Mozdev.org Made Easyby David Boswell, coauthor of Creating Applications with Mozilla
mozdev.org is the home of over 90 Mozilla-based development projects (with its orange and red design, the site also sort of looks like the inside of a McDonald's). The site provides free project hosting for Mozilla application developers, and anyone who is interested in using Mozilla for application development is welcome to start their own project there.
This brief introduction to mozdev will provide some background about where the site came from, how it fits into the Mozilla community, what you'll be able to find on the site, and how you can find out more.
Now that mozilla.org is about to release Mozilla 1.2 and Netscape has come out with the latest version of their own Mozilla-based browser, Netscape 7, this is a great time to see what other people are building with Mozilla's cross-platform development framework.
Do you want fries with that project?
Where Did Mozdev Come From?
In August 2000, CollabNet acquired Alphanumerica, an Internet design and production company that was working on a number of different Mozilla projects. These included the Theme Builder, Script Editor, and Total Recall projects, as well as the Aphrodite, Fruity Gum, and Sullivan browsers.
After the merger, it was necessary to find a new place to host these projects, since the Alphanumerica site was going to be taken down. Fortunately, CollabNet just happens to make a project-hosting tool for open source projects called SourceCast. The rest of the story plays out like the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial. "Hey, you got your open source projects in my project hosting tool ..."
At the end of September 2000, mozdev.org went live hosting the original Alphanumerica projects. At launch it was announced that any other Mozilla developer was welcome to start their own project on the site, as well. In the two years since then, more than 90 projects have been started or moved to the site and one or two new projects are added each week.
Where Does Mozdev Fit?
There are many different sites that provide information, tools, and resources to the Mozilla community. Asa Dotzler explains how each of these different sites work together: "In anatomical terms, I think of mozdev, mozilla.org, and mozillazine as three primary organ systems operating together to sustain the flourishing Mozilla community. Without all three of these systems working well, we would not be where we are today."
Each of these sites serves a different main function. For example, mozilla.org provides a lot of the same development tools and resources as mozdev does (including bugzilla, cvs hosting, and newsgroups), but the focus of the two sites are on different things. The mozilla.org site is where the core Mozilla source code is developed. The projects hosted on mozdev create applications and add-ons that are based on top of that source code.
There are also several great Mozilla advocacy sites, including mozillaZine, MozillaNews and O'Reilly's Mozilla DevCenter, that are already providing current news to the community. The news on mozdev complements these sites by providing updates on the projects and tools hosted there.
What Is Hosted There?
There are a wide variety of different projects currently being hosted on mozdev, ranging from Abzilla, a project that is working on adding LDAP support to the address book, to XULmine, a XUL-based version of Minesweeper. There are other gaming projects hosted on the site, such as Amoeba, a game engine that allows anyone to create classic "Super Nintendo"- or "early Final Fantasy"-style games. There are also several arcade style games that can be found at the Games project, including Mozinvaders, Mozteroids, Pagman, and Xultris.
Other projects include Optimoz, which is an add-on to Mozilla that adds support for gestures and pie menus in the browser. There are also add-ons for a spellchecker, an advanced tabs enhancement with MultiZilla, and a collection of browser themes. There are also add-ons for other applications, such as Enigmail, which adds GPG and PGP encryption support to Mozilla's mail client, and CaScadeS, which adds a stylesheet editor to Mozilla's HTML composer.
In addition to add-on projects, there are a number of projects working on community evangelism and documentation. For instance, the EU and Meetzilla projects are working on coordinating Mozilla developer meetings in Europe and in the United States. PluginDoc is a repository of information on how to install current and legacy browser plugins. MozFR and PolMoz are projects that are translating current Mozilla documentation into French and Polish. The recently-released Creating Applications with Mozilla book is also hosted on the site. People are invited to come to the books project and help keep the content up to date as Mozilla continues to evolve.
Some stand-alone Mozilla-based applications that are hosted on the site are Chimera (a small, fast Gecko-based browser for Mac OS X), Jabberzilla (a Mozilla-based Jabber client), and newsAlert (an emergency broadcast application that keeps you informed of breaking news). To find out more about the other projects hosted on mozdev, check out the all projects list, the Top 50 list, the project categories page, and the Project of the Week page.
How Can You Find Out More?
If you are interested in finding out more about mozdev and the projects hosted there, be sure to check the news feed here on O'Reilly's Mozilla DevCenter, which provides a great overview of what is going on. To catch up on what's happened so far, you might also want to look through the mozdev news archive and mozillaZine news archive to see how far the Mozilla community has come since the original source code was released in March 1998.
One other great resource for finding out news about Mozilla-based projects are the Independent Status Reports that are posted regularly to mozillaZine. If you have questions about a project hosted on mozdev and would like to talk to the developers directly, try posting your question to one of the mailing lists or come by #mozdev on Mozilla's IRC server.
David Boswell has been involved in the Mozilla community for more than six years. He is also a coauthor of Creating Applications with Mozilla and helped launch mozdev.org.
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