Mozilla to be Replaced by Phoenix, Thunderbird

In a new development roadmap published to its Web site, the Mozilla Organization outlined its future plans, which include a migration away from the current Mozilla suite to a leaner offshoot dubbed Phoenix.

Phoenix is a redesign of the Mozilla Web browser solely using the cross-platform XUL user interface language without Mozilla's bulky XPFE toolkit. Rather than integrating all functionality into a single suite, Phoenix supports extensions that enable developers to tack on features as needed without bloating the core code base.

Users and developers alike have long complained about the heft of Mozilla due to its all-in-one nature. "We've all known forever that Gecko missed its 'small-and-lean' target by an area code," wrote Mozilla staffer Mike Shaver in his online journal, "and we've been slogging back towards the goal, dragging our profilers and benchmarks behind us, for years."

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"Phoenix is simply smaller, faster, and better -- especially better not because it has every conflicting feature wanted by each segment of the Mozilla community, but because it has a strong "add-on" extension mechanism," reads the Mozilla roadmap.

Along with replacing Mozilla's Web browser component, the current integrated e-mail client will also be dropped in lieu of Minotaur, which serves as a mail companion to Phoenix. Developers plan to create a variant of Minotaur using XUL under the code-name Thunderbird.

Mozilla 1.4, currently in its alpha stages, will be the last stable release before the migration takes place. "The major changes after 1.4 involve switching to Phoenix and Thunderbird," in addition to fixing bugs in the Gecko browser engine, according to the roadmap.

Along with the new roadmap for Mozilla, Phoenix itself will receive a name change for its next release due to legal issues, the Mozilla Organization says.

It is not clear how the transition to Phoenix will affect AOL, which uses Mozilla for its Netscape browser. However, sources tell BetaNews that Netscape 7 may be the last major revision, as AOL shifts focus back to its faltering subscriber base.

AOL recently released a preview version of AOL Communicator, an e-mail and instant messaging suite designed to woo power users. Built upon Gecko and XUL, Communicator offers users an alternative to the limited functionality of the AOL client.

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