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Mozilla 1.0 nears release

The long-awaited open-source version of the Netscape Web browser reaches a major development milestone as it nears a first official release.

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The long-awaited open-source version of the Netscape Web browser has reached a major development milestone as it nears a first official release.

The 3-year-old Mozilla project has finally stopped adding major new changes as its developers prepare a final 1.0 version of the software. Previous beta, or test, versions have been circulating for years.

Because it is an open-source project, individual programmers who view the source code over time and suggest their own changes have done much of the development. That's made for a slow process and has led many even inside the open-source community to lose faith in Mozilla's relevance.

The ongoing repository of code, dubbed the "tree" by programmers, has been closed to major new additions. The first full 1.0 version is scheduled to be released sometime in the next few weeks.

"The tree just closed in preparation for Mozilla 1.0," read a message posted Wednesday on Mozillazine.org, a site that tracks the open-source project's progress. "So far, it's looking promising."

The open-source project has gained some wind in recent weeks as reports surfaced that America Online, the corporate parent of Netscape, may start shipping the Netscape browser to its AOL members instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. AOL has been testing parts of the Mozilla code inside its software and inside its CompuServe service, prompting speculations that it is considering a release of the software to its subscribers.

The latest versions of Netscape have been deeply intertwined with Mozilla, originally built on source code released by Netscape in 1998. The Netscape 6.0 browser was released based on early versions of the open-source Mozilla code, but it drew considerable criticism for bugs and unwieldy operations. Netscape fixed many of those problems in subsequent versions.

Netscape has lost some adherents to the dark horse Opera browser, which has slowly grown a substantial user base populated by people unhappy with market leader Internet Explorer.

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