David Hyatt raises some interesting questions in his recent “It’s just the UI, stupid” blog. He says that Netscape is being hampered in user interface development for the Netscape browser of fights with random Mozilla contributors who block bugs and make comments that some features are “bad for Mozilla.” He notes that no company develops a product this way and says Netscape should have complete control over the UI of their product. Okay. The sticking point is what happens with Mozilla. Mozilla is not a company.
So far, Mozilla has been fairly open to anyone logging UI bugs and submitting patches. Unfortunately, these patches frequently cause usability problems. There are no UI review and polish requirements other than module owner approval. This needs to change. Matthew Thomas has already pointed out many of the problems with free software usability and its design process. A better process needs to be worked out.
If Netscape and Mozilla were to fork UI, what would happen with nightly builds? Would they continue to have the Mozilla UI? Would there be more than one UI? The current interfaces are similar enough that Netscape may feel it’s getting resonable testing. If they were to diverge more, how would Netscape react?