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Mozilla 1.1 debuts to mixed reviews

The new browser is faster and easier to use, according to its developers. But some users are saying the software still has a ways to go.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
3 min read
The Mozilla.org open-source project introduced the latest version of its Web browser this week, aimed at improving speed and performance, but the software still has a ways to go, some consumers say.

The group, sponsored by AOL Time Warner-owned Netscape Communications, launched Mozilla 1.1, free Web browser software that is the product of collaborative efforts of open-source developers. The latest full release makes improvements to the browser's stability, Web site compatibility, and standards support.

The software's introduction comes only months after the debut of Mozilla 1.0, the group?s first completed browser, which was in the works for several years. Netscape spun off the Mozilla open-source project in 1998 to give Web developers a toolkit for creating new browsing features that might appear in coming iterations of Netscape's proprietary engine. The Mozilla technology has also been used as the foundation for other open-source browsers, such as Linux-based Galeon from the open-source development project GNOME.

But the release has had mixed reviews from various technology community sites. Slashdot.org, for example, posted comments from some people complaining that the browser doesn't have a spell-check and that it's buggy with Sun Microsystems' programming language, Java.

"I've been a Moz 1.0 user since it was launched, and I've been very pleased with it," wrote one user on Slashdot. "Many nice touches, like tabbed browsing...banning images from ad-serves, anti pop-up and so on...Having downloaded Moz 1.1 the difference is not so great as expected."

Any full launch of open-source software is a milestone, analysts say, because it's often a giant effort to corral the advancements of many developers into one product. Open-source licenses allow developers to freely modify and redistribute the software, as long as the modifications are returned to the community.

Mozilla is used by a small community that researchers estimate is in the low single-digit percentile of the browser market, which is dominated by Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Still, Mozilla commands a passionate following.

"If you have a religious aversion to Microsoft products; if you feel Netscape went too commercial when AOL bought it; if you don?t want to pay money for Opera, then Mozilla is clearly in your sweet spot," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

Mozilla 1.1's focus on speed shortly follows Opera's announcement that it has rewritten its browser code to favor faster, more efficient Web software. The Oslo, Norway-based company, which describes Opera as the "fastest browser on earth," is on the verge of releasing a trial, or beta, version of Opera 7, which will resemble its predecessor only in superficial ways.

With the latest release of Mozilla, consumers will find the browser faster and easier to use. The new version has better support for standards including HTML and Document Object Model (DOM), an emerging standard technology that lets scripts, like JavaScript, act on individual elements of a Web page. Opera also plans to introduce software with better support for DOM.

The browser improves on layout performance for dynamic HTML, for example. It can now run in full-screen mode on Linux machines. The software also lets people view Web-enhanced e-mail as plain text. The browser can be used with the Mac OS 8.5 and later, or Windows 95 operating system and higher.

Yet Mozilla comes head and shoulders above commercial browsers, wrote the user on Slashdot.org: "In general, there is nothing IE can do for me that (Mozilla) can't. And (it) is just...a smoother ride. Plus it's got good karma."