IBM on the hunt for Firefox programmers

Big Blue looks to hire techies to adapt the open-source browser to work well with its server software.

In the newest indication that Firefox has become mainstream, IBM is trying to hire programmers to adapt the open-source Web browser to work well with Big Blue's server software.

A job ad posted on IBM's Web site said an emerging technologies team in IBM's software group wants programmers for "enhancing the Mozilla Firefox Web browser with new features complimentary to IBM's On Demand middleware stack."

An IBM representative on Wednesday said that the ad was for one position in the company's advanced technology group. The individual will make contributions to the Firefox project, the representative said.

The Firefox work could dovetail with IBM's effort to build its Workplace software, which moves several personal computer applications to a server that users access with a Web browser. IBM is spending $100 million on ensuring Linux computers can tap into Workplace servers.

Among Workplace abilities are instant messaging, word processing and spreadsheet calculations. Today, IBM supports use of Workplace with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla--including Linux support with the latter.

Firefox, an offshoot of the Mozilla project, has been eating into Internet Explorer's market share, but Microsoft's browser still is dominant. Firefox is now the default browser in the two most widely used Linux versions, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Suse Linux Enterprise Server.

RedMonk analyst James Governor helped surface the hiring move by pointing to an advertisement Wednesday that proved to be available only fleetingly. The ad was still available later on IBM's Web site.

According to the job ad, candidates should have "acceptance as a contributor in (the) Mozilla community," and programmers should have experience with the browser's Gecko rendering technology and the XPCOM technology for writing software that runs on different computer systems.

Since the rise of the Firefox browser last year, programmers involved in the project have seen a corresponding increase in their employment prospects.

Google has fueled speculation about its own interest in producing a Web browser by recruiting aggressively from Mozilla Foundation staffers and volunteers. In January, it hired both Ben Goodger, the lead engineer for Firefox, and Darin Fisher, who worked on back-end infrastructure while maintaining a post at IBM.

In recent weeks, Google also added to the payroll.

One long-term study of open-source software development has shown that participation in an open-source project can help boost job prospects.

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

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