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Netscape unveils email client code

Communicator 5.0 has nothing left to hide now that the company will release the source code for Messenger.

Communicator 5.0 has nothing left to hide.

That's because Mozilla, which oversees the free source code development of Netscape Communications' Communicator software suite, today announced the release of source code for Messenger, the last major component in that suite to be unveiled.

Netscape announced early in the year that it would distribute to software developers the source code, or underlying software, of its Communicator products. On March 31, Netscape released the code for its Navigator browser and Composer HTML editor. The unveiling of Messenger will continue over the next several weeks.

Messenger software lets users read, send, and manage email and newsgroup postings.

While the code for a few remaining Communicator components has yet to be released, the Messenger code completes the package that developers are most keenly interested in working with, according to Mozilla manager Tom Paquin.

"Developers want to be able to build a Communicator that has integrated mail, Web, and newsgroup functions," he said. "Before today, they could do a fine job if they were doing something in the realm of Navigator or Composer, but in working with Messenger or if they were doing something to straddle Navigator and Messenger, they did not have a base on which to do that--until now."

Leaders in the open source community said the release of the Messenger code was crucial to Internet software development.

"Just about any initiative in the area of mail or messaging requires advancement on the server side and also a corresponding innovation on the client side," said Sendmail CEO and open source advocate Greg Olson. "Things have gone slower than they should have because the client-side source code was not in the public domain."

Sendmail delivers the open source program that runs more than 70 percent of mail servers on the Internet.

Developers have had to wait several weeks for Netscape to release the various Communicator components. Before the company can release source code, it first must go through it and remove third-party software, encryption features that federal law bans from export, and extraneous text that reportedly range from developers' phone numbers to unprintable expressions.

In related news, Netscape today announced that through its "Unlimited Distribution" program, launched earlier this year, more than 10,000 Internet service providers and other firms will distribute more than 100 million copies of the company's client software this year.