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Mozilla Application Suite - Transition Plan

March 10, 2005

In 2003 we announced our intention to shift development focus from the integrated Mozilla Application Suite (commonly referred to as "Seamonkey") to a new generation of applications -- the Mozilla Firefox browser and the Mozilla Thunderbird mail and news client. That shift in focus occurred almost immediately, as the Mozilla Foundation was formed and we hired the lead developers for Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird. At that time we also stated our intention to maintain a long-lived, stable 1.7.x version of Seamonkey. We noted that a number of commercial distributors ship Seamonkey and will need the means to maintain it for their customers. There is also a user and developer base that is fond of Seamonkey and would like to maintain it. We have continued with this maintenance plan as well, with a 1.7.6 release scheduled for the next few weeks.

In the last few months we have also been releasing a series of 1.8 alpha and beta releases. The goal of these releases has been to test the changes to the back-end aspects of our codebase. Most users are familiar only with the "front-end" of our code -- the actual end user applications that provide browsing and mail functionality. But underneath this layer of code is a deep, complex layer of infrastructure that makes things work behind the scenes. There's no reason for end users to be aware of this foundation, just as most of us aren't aware of the details of the foundation of the skyscrapers we visit. But it is critical, and continued development and testing of this layer is vital to keeping our applications healthy.

The ongoing alpha and beta releases of Seamonkey 1.8 have suggested that the Mozilla Foundation itself will be creating a 1.8 final release. This is not our plan. The 1.8 releases have been for testing our backend. We intend that the 1.7.x line of releases will be the last long-lived, maintained versions released by the Mozilla Foundation. There is no doubt that the series of 1.8 alpha and beta releases have caused some confusion about whether there would be a 1.8 product released by the Mozilla Foundation. In addition, a set of people have done a non-trivial amount of work on 1.8 features, thinking this would be part of an official Mozilla Foundation release. This has been a major error on our part. These contributors have reason to be unhappy with us. We can only apologize, at the same time recognizing that apologies only go so far and can't fix the error.

Our plan for the Seamonkey suite is as follows:

  1. The 1.7.x line will be the last set of Seamonkey products released and maintained by the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation will provide infrastructure for those interested in working on the 1.7.x releases, which we expect will include a number of vendors who provide these products to their customers. We've committed to support the 1.7 branch some time ago. If we ship 1.8 we'll need to support that as well, and we just can't manage supporting that many versions as well as Firefox and Thunderbird releases.
  2. The Mozilla Foundation will provide infrastructure support (CVS access, bugzilla, development tools, etc) for community members who wish to continue to develop Seamonkey. This community group may wish to do formal releases of Seamonkey, much as the Sunbird and Minimo developers do. We support this. We probably won't use the same naming conventions, as we need to be clear that this is not a Mozilla Foundation product release.
  3. Boris Zbarsky has posted an open letter to the Mozilla Foundation signed by a set of interested parties, laying out a community transition plan. We support this plan and will work with interested parties to figure out strategy. There will undoubtedly be some implementation details to be worked out (e.g., can we actually use Seamonkey as a formal trademark, how do we work the tinderbox machines, etc.).

The dedication to the product, the initiative of the developers and the proposal of the transition plan as a solution are all hallmarks of the Mozilla community. We support this effort completely.