Mozilla 0.9.2.1 AKA Netscape 6.1 Browser Source Code Released
Netscape Denies It Uses Mozilla Code for Netscape 6.1 Browser
Mike Angelo -- 14 August 2001 (c)
It is very likely that this Mozilla 0.9.2.1 source code is the code AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division used as the base for its Netscape 6.1 browser-suite upgrade for the Linux, Macintosh, and Microsoft Windows platforms even though the Mozilla Organization released Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 on 3 August 2001. If this sounds confusing, it is.
The Saga of Netscape 6.1 PR2 and Mozilla 0.9.2.1
Here is what we believe happened. This analysis is based on MozillaQuest Staff research, assorted announcements by Mozilla Organization developers, and information from anonymous sources. Please consider this explanation to be as much hypothetical as it is factual. If we obtain any additional or corrective information, this story will be updated accordingly. So please stay tuned.
That earlier plan called for the Mozilla 0.9.2.1 release and Netscape 6.1-PR2 to precede Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3. Then the final Netscape 6.1 edition would have followed NS 6.1-PR2 and Mozilla 0.9.3 based upon the Mozilla 0.9.3 code. However, that did not happen, exactly.
After the Mozilla 0.9.2 release, the Netscape developers did take control of the Mozilla 0.9.2 branch, as planned -- to prepare the Mozilla 0.9.2 browser-suite for conversion to Netscape 6.1 Preview Release 2. At that time, however, the Mozilla 0.9.2 branch was very buggy.
There were some 1,250 known bugs targeted to Milestone 0.9.3 and 1,652 bugs targeted to Mozilla 1.0. That's a total of 2,904 bugs targeted to those two, work-in-progress, Mozilla releases. All those 2,904 bugs were in Mozilla 0.9.2. They just were not expected to be fixed until release of the specified targets.
Because the Mozilla developers turned over such a buggy branch to the Netscape developers, we believe the Netscape developers found themselves faced with a terrible dilemma. The horns of the dilemma were (a) releasing NS 6.1-PR2 timely but with just too darn many bugs, or (2) getting behind schedule by taking the time to make some attempt to reduce the bugs. It appears they took the second choice.
However, that meant that the Netscape developers would miss the opportunity to release NS 6.1-PR 2 prior to release of Mozilla 0.9.3. When that became apparent, the plan was changed. They would leapfrog over NS 6.1-PR2 and go directly to the final Netscape 6.1 release, which they did.
Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 was released on 3 August and Netscape 6.1 was released on 8 August. However, Netscape 6.1 ended up being based on Mozilla 0.9.2 code rather than 0.9.3 code. For more information about those releases, please see our stories Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 Browser-Suite Released and Netscape 6.1 Browser-Suite Released Again?.
This might seem strange, and it is somewhat strange. However, if usual practices were followed then the work being done on the Mozilla Trunk development leading to the 0.9.3 branch in part was mirroring the work the Netscape developers were doing on the Netscape controlled, 0.9.2 pre-NS-6.1 branch and vice verse. If that did indeed happen, then the Mozilla 0.9.3 Milestone code will be close to the 0.9.2.1 code and the Netscape 6.1 code even though Netscape 6.1 technically is based upon Mozilla 0.9.2 rather than 0.9.3.
At this point the idea of a Mozilla Milestone 0.9.2.1 release became moot. Mozilla 0.9.3 already had been released. There really was not much sense to go through the time and effort of building the usual assortment of Milestone binaries for 0.9.2.1. So, the Mozilla Organization quietly, snuck merely the source code for Mozilla 0.9.2.1 in a Milestone release directory and left it at that.
Mozilla 0.9.2.1 Code is Netscape 6.1 Code?
While on the one hand the Mozilla browser-suite is Open Source Software (OSS), the Netscape browser-suite, which is based upon Mozilla, is closed/proprietary software. However, since the Mozilla 0.9.2.1 source files have the same date as the date the Netscape 6.1 binaries were released, it is quite likely that the Mozilla 0.9.2.1 open source code is pretty much the same as the Netscape 6.1 closed source code.
That means that you can get very close to the closed, basic Netscape browser-suite code by using the corresponding Mozilla open source code. The trick is to figure out which Mozilla source code is the code used by AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division to build a Netscape release's code base. Likely the Netscape division is not going to give you that information.
Can Netscape 6.1 Survive in the Browser Battlefield?
Starting with the first Netscape 6 preview release (Netscape 6-PR1), in April 2000 through the Netscape 6.01 edition, Netscape 6.x came under heavy criticism from the computer trade press, consumers, loyal Netscape fans, and developers.
