobbles the process of development, distribution and support to such an extent that it renders the product uncompetitive.

    Continuing to invest in this approach for Linux will do nothing more than marginalize it. At this rate, there will be no Linux platform, only cobbled together Linux/Java, Linux/Mono, Linux/Oracle etc. hybrids.

    There are projects like Parrot, Guile and Kawa that could offer a way out, but the community is too busy worrying about Gnome vs. KDE, as if these "desktop managers", useful as they are today, were somehow of strategic importance.

    Meanwhile, MS is outflanking the whole technical base with Dotnet. The more consistent and pervasive this is, the more Linux will be pushed out of the mainstream. The only combination that is likely to affect BillG's sleeping is a convergence on Linux+Java. Right now, Sun and IBM are effectively providing a lifeboat, but a lot of us don't seem to want to be rescued.
  • I have to wonder whether Mozilla is a viable
    platform for more than some web apps.

    First of all, I think it won't be easy to shield
    Mozilla modules from each other without loading
    large parts of Mozilla into memory several times.

    Also I've been working on an Mozilla extension
    for a while and I think Mozilla has relatively
    poor design, quite good QA and loads of testers.
    That is if you don't do anything too exotic,
    everything works fine. If you do, loads of bugs
    and glitches show up.

    Hopefully I stand to be corrected.

    PS: Version 1.0b2 of RadialContext is out, and
    fixes the more prominent problems.
  • by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:50PM (#4231589) Homepage
    I agree with the article to the extent that Mozilla is a far better "platform" than IE is or ever was, mainly because of Microsoft's insistance on using ActiveX as the glue technology, which is either so simplistic it's not worth doing at all (think VB) or so hard it's not worth doing at all (think VC++). Otherwise there would be many more 'thingies' like the excellent Google NavBar. IMO, Microsoft *did* attempt to turn the browser into a platform but failed essentially because it's too difficult to get right.

    I like XUL. I think it's a great idea and the implementation rocks. But most of all, it's simple. There are no DLLs, no IUnknown pointers or registry issues to deal with. Mozilla is a great browser, in many respects superior to IE, and in some inferior (my dream browser would be a combination of IE, Mozilla and Konqueror which runs on Windows, OSX and Linux. Oh well). But the difference it was designed from the sart to *be* a platform, where with IE platformitis was an afterthought.

    But I disgress. The key here is going to be Mozilla's ability to gain critical mass with average developers in Windows for it to take off. I'm not talking about XPCOM hackers, I'm talking about the ones quoted in the Salon article. It will do Mozilla no good if it takes off in Linux, because Linux has no desktop presence to speak of, and it has a far greater variety of browsers that, while good for competition, also cause fragmentation.

    I think Microsoft's response to this (if they do get to the point where they consider the Mozilla *platform* a threat) will be to essentially take IE and turn it into a .NET platform. If they can offer a platform to people writing C# and VB.NET and JScript.NET, they'll be all set - assuming the .NET thing does take off like they want to. Of course, one of the catalysts to .NET acceptance will be how many computers it happens to be installed in - imagine if anyone who wants to use the next version of IE has to download the .NET runtime?

    Still, Mozilla has the upper hand because it's off on the race and Microsoft is standing in the starting line wondering what the futz is going on and why are all these geeks cheering?

  • New rating (Score:4, Funny)

    by MongooseCN (139203) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:19PM (#4231821) Homepage
    Skyshadow:

    Why use Netscape (Score:6, Linked)

    by Skyshadow on Thursday August 29, @02:56PM

    "Why should/would I use Netscape instead of Mozilla? Not getting enough pop-up windows in my life? Feel the need for a more closed solution?"
  • OK, so Mozilla has more better features than Netscape? Well, Duh. but that's like saying the Pontiac Aztech in the dealer showrooms didn't have as many features as the concept car version.

    Netscape is 'official'. It's going to be supported with a room full of tech support reps and it's going to be bundled with stuff, Moz has a more experimental, cutting-edge hue to it because it isn't.

