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Key Mozilla developer moves on

A key figure in the group developing America Online's Web browser has announced his departure, adding to a string of defections by AOL's technologists.

A key figure in the group developing America Online's Web browser has announced his departure, adding to a string of defections by AOL's technologists.

Mike Shaver, a Canadian who bore the whimsical title "international incident," headed developer relations and open source evangelism for Mozilla.org, the AOL-sponsored group shepherding the open source development of the Communicator Web browser, acquired last year along with Netscape Communications. Shaver also was involved with product architecture and some coding work.

In an open source development model, the source code to a piece of software is made publicly available. Developers volunteer their labor, and anyone can use the resulting product under the terms of a public license.

Shaver succeeded Mozilla founder and open source advocate Jamie Zawinski, who resigned on the eve of Mozilla's first anniversary in April last year.

Zawinski left Mozilla expressing frustration that after a year of work the project had failed to produce a full-featured, usable browser. Since Zawinski's departure, Mozilla has encountered still more delays, though the project reached a significant milestone with a relatively complete trial version, dubbed "M12," last month.

Shaver said his departure should not be seen as a vote of no-confidence for Mozilla. He said one of the conditions for accepting his new job--at a company he would not name--was that he could continue his involvement with Mozilla on a part-time basis.

"One of things that made it possible to leave with a clear conscience was the success of the M12 release," Shaver said in an interview. "Six or eight months ago, the commentary on our builds was pretty negative, but now well over half the comments are positive. I certainly think Mozilla is in great shape, and that's one of the reasons I want to stay involved. Nobody wants to keep involved with a project that's failing."

Shaver said his most important accomplishments during his brief tenure were helping corporate contributors to Mozilla--including Intel and IBM--and bringing more developers on board with the project.

AOL has had difficulty retaining key Netscape talent since the acquisition. Departures have ranged from high-level executives to key figures in client development.

Shaver, who posted notification of his impending departure to the Mozillazine news and discussion site, will serve through Jan. 31.