Print
Creating Applications with Mozilla

Let One Hundred Browsers Bloom

by David Boswell, coauthor of Creating Applications with Mozilla
09/12/2002

The recently released Netscape 7 may be the most well-known browser built with Mozilla, but it is certainly not the only one. Mozilla is being used as a framework to create many different types of applications, including OEone's HomeBase DESKTOP, ActiveState's Komodo IDE, and all of the projects hosted on mozdev.org. People are also using Mozilla to create their own custom browsers. This article provides a survey of most currently available Mozilla browsers, so you can try them out and find the one that works best for you.

Why Do We Need More Than One?

One of the benefits of open source development is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel whenever you're working on something that has been developed before. Since the Mozilla community is already working on a browser, wouldn't it be better if everyone just focused on making that browser as good as it can be?

Instead of being a bad thing, the several different browser development projects that are currently under way are one of the Mozilla community's greatest assets. The simple reason for this is that one browser can't be all things to all people. Each new browser built is filling a need that's not being met by any other existing option and has the potential to appeal to a whole new audience, which in turn will help expand Mozilla's adoption.

Another positive benefit of having multiple browsers is that it helps avoid compromises that don't make anyone happy. America Online is interested in using Mozilla to create a browser that appeals to novice Internet users, but the Mozilla developers who contribute their time to the project want to create a powerful browser with a collection of advanced features. If the community is locked into working on only one browser, then the end result of this development process will be a browser that has a bewildering array of features that don't appeal to either intended audience.

If one browser can't possibly appeal to beginning users and power users at the same time, why not create two different browsers? For that matter, why not create as many different browsers as there are different types of users? Since all of these browsers are built using Mozilla, Web developers can create sites using standards such as HTML, CSS, and DOM that work well with all of these browsers and users can browse the Web with whatever tool suits them best. Everyone wins.

Gecko-Based Browsers

There are two main types of browsers that are built using Mozilla. Some developers choose to create their application using XUL, Mozilla's cross-platform, XML-based User Interface language. Other developers prefer to use just Gecko, Mozilla's rendering engine, and then create the interface of their browser using one of the toolkits native to a specific platform. There are Gecko-based browsers for each of the major operating systems in use today, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

The goal of the Chimera project is to create a best-of-breed browser for the Mac OS X platform with a user interface that is as simple and as clean as possible. Chimera uses Cocoazilla, a variant of Fizzilla that consists of a Unix back end connected to a Cocoa front end. Since Chimera uses a native toolkit to create its GUI it can't run on any platform other than Mac OS X, but since it doesn't use XUL it is slightly faster than the regular Mozilla browser on the same computer. The most recent stable release, version 0.4, is available for download, along with nightly development builds.


Chimera with sidebar open.

Galeon and K-Meleon are projects that also have the goal of creating a simple standards-compliant browser using Mozilla's rendering engine. Galeon uses Gecko to create a browser for the GNOME desktop and K-Meleon uses Gecko to create a Windows-only browser. The latest stable version of Galeon can be downloaded for a variety of Linux distributions. There are also alpha versions available for Galeon2, which is a major new version of the browser that takes advantage of the huge changes in the new GNOME 2 desktop's architecture. The latest version of K-Meleon can be downloaded for Windows and it includes a number of stability and configuration changes over earlier versions. Other Gecko-based browsers include SkipStone and Q.Bati.

Pages: 1, 2

Next Pagearrow