    This double-barreled development approach is really a brilliant move by AOL/Netscape, even if it did take FOUR years, I bet the end product is a lot more stable, with more useful features than it would have had as a closed proprietary project. Does anyone know if it came in under budget or not?
  • by bwt (68845)
    The one major thing that I dislike about XUL is that it seems determined to make you program in javascript. I don't like javascript. Frankly, I think the web stinks because of the poor programming habits that javascript promotes.

    Browsers already have java plug-ins, so why can't I write XUL for mozilla in an object orient fashion using java? or jython? or jruby?

    Apache supports a jillion languages, why doesn't mozilla?
  • I don't want a "platform"! I want a browser. But, that's why I use Opera.
    • Yeah, that's why I use Chimera [mozdev.org].

      Funny thing, it's a browser built on the Mozilla platform. If they can build other apps out of Mozilla pieces, then hey, pants.
    • Mozilla was never meant to be the end product. Lets see if I can find it for you.. Oh wow. Its right on the start page, and I quoteth:

      obvious [mozilla.org]

      mozilla.org's mission is to create open source code that software developers can use to build web applications. We make Mozilla available for download so people like you can help test it. Being a tester isn't hard - just use Mozilla for your everyday work, upgrade when we ask, and submit crash reports if you're prompted. Doing this helps us measure and improve Mozilla's stability.
      Here is an interesting 'lil factoid [cnn.com]:

      facty facty [mozilla.org]

      Mozilla 1.0 is a fully functional technology demo for those interested in seeing what can be done with Mozilla technology, and those who want to create Mozilla-based products and packages. The intended target audience is the development community. Mozilla is free software, so any person or company is free to alter and redistribute it under the terms of the licence. While Mozilla 1.0 (as released by mozilla.org) is ready to be used comfortably by the general user - and those wanting to use Mozilla as released by mozilla.org are more than welcome to do so - mozilla.org has no resources to offer end-user support. However, mozilla.org always invites new testers and bug reporters. Mozilla 1.0-based products and packages are expected to start appearing in the next several weeks. Other applications of Mozilla technology are also in development.
      Now I know yer just pumping Opera as a web "browsing" purist. But your are distinctly fooled if you think for a second that web "browsing" does not include the constant use of web applications . Wow.. Slashdot is one such beast. Web applications are the future of the web and "browsing" and web "browsers" need to have the hooks and the smarts to make it a reality. So my question is, would you rather have a "browser" tha implements this in an open way, or one that seizes the openess and hooks that into the damn shell of the OS like this king of browsing platforms [microsoft.com]??? Another tidbit that might help make Mozilla a "browser" for ya..

      A simple qwestion, a simple answer [mozilla.org]

      2.1. Can I install just the browser, not the rest? Yes. Choose 'Custom' as your download or install option, and check both 'Browser' and 'Personal Security Manager'. (You will need the Personal Security Manager to use secure websites.)
  • by aengblom (123492) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @05:51PM (#4232059) Homepage

    Here's the google cache [216.239.35.100] for the Sky Shadow page... oh wait. heh.

  • - a bookmark organizer that dynamically sorts bookmarks based on what I've visited recently, and what order I typically visit them in

    - sidebars that automatically update themselves with my favorite XML newsfeeds

    - an MP3 (local or streaming) player in the sidebar or toolbar

    - a two-pane FTP tool that's at least as good as the ones I use for work

    Probably some of these are already under development, of course....
  • Oh, great, yet another concept that the media will jump all over, hype out of proportion, put up on a high platform for all to worship, make great claims & expectations for then, when it fails to meet such high ideals, skewer it with "what a bunch of losers" articles...

    Lets see now - Netscape, Java, thin computing, Linux, now (potentially) this. All hyped out beyond belief, all racing to keep up with the hype, all having troubles to clear the ever-raising hurdle, all being hassled by the press. All still great technologies, worth using and being used right now - it's just that none have knocked M$ off it's perch, despite the eager hyping of the press & some idiots...

    Perhaps a gradual accumulation will do it - thin-client computers running Linux, Java and Mozilla - no hype, just the quiet achievement.

    Hmmmm - sounds like the cheap-ass Celeron 1.7GHz workstations I'm installing at a client's to run apps from their intranet & the Internet - not a copy of MS-Office or Windoze in site (next time we'll use AMD too :)

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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