The source code is the underlying recipe for Netscape's browser, email, and other Internet software. By releasing an early version to the public on March 31, the company gave the Net development community a green light to get familiar with the code and eventually create new software products based on it.
Norway-based Troll Tech took Netscape's code, nicknamed "Mozilla" after the Netscape dragon mascot, and turned it into a demonstration browser created for Linux. Linux, a Unix variant that runs on PCs, is popular among developers because it is available for free and, like Mozilla, the source is open for all developers to peruse and use. Netscape executive vice president Marc Andreessen is expected to discuss this week his company's plans to make Linux a top-priority development platform for Netscape products.
Troll Tech cautions that the browser, dubbed QtScape, is for demonstration purposes only and still has "bugs and features missing." The company has grafted its own Qt graphical user interface (GUI) onto the Mozilla code, seemingly the type of innovation Netscape is hoping developers will bring to the open source project. However, some contributors to Netscape's Mozilla discussion list have pointed out that the Qt GUI is not cross-platform (it doesn't run on Macintosh, for example) and therefore doesn't meet the Mozilla project's objectives.
In typical hacker fashion, the Qt development team says it spent five straight days and nights working on the browser.
The Mozilla project is based on a common principle in open source development: the code is available for all to see, and anyone can add his or her expertise to the development process. Netscape programmers remain in charge of the core code set, incorporate changes, and release updated versions. Netscape last week released the first update and posted the changes for developers to peruse.
For legal reasons, the March 31 Mozilla release stripped out many regular features of Netscape's browser, such as Java and encryption software. Since the release, however, a team in Australia has added strong encryption to the free Mozilla code to create a secure version, and plans are under way to create a Java version.