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  1. Gervase Markham wrote on ::

    Neither the Mozilla nor the Netscape engineering teams thought that Netscape 6 was ready. The most infamous example of this was bug 20847. As I recall, the problem was that Netscape 6 was unable to maximise itself in the normal manner on the OS; instead, it simply set its width and height to the screen width and height. This means that, unlike a maximised window, you could catch the edges and drag them around, often accidentally. And it would not remember its maximised state across restarts. This was all deeply irritating.

    One Netscape engineer wrote to me, on 23rd October 2000:

    “Hey guys –

    You’ve all recently pleaded for a fix in bug 20847 . I felt I should say something. There is actually a patch to fix the problem posted to sibling bug 32148 . It’s been there for a week. Netscape management is in final clampdown mode on the Netscape 6.0 release branch, and it’s safe to say this bug won’t make it into Netscape’s release. It’s been fought over — I tried once again this morning — and it won’t happen.

    On the other hand, the patch is slowly working its way closer to making it into the trunk, and it’ll be in subsequent releases, possibly including the more honestly monikered Mozilla 0.9. …”

    Note the phrase “more honestly monikered”.

    Another example of the speed with which the release was rushed out was that the default install dir for NS 6 final is “Netscape 6 PR 3″. (PR stood for “Preview Release”.) My email archive has a copy of the release notes, which are a pretty long document. 1 month before the release, there were 256 open bugs with a ‘relnote’ keyword, although some of them were for the developer release notes. One example entry in the release notes reads “Keyboard shortcuts are not fully implemented. Some shortcuts for for editing (for instance, for cutting or copying text) do not work in certain dialog boxes. Several keyboard shortcuts for menu items do not work.” The release notes do not mention bug 20847 at all. Another example of a serious bug they passed over is bug 49180, a significant IMAP dataloss bug.

    I held a sweepstake on how long it would take them to ship the first bugfix release. It was won by Jerry Baker , with a guess of 2001-01-15, which was only off by a couple of weeks. Most people thought it would be far sooner than that (a triumph of optimism over experience?).

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  2. dboswell wrote on :

    I have a shirt from the Netscape 6 launch that was promoting a theme contest Netscape was running as part of the release. On the front it says ‘www.netscape.com/themes’ and the back says ‘Wanted: Multiple personalities for enhanced Internet experience’.

    Being able to create themes for the browser was a new thing for Netscape because it was now using the Mozilla code that let people create add-ons. Making a theme though wasn’t as easy a process as it is now where you can upload an image to the Addons site and go through a simple submission tool.

    Pete Collins and I had been working on some add-ons at a small web design company in New York and had gotten some attention for some of the stuff we were doing, including a theme for the browser called Fruity Gum. It was intentionally over-the-top to see what all was possible to change — for example, one of the screenshots below has a cute little dinosaur image in one of the menus.

    http://www.mozdev.org/sharedimages/screen1.gif
    http://www.mozdev.org/sharedimages/screen2.gif

    We got connected to someone at Netscape who wanted to make a tool to help people make new themes and we built an add-on for Netscape 6 that gave people a graphical tool to edit an existing theme or create a whole new one. There are screenshots of it at

    http://chameleon.mozdev.org/screenshots.html

    The Theme Builder tool worked, but we never really finished it since there were some bugs in Netscape 6 that were hard to work around (see comment above). That campaign for the launch ended and we didn’t do more on the tool, but we did open all the code at

    http://www.mozdev.org/source/browse/chameleon/

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  3. Robert Kaiser wrote on ::

    It was showing enough how ready Netscape 6 was when you looked at the Mozilla project behind it. The source behind Netscape 6 was only the first version of the Mozilla suite to even get a version number at all (before that we had only “milestones” M1 to M18) – and the version number was 0.6! It was pretty clear to everyone that it was far from 1.0, and it would take quite a bit of time from there to 1.0, actually.
    I had been one of the most active localizers in the community for a while already at this point, the first German version of a Mozilla milestone release had been out there since January 1, 2000. I had tried to email people at Netscape offering to build a Netscape 6 localization for German but didn’t get any response. Then they actually released a German version of it and not just was the code not ready, the localization was horrible. For example, “Apply Theme” was localized to “Apple-Thema” (which translates back to “Apple Topic”, roughly)! I later heard that an Irish translation agency was paid to do that work, and I guess the first time a native speaker saw it was when they release it to the public. On the other hand, I had been and continued to constantly improve Mozilla’s community localization based on feedback from people using the early milestones (and then prerelease and release versions), just like we do with Firefox and other products today.
    Apparently, a lot of people at AOL/Netscape still didn’t understand the community at that point and how it can achieve pretty high quality.

    (David, as a side note on themes – while doing the wallpaper-style themes nowadays is easy, the theming support Netscape promoted back then and which we still have nowadays as unfortunately pretty well-hidden “full themes” are capable of much, much more customization and can create really out-of-the-world looks. But yes, they were and still are a lot more work.)

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  4. Marcia wrote on :

    I remember that day well – especially all the commotion in the Building 21 lobby on the day we shipped. There is a poster that was signed by all of the individuals that worked on Netscape 6 that has since been donated to the Computer History Museum in Mt. View (along with a lot of other Netscape memorabilia). Here is a picture of the jacket that was given out to the members of the Client Product Development team – see http://www.flickr.com/photos/77594984@N07/8782375953/.

    I guess my perception of the day is a bit different than others – to me it was a moment in time, and we learned a lot from it. Although it was not the most auspicious release, there were a still a number of individuals who worked very hard to get it out the door – and that is the part that should not be forgotten.

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