When ZDNet Australia  wrote yesterday afternoon about the fact that open source developers were debating the end of the Mozilla Suite (code-named 'Seamonkey'), a final verdict has not been reached. Now one has. The Mozilla Foundation announced today that "The [current] 1.7.x line will be the last set of Seamonkey products released and maintained by the Mozilla Foundation."
The foundation cited the amount of work involved in maintaining both the stand-alone Web and e-mail applications Firefox and Thunderbird, as well as an integrated suite as at least one powerful reason not to continue official development of the suite. "We've committed to support the 1.7 branch some time ago," said the foundation. "If we ship 1.8 we'll need to support that as well, and we just can't manage that many versions as well as Firefox and Thunderbird releases."
While the official Mozilla Suite product is no more, however, it appears as if the actual software will live on. While the Mozilla Foundation will not spend any of its time or money on marketing or supporting the suite, it "will provide infrastructure support for community members who wish to develop Seamonkey".
There is precedent for this decision; the foundation currently provides hosting services for the Mini Mozilla (Minimo) and Sunbird projects, although it does not formally market or develop them as products.
And a community group has indeed sprung up in answer to the foundation's decision to end the suite. Developer Boris Zbarsky posted an open letter to the Mozilla Foundation today, proposing that he and a group of developers take over the development of the Suite, "using whatever resources can be organised for the process". Zbarsky further said that "the Mozilla Foundation is not involved in this if it doesn't want to be."
In its letter to the community on the official end of the suite, the foundation acknowledged Zbarsky's efforts and says that it "will support this plan and will work with interested parties to figure out strategy."
The new community-driven product will likely be branded as the "Seamonkey Suite", and will probably keep the same version numbering. According to Zbarsky and his co-signatories to his letter, this should allay "concern that current Mozilla 1.7.x users will see the new release as an official upgrade to Mozilla 1.7.x". However the Mozilla Foundation has yet to formally give permission for the Seamonkey name to be used.
Zbarsky's group of developers have set up a Wiki-based Web site for their new development effort, although information on the project is so far sparse.
Mozilla foundation president Mitchell Baker also weighed in more informally on the transition in an entry on her blog. Baker said: "There is a user and developer base that remains interested in Seamonkey. In a traditional proprietary world those users and developers would be out of luck, stuck forever using the last version received from the vendor or forced into an unwanted upgrade. In the open source world this need not be the case, and Seamonkey is an example of this."
"Like many open source projects," she continued, "the Mozilla project is characterised by contributors who are fervently devoted to the technology, the projects and the releases they believe important. It's no surprise that a portion of our community remains attached to the Seamonkey suite - these are some of the folks that made Seamonkey so good in the first place."
"It's no surprise that a group wants to continue developing new features for Seamonkey - this is the commitment that gives the Mozilla project the power to be effective. An active Seamonkey community project reflects the success of the Mozilla project as a whole," concluded Baker.