Why Support Mozilla

A Mozilla-based browser is a web browser that is based on the Mozilla Open Source movement, and makes use of the Gecko layout engine which is at the core of the software. This article tells you why supporting this growing family of Gecko based browsers is important.

Summary: 7 Good Reasons To Support Mozilla

  1. Mozilla supports Web Standards, so you can do away with annoying browser-specific code forks.
  2. Mozilla is cross-platform -- support Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, and others platforms. Future-proof your site!
  3. Mozilla keeps abreast of the future of the Web, and already supports Web Services protocols such as SOAP.
  4. Mozilla offers web developers a plethora of cross-platform tools such as a JavaScript debugger.
  5. Mozilla is open source and you can ask for help with your developer questions via IRC and newsgroups.
  6. Mozilla is highly customizable -- create a browser that incorporates the look you want, with cool and useful add-on modules available.
  7. Mozilla has frequent releases, making it easy to make the latest features available to users.

What Does Supporting Mozilla Mean?

A feeling of dread is likely to overtake web developers when they hear about yet another class of browsers that they have to support. More proprietary hacks to their code? Yet more code forks? In short, it sounds like more worry. Why bother?

The good news is you no longer have to rely on proprietary browser-specific workarounds and hacks in Mozilla browsers. Save yourself that lugubrious overhead, and do away with code forks! One of the key benefits of Mozilla is that it is the most standards compliant browser there is. This means that instead of relying on browser-specific mechanisms to get your content to display as you intend it to, you can send content to your users using W3C standards. For most websites, this would mean:

  • Using standard markup: HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.x, or even XML for content structure
  • Using stylesheets: CSS for presentation or even XSLT
  • Interacting and manipulating a document in a standard way: W3C DOM APIs exposed via JavaScript for dynamic presentation

All of these are W3C standards, and Mozilla has leading support for these and other standards. Any browser that conforms to standards ought to display content written according to the standards in a consistent way. This is in fact the goal of these standards - to extricate developers from the morass of proprietary display mechanisms that was the staple of the Web during the early days. The good news is that leading browser vendors have got robust support for standards, including Safari 2.x, Internet Explorer 7, Opera 9.x and browsers based on Mozilla. In essence, this is what supporting Mozilla means: supporting the Web Standards that are now implemented in many browsing applications, and minimizing code forks.

The early days of the Web were rife with proprietary code forks that used nuanced browser-specific heuristics to detect which browser the code was running on. Web developers are likely to remember this particular code fork with a shudder:

if (document.all)
  // This must be IE
  // Do things that work only on IE
  // Generate IE-specific markup
  // Use IE-specific DOM 
else if (document.layers)
  // This must be Netscape 4.x
  // Do things that work only on Netscape 4.x
  // Generate Netscape 4.x-specific markup
  // Use Netscape 4.x-specific DOM

Mozilla's support for standards yields developers some concrete benefits - important one is it decreases the maintenance nightmare of supporting various different code forks for different browsers - developers can now support Web Standards, unlike the code fork depicted above, since standards are becoming the norm in many browsers. This is particularly true given the fact that Mozilla based browsers work on many different platforms, and your pages can be rendered the same way on many platforms.

Support Multiple Platforms by Supporting Mozilla

Thinking about different platforms is the best way to future-proof your site, and supporting Mozilla is the best place to start. Mozilla based browsers can display web pages in exactly the same way on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X (or any other platform that they are built to run on). In fact, being cross-platform in a consistent way with identical behavior on all platforms is one of the core tenets of Mozilla's engineering team. Here is a quick short list of some Mozilla based browsers and the platforms your pages can be rendered on if you support Mozilla-based browsers:

The Internet is moving in the direction of more platforms, not fewer platforms - everyone acknowledges that there has been a veritable boom in Internet-capable devices. Since Mozilla is open source, the number of platforms the source code can be built on has not yet been seen. Supporting Mozilla by adherence to standards ensures that future devices can be built that are aware of how standards-based content is structured, and adjust accordingly. An example might be applying style to transform a display to fit a hand held device, as in the case of the PDAize feature of Daniel Glazman's Web Log.

Mozilla Heralds the Future of the Web

By supporting Mozilla based browsers, you will have your finger right on the racing pulse of the latest tendencies in web development. Mozilla provides good and improving support for the standards that were mentioned before (XML, XHTML, CSS, DOM) but also support for web services based on XML protocols such as SOAP. The ability to generate dynamic client-server interactions without fresh page loads in a safe environment is a real paradigm shift for web content. The next generation of web based transactions suggest rapid data-driven connections without presentational overhead. Mozilla provides this today with a low-level SOAP API and support for the XMLHttpRequest object for basic XML exchanges. Improved support for SOAP is on the way! Also, builds of Mozilla contain experimental support for inline SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) - in which graphics and data are all in an XML document that you can manipulate via the DOM. Open source development processes allow many engineers to build future capabilities into the browser, and by supporting Mozilla, you'll always be abreast of what the latest capabilities are.

Mozilla Offers Useful Cross Platform Tools

One boon to web developers is the fact that the Mozilla standalone browser has an integrated debugger -- an extremely helpful tool for you to use as you build a standards compliant site. The Venkman JavaScript debugger allows you to run your site's code through it and determine where errors lie, and it is completely cross platform. It is launched right from the Tools menu (select Web Development) of the Mozilla standalone browser, and works in the same way on Linux, Windows, and OS X. Another nifty tool is the DOM Inspector, which allows you to inspect the DOM of any web document on any platform. It is also available via the Tools menu under Web Development and is a part of the Mozilla standalone distribution. These tools are helpful in supporting a wide variety of browsers, and by supporting Mozilla, you gain the advantage of being able to use these tools.

Mozilla Has The Attention of the Open Source Community

Imagine how much easier your life would be if you had an armada of developers to help you with your questions. One benefit of supporting Mozilla is that it has the attention of the enthusiastic and thriving open source community. Several hundred developers participate in Mozilla's open development process. The browser bug database is open to all, and developers can log bugs and see their resolution interactively. The news groups are a dynamic medium in which to exchange information with other developers, and also a place to find skilled developers to answer your questions. Sites such as mozdev.org also provide useful toolbars and widgets that you can employ within your enterprise. The best part about this is that this is usually a free sharing of experiences, tips, and pointers, not a pay-per-incident technical support hotline. And by participating, you can help others as well.

Mozilla Is Highly Configurable

Supporting a browser by sending it the right kind of content is one thing, but imagine if you could distribute a browser to your end users that was completely customized to your enterprise, especially including its look and feel? For example, imagine a major football team distributing a themed browser showing the team's colors and mascot to their fan base from their website. The look and feel of Mozilla is highly customizable, or skinnable. The user interface itself is in XML (in a user interface language called XUL - short of XML User Interface Language).

Original Document Information

  • Author(s): Arun Ranganathan
  • Last Updated Date: August 28, 2006
  • Copyright Information: Portions of this content are © 1998–2007 by individual mozilla.org contributors; content available under a Creative Commons license | Details.

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