Last modified: April 1, 1999 11:10 PM PST
AOL, Mozilla lose key evangelist
As reported, longtime Netscape client engineer and Mozilla.org pioneer and evangelist Jamie Zawinski handed in his resignation today, and subsequently took to the Web to explain his decision in terms harshly critical of AOL, Netscape, and Mozilla.org--not to mention his own role.
"For whatever reason, the project was not adopted by the outside," Zawinski wrote in his "resignation and postmortem."
"In my humble but correct opinion, we should have shipped Netscape Navigator 5.0 no later than six months after the source code was released," he continued. "But we [the Mozilla.org group] couldn't figure out a way to make that happen. I accept my share of responsibility for this, and consider this a personal failure."
Zawinski's surprise move comes as a blow to Netscape's new owner, America Online, which has so far warded off any high-profile defections from the vital engineering and development divisions of Netscape, which AOL acquired last month.
AOL said it regretted Zawinksi's resignation.
"We're very sorry to see him go," said Chris Saito, director of client product marketing for AOL's Netscape division. "Jamie has made some great contributions to Mozilla.org and helped us get where we are today.
"But I want to highlight that Mozilla.org will continue," Saito said. "Mozilla is bigger than any one person or any one company. It's comprised of hundreds of developers on the Web, and some at Netscape. We hope that Jamie continues to contribute to Mozilla.org."
Mozilla.org was set up by Netscape in January 1998 to shepherd the open source development of its Communicator browser code. Netscape decided to publish the source code to its browser and give the product away free of charge after Microsoft made rapid and significant inroads into its once-monolithic market share.
Zawinski has done more than contribute code to Netscape's open source effort. He was the original Mozilla.org evangelist, and spent much of his time between the group's January 1998 formation and the April 1 source code release explaining the open source model to Netscape management and staff.
In an open source development model, the source code to a piece of software is made publicly available. Developers volunteer their labor and anyone can use the resulting product under the terms of a public license.
Zawinski also initially rallied the dubious Mozilla.org troops when the acquisition by AOL was first announced. Ironically, he then sounded the same theme that Saito and others are sounding now about his departure: That the Mozilla public license ensures that the open source project will outlast any one person or firm.
Zawinski made only limited references to AOL in his resignation manifesto, but published another page excoriating AOL for practicing censorship on the Internet.
"AOL is about centralization and control of content," Zawinski wrote in a page dated March 31. "Everything that is good about the Internet, everything that differentiates it from television, is about empowerment of the individual. I don't want to be a part of an effort that could result in the elimination of all that."
Zawinski has not refrained from publicly criticizing his employer in the past, and renewed those criticisms today.
"Netscape has been a great disappointment to me for quite some time," Zawinski wrote, citing the company's growth from an scrappy Internet pioneer to a large, more deliberative firm. "The more people involved, the slower and stupider their union is," he continued.