Firefox welcomes Microsoft's offer of help

Firefox welcomes Microsoft's offer of help

Summary: Mozilla has accepted Microsoft's offer of help in porting Firefox to Vista, but some issues still need to be ironed out


Mozilla has accepted Microsoft's offer of help towards ensuring interoperability between Firefox and the upcoming Vista operating system.

Microsoft's offer to help came on Saturday when the director of the company's open source lab, Sam Ramji, posted an open letter to a newsgroup used by Mozilla developers. Microsoft offered to open up a new open source facility at its headquarters in Redmond to Mozilla software engineers, including giving them one-on-one time with Microsoft people. The offer includes help with the Thunderbird email client.

In reply, Mike Beltzner, a "phenomenologist" for Mozilla and the company's spokesman on this issue, said: "Yes, we'd definitely be interested in getting some one-to-one support".

But Beltzner pointed out that Mozilla had already "been testing on Vista" with Firefox and Thunderbird "as well as working to ensure that we take advantage of the new 'Default Program' infrastructure".

Default Program is a new feature Microsoft has added to Vista to avoid the problem of applications taking over common functions, such as playing music or browsing the Web, from each other. Rather than letting competing applications fight, it will give the user a single interface for deciding which programs should do which jobs. More details are available on this document, released by the Microsoft Windows Application Experience Group earlier this month.

Beltzner said in a newsgroup posting that there were many areas that the Firefox and Thunderbird teams could usefully explore with Microsoft's help, including the "effects of running in the new application security mode, interacting/integrating with InfoCard, integration with the common RSS data store and services [and] integration with the Vista calendar and address book".

Beltzner said he was also excited at the prospect of the new "Microsoft  Windows Vista Readiness ISV Lab" as described by Ramji in his original message. "The facility and program that you describe should really help to ensure that we get the proper integration issues looked at for Firefox 2 and Thunderbird 2," Beltzner wrote.

Beltzner also warned that one of the main issues for Mozilla was support for third-party software developers. "Do you know if there are any spots for other open source groups that are using Firefox/XULRunner as a platform such as Songbird and Democracy, or Flock?" Beltzner asked.

"Something like a checklist of the most common OS integration points that have changed from Windows XP would be extremely useful," he pointed out, adding that it's important that this is "accessible to organisations that can't afford to send people to Redmond".

Both Microsoft and Mozilla appear keen to bury the idea that the two are warring tribes when it comes to open source. This recent move by Microsoft to openly welcome Mozilla and its browser, even though Firefox is the principle competition for its own Internet Explorer, appears to be part of a new trend for the company.

For example, at Microsoft's Tech Ed conference in Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday,  Frank Arrigo, a development evangelist with the company, was quick to extinguish any suggestion that Microsoft's browser-based "Live" services would not work as well — or at all — with browsers other than Internet Explorer.

"I know for a fact that the Live team themselves spend a lot of cycles on the non-IE browsers. I don't think there is a conspiracy theory saying we are not going to support other browsers," said Arrigo.

The Firefox team themselves have shot down one conspiracy theory. Last Saturday, Ramji wrote that he had posted his invitation online "in case their [Mozilla's] spam filters are set to block email addresses".

"Heh," Beltzner replied. "No such blocking exists, I assure you."

ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins and ZDNet Australia's Munir Kotadia contributed to this report.

Topics: Apps, Software Development


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • Let's get one thing straight -- Usenet/NNTP groups are NOT blogs, nor is it the other way around. Rather, they are more like a fully-threaded web board. Calling newsgroups "blogs" only makes ZDNet look out-of-touch, especially since newsgroups have been around a lot longer than the public internet.
  • Good thing to see that Firefox accepted this meeting. Opera Software had a similar meeting just a week ago and as far as I know it was fruitful:
  • "in case their [Mozilla's] spam filters are set to block email addresses".
    Apparently M$ thought all competitors thought their way. Hotmail and MSN blocked out everyone except IE
    users a few years ago. But, I agree that anything that comes out of sharing vista code with Mozilla developers with only help the consumer.
  • What a bunch a'malarkey. Purchased a used late model IBM notebook a few weeks ago. Microsoft will NOT allow me to use the OS update platform, with my current browser, Firefox. Fuggin lyonsacksohdoodie them Microsofties.
  • Hopefully the EU is listening. It looks like that the current Vista documentation (still) requires such amounts of additional ear whispering (or amounts of budget plenty of small budgeted programmers don't have access to; note, imagine if they did) that Microsoft found a need to invite an Open Source team over.

    Question is why. Perhaps there's indeed (still) a need for additional ear whispering (please don't sign anything legal, guys, since the devil is usually in the details only to be found out about later on) to make something usefull out of the documentation. Or only the people they want to are allowed to be able to afford it (have access to it). Well, no matter how well written documentation is, that's still restricted (or limited, or controlled) access in my book. Might as well have not written the documentation then for those who are left out.

    So yes, the first step in colloboration is of course starting mutual communications. But given plenty of history lessons I would proceed ahead carefully and cautionally. And keep in mind that there are legal battles being fought.