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The Mozilla project, largely sponsored by AOL-TimeWarner, has taken a dramatic turn.

Team leaders have advised Mozilla developers to abandon the "swiss army knife" approach for smaller and lighter applications, according to a statement posted on the mozilla.org site today.

In the statement, team leaders Brenden Eich and David Hyatt take the criticism on the chin, and the team has also vowed to tighten up its development methodology.

The winners include Phoenix, a fast and light version implementation for Windows and Linux, which becomes the focus of the project. Phoenix uses a different browser UI infastructure than Mozilla/Netscape 7, and offers many other advantages.

The losers are the cross-platform toolkit (XPFE) and the user interface language (XUL), which created a rich scriptable environment that can justifiably be described as a "platform". The Mozilla suite will favor standalone mail and composer applications in preference to the monolithic package developed now.

Eich and Hyatt acknowledge that there were many drawbacks as there were gains from an approach that was often critized for being unwieldy:-

While describing XUL as "a huge win (a "true economy") for customizers, localizers, distributors, and portable application developers", they note:-

"As intended, [XUL] allowed us to write a cross-platform application front end once, instead of writing native-OS-toolkit-based front ends for at least three platforms. But we ended up spending at least as many people and as much time on the various applications in the suite, and on integrating those application components, as we would have spent developing native browser-only front ends and one browser back end. "

Mozilla's UI complexities bogged down developers as much users, they note:-

"The inherently overloaded and complicated user interface (just one example out of too many: the File / New sub-menu). The target audience of the suite was never clear, and seemed to shift back and forth with prevailing business- and voluntary-contributor-driven winds."

You can read the full roadmap statement here.

Phoenix is a fast, light, themeable browser you can find here. For some time the project has needed a new name. On the discussion group today, one wit suggested that it now had one: "Mozilla". ®

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