1: <h1>Let a Hundred Browsers Bloom</h1>
4: <p>The recently released <a href="http://wp.netscape.com/eng/mozilla/ns7/relnotes/7.html">Netscape 7</a> may be the most well known
5: browser built with Mozilla, but it certainly is not the only one. Mozilla is being used as a framework to create many different types of
6: applications including OEone's <a href="http://oeone.com/products/desktop.html">HomeBase DESKTOP</a>, ActiveState's <a
7: href="http://activestate.com/Products/Komodo/">Komodo IDE</a>, and <a href="http://www.mozdev.org/projects.html">all of the projects</a>
8: hosted on mozdev.org. People are also using Mozilla to create their own custom browsers <i>[link to brian's article]</i>. This article
9: provides a survey of most currently available Mozilla browsers, so you can try them out and find the one that works best for you.
12: <h2>Why Do We Need More Than One?</h2>
14: <p>One of the benefits of Open Source development is that it prevents someone from having to reinvent the wheel whenever they are working
15: on developing something that has been done before. Since the Mozilla community is already working on a browser, wouldn't it be better if
16: everyone just focused on making that browser as good as it can be?
18: <p>Instead of being a bad thing, the several different browser development projects that are currently underway are one of the Mozilla
19: community's greatest assets. The simple reason for this is that one browser can not be all things to all people. Each new type of
20: browser that gets built is filling a need that is not being met by any other existing option. Each new browser that is built also has
21: the potential to appeal to a whole new audience that will help expand Mozilla's adoption.
23: <p>Another positive benefit of having multiple browsers is that it helps avoid compromises that don't make anyone happy. AOL is
24: interested in using Mozilla to create a browser that appeals to novice Internet users, but the Mozilla developers who contribute their
25: time to the project want to create a powerful browser with a collection of advanced features. If the community is locked into working on
26: only one browser, then the end result of this development process will be a browser that has a bewildering array of features that don't
27: appeal to either intended audience.
29: <p>If one browser can't possibly appeal to beginning users and power users at the same time, why not create two different browsers? For
30: that matter, why not create as many different browsers as there are different types of users? Since all of these browsers are built
31: using Mozilla, web developers can create sites using standards such as HTML, CSS and DOM that work well with all of these browsers and
32: users can browse the web with whatever tool suits them best. Everyone wins.
35: <h2>Gecko Based Browsers</h2>
37: <p>There are two main types of browsers that are built using Mozilla. Some developers choose to create their application using XUL,
38: Mozilla's cross-platform XML-based User Interface language. Other developers prefer to use just Gecko, Mozilla's rendering engine, and
39: then create the interface of their browser using one of the toolkits native to a specific platform. There are Gecko based browsers for
40: each of the major operating systems in use today, including Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
42: <p>The goal of the <a href="http://chimera.mozdev.org">Chimera</a> project is to create a best-of-breed browser for the Mac OS X platform
43: with a user-interface that is as simple and as clean as possible. Chimera uses <a
44: href="http://www.mozilla.org/ports/fizzilla/Cocoazilla.html">Cocoazilla</a>, a variant of <a
45: href="http://www.mozilla.org/ports/fizzilla/">Fizzilla</a> that consists of a UNIX back end connected to a Cocoa front end. Since
46: Chimera uses a native toolkit to create it's GUI it can't run on any platform other than OS X, but since it doesn't use XUL it is
47: slightly faster than the regular Mozilla browser on the same computer. The most recent stable release, <a
48: href="ftp://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/chimera/releases/chimera-0.4.dmg.gz">version 0.4</a>, is available for download along with <a
49: href="ftp://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/chimera/nightly/latest-trunk/">nightly development builds</a>.
