The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: August 26, 1999

Whatchew Talkin' 'Bout Willis?
(A Brief Introduction to Mozilla Technology)

By: Ben Goodger

Some people must like my old site (Millennium VII) since it still gets visits, and I get the odd email asking when something is going to appear, or for some help with something.

Being lazy, I seldom answer. But that does not mean I'm not here. I still am. As the more astute may have noticed, I posted a wee notice on the main page saying I'm performing some structural updates. And that was true. I have modified my design somewhat, and am preparing my site for the coming of Netscape Navigator 5.0. Its a slow process however and changes will come when I get time, or when I feel like making them. Since Millennium VIII (the identical, structural update) is nothing more than a service release, updating tens of pages is rather tedious. By the end of the year, I hope to have M8 completely online.

What have I been doing in the mean-time? Well, two things mainly, school (which is of little interest to anyone other than me, so I shall not discuss it), and working as part of the Mozilla project, which should be of interest to everyone, and something that I like evangelizing. So here's my spiel.

Mozilla is the fluffy Godzilla-like lizard mascot of Netscape Communications Corp., which you probably already know. He appears in various places, in the browser user_agent, in various easter eggs (like about:mozilla), and his name also applies to the project to build the next version of Netscape Navigator.

You may not have heard much about this project, unless you read online news sites like CNet. If that's the case, then you probably have the idea that the project is ailing, years overdue, in need of serious attention. Not all of that is untrue - the project is late, and it needs all the bug-testing help it can get. But I digress.

The Mozilla Organization is located at It is the home of the various projects that are aimed at producing a Navigator 5.0 that not only kicks the ass of Internet Explorer 5.0, but one that will continue to kick it for the visible future. The official name of the project to create Communicator 5.0 is called "Project Seamonkey" (Save the Seamonkeys!)

Seamonkey comprises all the elements of Navigator 4.x, plus loads of extra features I won't mention. They're self evident if you download a milestone (mostly stable, fast, small). What's more interesting is the fact that the user interface of the program is written in an XML derived language called XUL, and with JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets.

JavaScript is widespread, and you may have some experience with Style Sheets. XUL on the other hand, is an emerging language that I am priveledged to be one of the first people to use. Other than the fact that it is unfinished, and more than a little buggy, it is extremely exciting.

XUL lets you define the appearance of an application (e.g. the Navigator web-browser, or Composer editor) in an HTML-like language, and then program its actions with a simple language like JavaScript rather than C++. C++ is hard.

Okay. If you haven't pushed "Back" yet, you're obviously interested. But I won't blind you with science, has all the docs available in an engineer-friendly format at

What does this mean for you? Well, Mozilla/Navigator 5.0 will be completely SKINNABLE. Create skins like you have skins for WinAmp or NeoPlanet. But these skins are (in my opinion) easier to create since they use a cousin of language you're probably already familiar with (HTML). For example, the browser window is an IFRAME (currently only supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer), the location field is an HTML INPUT text box, etc. Rollover images and links are done using the CSS2 :hover pseudoelement you may have seen/tried in Internet Explorer 4/5.

Not only can you change the appearance of all the toolbar buttons, toolbars, statusbars, dialogs etc, you can add new features. If you're a die-hard JavaScripter like myself, this is an exciting prospect. You can extend the Preferences dialog, add a toggle-images button to your toolbar, customize your sidebar, thats only the beginning. Even the MENUs are customizable. Want to put a java applet in your Edit menu? (heaven forbid).. its do-able!

Since this is a SM site, I'd better mention an SM application - you can create a SM skin. If you're more intrepid, you can modify the menus to give you quick menu/toolbar button access to your favourite sites.

If you have a really good idea for a feature that could be added to the next version of Navigator, mail me, or better yet, load your news program and go to news://

Netscape 5.0 will be the first fully standards compliant browser ever. It will be fast, it will be small, and it will be good. This is obvious to me even at this stage in development. expects the product to be at public-beta level sometime in November this year.

If browsers interest you as intensely as they interest me, send me mail at the address below.

Comments on this article can be sent to: Ben Goodger.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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