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September 1, 2000

WriteTheWeb has an article from last week discussing K-Meleon, a new Gecko-based web browser for Windows. (Gecko is the HTML rendering engine used by Mozilla.) Since pre-release builds of Mozilla are already available for Windows, it's might not be clear why such a project would come about. The fact is, Mozilla has grown beyond a mere web browser to become some sort of vague cluster of Internet-related technologies with the ability to define its user interface in XML. This is very flexible, but it has two major shortcomings:

  1. None of the onscreen controls are "real" in the sense of being known to the underlying operating system. That is, a button created by Mozilla won't necessarily look like a button in any other program on your computer, it won't necessarily act like any other button, and it won't necessarily pick up any advanced button-behavior enhancements you might make on your system.
  2. It's really slow.

K-Meleon, like Galeon before it, takes the simple and powerful Gecko engine and builds a web browser around it using native UI toolkits. The result is fast and familiar and fairly small (about 3MB). I haven't tried it out myself, as I only use Windows at work, but my experience with Mozilla has generally been positive as far as the rendering engine is concerned.

This is one of several projects making use of the Mozilla source code (another cool one being Nautilus, which Doc Searls compares to the Mac's Finder). It's good to see so much interesting work coming out of the release of the Mozilla source code, but there is a dark side as well. Netscape's Mozilla-based project (Netscape 6) has been in development for a long time--too long, some claim--and hasn't met with the kindest reviews. How many people will attribute this to Mozilla biting off more than it can chew rather than the "inherent risks" of open-source or standards-compliant software?

That aside, I think it's a cool trend. I never liked the idea of Mozilla being a do-everything-Internet-related, funky-interface-sporting monster: I'm all for a lean, mean browsin' machine. In fact, I think you'd get a killer brower by adding the Gecko engine to iCab, which has nice features like understanding LINK tags and being able to filter images based on size or URL.