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Composer to get another hearing

Despite its history as one of the earliest mass market Web authoring tools, Composer was recently put on the back burner by Mozilla. Daniel Glazman wants to change that.

When Mozilla.org announced plans last month to focus development resources on separate browser and mail applications, a pioneering Web authoring tool called Composer was left a software orphan.

But a contributor to Mozilla, Netscape's open-source development group, plans to rescue Composer from its current limbo.

"If you read (the) last Mozilla.org staff meeting's minutes, you know that I proposed myself to maintain Composer," Daniel Glazman, a Mozilla contributor and Netscape software engineer based in Saint-German en Laye, France, wrote in his Web log. "I did that because I do care about this product, and because I do think it has a great potential."

Composer's potential may indeed be great, but its recent past has been less than good.

Although Composer was one of the earliest mass market applications for Web authoring and survives as a component of the free download Netscape 7, it has fallen by the wayside as Microsoft FrontPage has taken over the low end of the market for Web authoring tools and Macromedia Dreamweaver has dominated the high end.

Last month, when Mozilla announced it would scrap its unwieldy, feature-packed browser for a leaner version called Phoenix, it simultaneously announced plans to develop the Netscape mail client along with Phoenix, under the name Minotaur. (Both those names were abandoned because of trademark conflicts.)

Three other Mozilla components--the date book, Calendar; the instant messenger, Chatzilla; and Composer--were put on the back burner, albeit with assurances that they wouldn't be going the way of Collabra and Netcaster, other applications once bundled with Netscape under the Communicator suite that no longer exist under Mozilla.

"We're not sure yet how they'll evolve--whether they'll become standalone toolkit applications...or popular add-ons to Phoenix," read the road map. "But we're committed to supporting them to the fullest extent required by their owners, including providing daily and milestone builds of them for community testing and feedback."

Minutes from an April 28 Mozilla staff meeting where Glazman volunteered to take ownership--an open-source development term indicating authority over a project--indicated that Composer would live on as an extension to the new Mozilla browser rather than a standalone application.

Glazman has other plans, however.

"We should make a standalone Composer," Glazman wrote in his blog. "One should be able to install and use a content editor based on (Mozilla's browser engine) Gecko without having to install the corresponding browser. It's not an easy task, but it's mandatory."

Glazman and Mozilla could not immediately be reached for comment.