Mozilla Foundation shifts focus with new browser

The Mozilla browser has reached its last incarnation as an integrated suite, while the organisation behind it is beginning to target end users.

The Mozilla Foundation has released the last edition of the Mozilla browser suite in its current form, before switching its efforts to a more streamlined set of products. Mozilla also released new preview versions of Firebird and Thunderbird, the stand-alone browser and email client that will replace the current all-in-one application.

The software is available on Mozilla's Web site.

The Foundation, created to shepherd the development of Mozilla following the implosion of AOL Time Warner's browser development efforts, is keen to show off the flashy features available in its software, at a time when developers are complaining that Microsoft has allowed its dominant Internet Explorer browser to go to seed. Microsoft has terminated the development of IE as a stand-alone browser and has stopped developing IE for the Mac, allowing bugs in technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to linger, according to developers.

In the meantime, the developers working on Mozilla--the open-source counterpart to AOL Time Warner's Netscape browser--have kept up a steady schedule of releases. Mozilla 1.5, following on from a preview release in August, includes improvements to tabbed browsing, such as the ability to bookmark sets of tabs, and various improvements to and bug fixes for the email and composer tools.

Mozilla and the Opera browser are among the last serious competition to Internet Explorer, although IE continues to control more than 90 percent of the browser market.

The organisation debuted beta-test versions of its stand-alone browser, code-named Firebird (version 0.7) and email client, code-named Thunderbird (version 0.3). In addition, in an effort to target end users more directly, the group is testing a more consumer-friendly Web site, and is offering CD-ROMs of its software for those who don't wish to download.

The Mozilla Foundation is also introducing telephone customer support, available at US$39.95 per incident.

Mozilla Foundation president Mitchell Baker said the shift away from AOL Time Warner has made it necessary for the Mozilla project to market itself directly to customers, instead of mainly to developers. "Now that we are an independent organisation, we will continue to aggressively develop our core technologies, but we will also focus more heavily on serving end users," he said in a statement.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.

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