Mozilla unleashes Firefox and Thunderbird

The Mozilla Foundation this week released previews of its new Web browser, Mozilla Firefox 0.8, and new e-mail application targeted at the enterprise, Mozilla Thunderbird 0.5.

This is the first time Mozilla has separated the e-mail client from its Internet suite. The application was released this week under the name Thunderbird v0.5 — a preview version of its soon-to-be-released v1.0. Enhancements to Thunderbird include the ability to synchronize address books with Palm devices, improvements to Internet Mail Access Protocol (IMAP) Performance and more secure password authentication. Thunderbird has also improved support for lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP), improved migration from Netscape 4.x and added a better spell checker with an expanded English dictionary.

Firefox 0.8 sports a new download manager, which makes tracking multiple downloads easier, Mozilla said, adding that it is easier to manage bookmarks and to install on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows clients. Firefox 0.8 also boasts easier handling of extensions through small applications which extend the browser’s functionality, Mozilla said. More than 200 of these extensions exist and enable such functions as spell-check, removing ad banners and the ability to search sites such as from the Firefox toolbar. Also, Mac OS X users now have a new default browser that seamlessly integrates with the OS X desktop client.

David Senf, manager of IT business enablement at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto said these changes had to be made because Mozilla has always been known as a slow and clunky browser.

“Mozilla needed to pull it apart into separate modules so that it could be a faster interface for users and they don’t have to wait longer than they would in Internet Explorer for pages to load, for example,” he said. “Basically they’ve increased the speed of accessing the Net through the upgrade to v0.8.”

Firefox was previously known as Firebird, but the organization changed the name of the browser to avoid confusion with another open source project, the company said.

In addition to Firefox and Thunderbird, Mozilla recently released Mozilla 1.6 — an Internet suite consisting of a Web browser, e-mail application, a Web editor and Instant Messaging (IM) software. The company said it was downloaded almost a million times in the first 20 days it was available. Both Firefox 0.8 and Thunderbird 0.5 are available for download on Mozilla’s Web site. The company did not indicate when the mature versions would be ready.

Despite all these changes and activities going on inside the organization, Senf doesn’t think Mozilla will ever be able to come close to having the marketshare it did in the mid-1990s when it was Netscape — the top Web browser in the world.

“Given that Microsoft dominates the market, it would be a stretch to say that Mozilla/Netscape has a two per cent install base worldwide,” Senf said.

But does this mean he thinks it is time for the code to be euthanized? Has Mozilla’s fate been sealed?

“Not entirely,” Senf said. “I think there is still potential hope for the world’s, at one time, leading browser. In particular if we turn our attention to thin-client installments in call centres, or if we look towards developing markets in Asia-Pacific.”

Senf explained that thin-clients are often run off Linux to save money, and that markets in Asia-Pacific are increasingly looking towards open source solutions on the desktop. Mozilla is the only Linux-friendly Web browser.

So in a sense, Mozilla’s fate is tied to the fate of the Linux desktop. Due to Microsoft’s increasing integration of browser technology into its Office System, Senf said there is no real incentive for the average user to deploy Mozilla, so latching onto Linux is its best bet for success.

Firefox 0.8, Thunderbird 0.5 and Mozilla 1.6 are available for free on the organization’s Web site at

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