Netscape planned to sever ties with Mozilla
Or is Mozilla cunningly trying to get its freedom onto the agenda?
Netscape was last month on the verge of cutting all its ties with Mozilla.org, the body charged with overseeing the Open Source development of Communicator 5.0, it has emerged. Netscape apparently became concerned that it was open to legal action if the work on Communicator 5.0 took in patented software -- Netscape would be left to pick up the tab if the owner of that patented code successfully sued Mozilla. The browser Satan's worries emerged earlier this week at a meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area Linux User's Group meeting in which Mozilla operative Jamie Zawinski. One option for Netscape was to spin off Mozilla, said Zawinski. "If someone sues a non-profit Mozilla.org, that's fine because we have no money," he added. Zawinski claimed Netscape's fears had faded somewhat -- the deal with AOL would rather overshadow lesser matters -- he added that they could yet re-emerge and force Netscape to sever its ties with Mozilla. Of course, Mozilla isn't exactly an innocent party here. As Zawinski himself said, Netscape and Mozilla are separate in spirit and have very different agendas -- and that probably goes double for AOL. Mozilla's agenda is to preserve the Open Source (or, rather, Netscape's modified version of it) nature of Communicator. While AOL CEO Steve Case recently said his company would continue to support the Open Communicator 5.0 initiative, he failed to guarantee that would apply to other versions. Spinning off Mozilla would be a good way of both insuring its independence and bringing the organisation even closer to the pure Open Source philosophy. Talking up Netscape's 'accidentally using patented software' fears is a good way of promoting that goal, whether Netscape ever really considered hiving it off or not. Certainly the chances of copyright code sneaking into core software doesn't seem to have overly worried other Open Source leaning companies, such as Sun. ® See also AOL Netscape deal questions Open Source commitment AOL speaks out on Mozilla support