Phoenix, Minotaur, and Mozilla

I’ve gotten some questions about how Phoenix relates to Mozilla. Here’s how I see things as an interested bystander that doesn’t have any inside knowledge about the project. (David Hyatt’s quiz may also help you understand the differences between Phoenix and Mozilla.)

The Phoenix Project’s goal is to build the best web browser for most people. The Phoenix readme says “the interface will not be ‛geeky’ nor will it have a ‛hacker-focus’. Nor will it be ‛minimal’.” The project was started and is run by some of the core Mozilla developers that were frustrated by the restrictions and pressures placed on the Mozilla browser. They didn’t like the compromises forced on Mozilla due to marketing and other pressures within Netscape/AOL. They also wanted to work more quickly and with fewer check-in restrictions. In some cases they wanted to experiment with optimizations that may also be applied to the Mozilla code.

Will Phoenix replace Mozilla? Well, I suppose that depends upon what Mozilla means to you. Phoenix currently builds on top of Mozilla and shares a bunch of the code. Most of the changes in Phoenix are related to the user interface (UI), which is the part of the browser that you see and interact with (menus, toolbars, buttons, dialogs, etc.) Phoenix is going to be just a browser, not an entire suite of applications (email, address book, news reader, irc client, HTML editor, slicer-dicer, julienne fry maker). Don’t let that disappoint you, though. The Minotaur Project is working on a standalone mail client. Other Mozilla components will likely be available as add-on extensions.

The developers hope that if they focus on a particular application they will be able to build it better and make better decisions. They recognize the importance of being able extend the application and are planning for it.