The four dominant Linux distribution packagers, Caldera, Mandrake, Red Hat, and SuSE rejected Netscape 6.x for their most recent Linux distributions. That pretty much kicks Netscape off the Linux desktop. Microsoft's Internet Explorer kicked Netscape off the Windows desktop some time ago. Please see our two part series, Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars? Part I: Linux Could Be Netscape's Last Browser Battlefield and Part II: Why Are Major Linux Distributions Rejecting Netscape 6?
That put the pressure on AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division to win back all the consumers, discouraged loyal Netscape fans, and developers that it had lost since the release of Netscape 6-PR1. It also needs to convince the Linux distribution packagers that Netscape 6.1 is worthy of the Linux desktop. That could be a difficult task.
Has AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division pulled that off? Not yet, it seems.
So far, the major Linux packagers seem to prefer Mozilla to Netscape 6.x. Also, the major Linux distribution packagers include the KDE desktop and its Konqueror browser. Konqueror is a very nice browser and file manager, which is well-integrated into the KDE desktop. For more information about that please see our article Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 -- A First Look.
On the other hand, the Mozilla browser suite upon which Netscape 6.1 is based is a nice browser. And it has come a long way since early February, which is when Netscape 6.01 was released. Generally the new and improved features and performance of Netscape 6.1 are being received well by Netscape users and the computer press.
Moreover, the Netscape people have fixed or corrected many items that brought the uproar of complaints and criticisms when Netscape 6-PR1 was released. If AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division had put out what it now has in Netscape 6.1 as Netscape 6.0 a year ago, the Netscape browser's viability and future would be much brighter than what it is now.
Are Mozilla's Bugs Killing Netscape 6.x?
However, on 29 June 2001, which is when it appears that the Mozilla 0.9.2 branch was turned over to the Netscape developers for their Netscape 6.1 branch, there were some 2900 bugs in Mozilla, by conservative estimates. Even though the Netscape developers fixed lots of bugs after they took over the Mozilla 0.9.2 branch, there still are too many bugs for a commercial product.
If all these bugs were minor and/or unnoticeable things, then the high bug count might be something the Netscape division could get away with. That's not the case, however. Users are reporting lots of noticeable and annoying bugs in Netscape 6.1.
We ran a quick test of that complaint about Netscape 6.1 on a Hewlett Packard Omnibook 6000 with a 900-MHz Pentium III CPU, 128-MB RAM, and 20-GB hard drive running Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional. When Netscape 6.1 was opened with a blank page displayed, it took about 50-MBs of Windows memory (physical memory plus virtual memory). Displaying an actual Web page in Netscape 6.1 ran Windows memory usage up another 10-MB.
With six Netscape 6.1 windows open and displaying Web pages, NS 6.1 hogged about 91-MB of Windows memory. Adding two more NS 6.1 windows, for a total of eight NS 6.1 windows, cranked Netscape 6.1 Windows memory usage up to around 100-MB. After closing all but one of those Netscape 6.1 windows, NS 6.1 still hogged about 88-MB of Windows memory. In this quick test, Netscape failed to release nearly 30-MB of Windows memory.
In another quick test with six Netscape 6.1 windows open, NS 6.1 hogged about 109-MB of Windows memory. After closing five of those Netscape 6.1 windows, NS 6.1 still hogged about 99-MB of Windows memory. However, some five minutes later Netscape 6.1 had released more memory down to about 60-MB of Windows memory.
Nevertheless, that's too much Windows memory hogging and memory holding for a browser. There is no excuse for that sort of very poor memory management especially when the problem has been known and has remained uncorrected for well over a year. The failure to get Mozilla and Netscape 6.1 memory management under control is unacceptable product quality management.
For comparison purposes, Microsoft Word 2000 was opened on that same HP Omnibook 6000. With only the default blank page displayed, Word 2000 grabbed only 18-MB of Windows memory. Compare that to the some 50-MB of Windows memory Netscape 6.1 grabbed at launch for a blank page.
Opening a small RTF file in Word 2000 did not appreciably affect how much Windows memory Word 2000 grabbed. When a Web page was displayed in Word 2000, it grabbed an additional 20-MB of Windows memory for about 38-MB of Windows memory altogether. Compare that to Netscape 6.1 with a Web page displayed grabbing some 60-MB of Windows memory.
Please keep in mind that all these memory tests were quick and crude. We plan to conduct more thorough Netscape 6.1 and Mozilla 0.9.3 memory tests to make sure these quick and crude test results hold up.
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