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O'Reilly Network: Mozilla as an Application Virtual Machine

May 20, 2000, 02:24 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Boswell)

"In his keynote address given at Computers, Freedom and Privacy in Toronto, Canada, on April 6, 2000, Tim O'Reilly talked about Open Source software and how the vision of Open Source projects tends to change over time. "Many of the greatest successes," he said, "come not from the vision of the original designer, but the uses to which newcomers put the original tool." ... Along those same lines, we're seeing Mozilla break ground in new areas not previously expected, such as Zope (a web content management platform) and Eazel (a next-generation Linux desktop)."

"Web designers are discovering that their skills can now be used to customize Mozilla in such a way that they are able to create their own applications. One of the greatest innovations in Mozilla has been the creation of a cross-platform front end (called XPFE) that has turned the user interface of Mozilla into a Web page. The look and feel, as well as the functionality, of the interface is created entirely out of standards that are used to created Web pages -- JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets, and XML. The XML component is embodied in a new language called XUL, the XML-based User Interface Language."

"These tools have enabled new levels of customization including:

  • Skins: You can change the look and feel of a Mozilla application by creating new skins for it. Examples of these include the Aphrodite and Sullivan skins.
  • Incorporating JavaScript: Beyond its changeable appearance, new functionality can be added to Mozilla apps with JavaScript. (See the Crash Recovery project for an example of this.)
By combining both of these features, it's possible to change the way Mozilla looks and feels to such a degree that it can be turned into anything: a spreadsheet, a word processor, or even a different type of browser. And the kicker is that these applications can run on virtually any platform."

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