Mozilla Turns Twenty Years Old
Written by Sue Gee   
Saturday, 31 March 2018

March 31st, 1998 was the date on which the Mozilla Code was made available under the Mozilla Public Licence and the day the Mozilla Project was formally launched.




Three thirty-one, as the historic date was referred to in Netscape circles, represented a massive amount of hard work achieved in just seven short weeks to after Netscape's announced its intention to open source the code for Netscape Communicator 5.0

Two announcements had been made by Netscape Communications Corporation on January 22nd, 1998. The first was that its Netccape Communicator client software and its Netscape Navigator browser were being made available free in a bold move to attract more users.

The keypoint of the second announcement was:

The company plans to post the source code beginning with the first Netscape Communicator 5.0 developer release, expected by the end of the first quarter of 1998.

The press release went on to explain:

This aggressive move will enable Netscape to harness the creative power of thousands of programmers on the Internet by incorporating their best enhancements into future versions of Netscape's software. This strategy is designed to accelerate development and free distribution by Netscape of future high-quality versions of Netscape Communicator to business customers and individuals, further seeding the market for Netscape's enterprise solutions and Netcenter business.

To put the announcement in context this was the era when Microsoft, which has licensed the popular Mosaic browser, had created Internet Explorer, Version 1.0 had been  released it as part for the Windows 95 Plus! Pack in 1995 and in October 1997 when Internet Explorer 4 was released it was integrated into Window, which gave it a large installation base.

As Mitchell Baker recalls in her post today on the Mozilla Blog, at the point that Netscape announced that it would open source the Netscape Navigator code there was a great deal to do:

On that date [January 22, 1998) the code was not ready, we didn’t know which free software / open source license we would use, and we didn’t have a structure for running an open source project. That was pure Netscape style.

She continues:

By 3/31 the code had been cleansed of proprietary code owned by others that Netscape couldn’t open source, a new open source license (the Mozilla Public License) had been created and approved by the Open Source Initiative and a small band had created “” as the governance body for the new open source project. 

Despite Netscape's efforts within twelve months Netscape had been acquired by AOL. 

If you want a reminder of this era, and in particular to share the experience of the Netscape developers, Code Rush is a documentary covers Netscape's last year as an independent company, from its announcement of the Mozilla open source project until the acquisition by AOL. It particularly focuses on the last minute rush to make the Mozilla source code ready for release by the 3/31 deadline, and the impact on the engineers' lives and families as they attempt to save the company from ruin.




More Information

How I coined the term 'open source'

6 pivotal moments in open source history

Related Articles

Open Source Celebrates 20 Years

The Web - The Early Years

The Perils Of Mozilla

Mozilla Open Source Support Program


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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 December 2018 )