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Updated Mitchell Baker, lead of the Mozilla browser project, appears to have been laid off by employer AOL-TW.

AOL acquired the rights to market the Netscape browser in 1998, and has underwritten much of the open source development work on the project, which after years of rewrites is finally, it's generally agreed, getting there.

Baker announced the news in this Usenet posting, and MozillaZine reports a "major vendor" is likely to step in and pick up sponsorship of the AOL-TW work.

We've been unable to get an official response from AOL/TW.

It's significant in light of recent upheavals in the Sun-AOL/TW (and we're as sick of that slash as you are) partnership which saw several hundred AOL/TW staff reassigned to Sun, mostly in the iPlanet division.

Whether Mozilla - which is not only a fine, upstanding browser in its own right but also the backbone of a number of fast-improving offshoots like Galeon and Stepstone [but certainly not Konqueror, as we wrote here originally] to name but two - will miss AOL is a good question.

From a technology point of view the answer's probably no. If it ever did... From a marketing perspective however, AOL's distribution muscle is important in getting the browser into the hands of ordinary users: the kind of users, in other words, who unlike us, haven't grown grey hairs unzipping tarballs and resolving weird dependencies. And there are more of them then us, remember.

Thanks to all Mozilla folk for putting us straight.®

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