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AOL speaks out on Mozilla support

CEO Case's statements seem to reiterate status quo

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AOL CEO Steve Case has made his first official statement on the future of Mozilla, the open source browser project set up by Netscape earlier this year. According to Eric S Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), a self-appointed body that seeks to promote open source software, who claims to have been in communication with Case, the AOL supremo promised his company will actively back the Mozilla project. "We certainly intend to continue to support Mozilla and the open source community," Raymond reports Case as saying. "Indeed, I hope our involvement will further energise Mozilla.org and rally even more support among developers." Case was also reported as saying: "We share your view that the agenda of Mozilla is and should be set by those who contribute to it. We will contribute too -- in part by maintaining the autonomy of mozilla.org." Case's statements come after increasing concern that AOL might seek to sideline Mozilla, formed by Netscape to oversee the open source development of version 5.0 of its Communicator suite, which includes the Navigator browser (see AOL Netscape deal questions open source commitment). The key phrase is "we will contribute too" -- Case's other words, as reported by Raymond, are positive but don't actually commit AOL to anything. After all, anyone can say they support something -- providing real backing for a project can be another matter. The message 'I hope the sky doesn't fall in, and I hope my hope that the sky doesn't fall in will encourage others to hope the sky doesn't fall in' isn't actually going to stop large chunks of the big blue yonder plummetting to the ground. But what contribution does Case have in mind? Good question, and from what he's been reported to have said, we can't say. "Maintaining the autonomy of Mozilla.org"? Well, there's not a lot AOL can do about that -- the source, as they say, is out there. What will really show AOL's backing for the open source model is a categorical statement -- or an effective statement, demonstrated by action -- that AOL will ensure future iterations of Netscape's browser software will be released under an open source licence and that it will take the work of the open source community on board. The only trouble is that Case's statements, as reported, do not provide that guarantee. We're arguably in no more optimistic a situation than we were when the Netscape buyout was announced -- open source supporters would perhaps do well to take Case's comments with more than a pinch of salt. ®

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