51: <p><img src="http://idisk.mac.com/mozilladave/Public/chimera.jpg"><br> <font size="-1">Chimera with sidebar open</font>
53: <p><a href="http://galeon.sourceforge.net">Galeon</a> and <a href="http://kmeleon.sourceforge.net">K-Meleon</a> are projects that also
54: have the goal of creating a simple standards-compliant browser using Mozilla's rendering engine. Galeon uses Gecko to create a browser
55: for the <a href="http://www.gnome.org/">GNOME</a> desktop and K-Meleon uses Gecko to create a Windows only browser. The latest stable
56: version of Galeon can be <a href="http://galeon.sourceforge.net/download/">downloaded</a> for a variety of Linux distributions. There
57: are also alpha versions available for <a href="http://galeon.sourceforge.net/galeon2/">Galeon2</a>, which is a new major version of the
58: browser that takes advantage of the huge changes in architecture in the new GNOME 2 desktop. The latest version of K-Meleon can be <a
59: href="http://kmeleon.sourceforge.net/download.php">downloaded</a> for Windows and it includes a number of stability and configuration
60: changes over earlier versions. Other Gecko based browsers include <a href="http://www.muhri.net/skipstone">SkipStone</a> and <a
64: <h2>XUL Based Browsers</h2>
66: <p>The other main category of Mozilla browsers include the projects building their applications using XUL. In many ways, these projects
67: are similar to <a href="http://mozilla.org/themes/download/">themes</a>, but they take the idea of customizing the browser one step
69: instance, a theme developer can create new images for the buttons in the main toolbar, but a developer can edit the toolbar to add or
70: remove buttons in their own browser.
72: <p>One of the first custom browsers, <a href="http://aphrodite.mozdev.org">Aphrodite</a> was created as an alternative to the default
73: interface that ships with Mozilla. Aphrodite includes a number of it's own themes, including FruityGum, Inferno and two flavors of the
74: Sullivan skin. The crash recovery system <a href="http://aphrodite.mozdev.org/total_recall.html">Total Recall</a> is also integrated
75: into the browser. Development work continues on Aphrodite, although currently there isn't a new release that works with the latest
76: version of Mozilla.
78: <p><img src="http://www.mozdev.org/sharedimages/sullivan_grape.gif"><br> <font size="-1">Aphrodite with the Sullivan grape theme</font>
80: <p><a href="http://beonex.com/communicator/">Beonex Communicator</a> is another XUL based browser that is a user-focused browsing suite
81: that also comes bundled with a mail client and a web page editor. The latest stable version, Communicator 0.8, is available for <a
82: href="http://www.beonex.com/communicator/version/0.8/">download</a> for Windows and Linux. Some other XUL based custom browsers include
83: <a href="http://mb.mozdev.org">Project Piglet</a>, <a href="http://mercuryspider.mozdev.org/">MercurySpider</a>, and <a
87: <p><h2>What's Coming Next?</h2>
89: <p>The browsers that are currently under development using Mozilla are just the tip of the iceberg. One of the most interesting
90: possibilities for future browser development comes from AOL, the same company that owns Netscape and that is the main sponsor of the
91: Mozilla community. Currently the Windows version of the AOL client software uses Internet Explorer as the core of it's browser, but
92: there are indications that this may soon change. If AOL were to switch and use Mozilla in a new version of their software, tens of
93: millions of people would be exposed to Mozilla.
95: <p>AOL has already made some moves in this direction. The latest version of the <a
96: href="http://www.apple.com/macosx/applications/aol/">AOL client for Mac OS X</a> uses Gecko as it's rendering engine. Gecko has also
97: replaced Internet Explorer in <a href="http://news.com.com/2100-1023-883808.html">CompuServe 7.0</a>, the latest version of AOL's other
98: online service. The decision to use Gecko in these two offerings are seen by many as ways for AOL to iron out any rough spots before
99: they move forward with releasing a Mozilla based version of their AOL client for Windows.
101: <p>Another interesting project to keep on eye on is <a href="http://mozilla.org/projects/phoenix/">Phoenix</a>. There isn't much known
102: about this yet, but there are some pages in bugzilla and on the mozilla.org site that have some information. It looks like Phoenix is
103: based off of an earlier project called m/b (short for mozilla/browser) and has a goal to create a user-friendly stand-alone browser that
104: is free from most of the constraits placed on the default Mozilla browser. Builds of Phoenix aren't available right now, but it is
105: possible to grab the source from Mozilla's CVS tree and build it yourself right now. There are instructions about how to do this in the
106: project's <a href="http://lxr.mozilla.org/mozilla/source/browser/README.html">README</a> file.
108: <p><img src="http://www.mozillazine.org/weblogs/asa/cust3.png"><br> <font size="-1">Phoenix with the Customize Toolbar dialog</font>
110: <p>If none of these browsers look like they are right for you, remember that you can always create your own browser with Mozilla <i>[link
111: to brian's article]</i>. Each of the projects listed here could use help with testing and development, so you can also contribute by
112: adding features or fixing bugs to make these browsers even better. This wealth of browser options is a great strength, so let's hope
113: that each of these projects continue to mature and innovate. Let a hundred browsers bloom so that we can all use the browser that is
114: right for us.