The Book of Mozilla

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The Book of Mozilla, 7:15, displayed in Firefox 1.0
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The Book of Mozilla, 7:15, displayed in Firefox 1.0

The Book of Mozilla is a well-known computer Easter egg found in the Netscape and Mozilla series of web browsers.

Contents

About The Book of Mozilla

There is no real book entitled The Book of Mozilla. However, apparent quotations hidden in Netscape and Mozilla give this impression by revealing passages similar to the Book of Revelation of the Bible. When about:mozilla is typed into the location bar, various versions of these browsers display a cryptic message in white text on a maroon background in the browser window.

There are three official verses of The Book of Mozilla (official in the sense that they have been included in shipping releases), though various unofficial verses can be found on the World Wide Web. All three official verses have biblical-looking chapter and verse references (like 12:10, 3:31 and 7:15), though these are actually references to important dates in the history of Netscape and Mozilla.

The three verses all refer to the activities of a fearsome-sounding "beast". In its early days, Netscape Communications Corporation had a green fire-breathing dragon-like lizard mascot, known as Mozilla (after the code name for Netscape Navigator 1.0). From this, it can be conjectured that the "beast" referred to in The Book of Mozilla is a type of fire-breathing lizard, which can be viewed as a metaphor for (or personification of) Netscape.

While part of the appeal of The Book of Mozilla comes from the mysterious nature, a knowledge of the history of Netscape and Mozilla can be used to apply some meaning to the verses. Furthermore, the page www.mozilla.org/book has annotations for each of the three verses hidden as comments in its HTML source code. These comments were written by Valerio Capello in May 2004 and were added to the Mozilla Foundation site by Nicholas Bebout in October that year. While this may seem to signify that these explanations are authoritative, it should be noted that neither Capello nor Bebout are 'core' Mozilla decision-makers and there is no evidence that Capello's interpretations received any high-level approval from the senior management of the Mozilla Foundation.

Before Netscape 1.1, about:mozilla produced the text "Mozilla rules!". In some versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, a blank blue page is produced, which some have conjectured refers to the Blue Screen of Death.

The Book of Mozilla, 12:10

The Book of Mozilla first appeared in Netscape 1.1 (released in 1995) and can be found in every subsequent 1.x, 2.x, 3.x and 4.x version. The following prophecy was displayed:

And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days.

from The Book of Mozilla, 12:10

The chapter and verse number 12:10 refers to December 10, 1994, the date that Netscape Navigator 1.0 was released.

The page www.mozilla.org/book, which includes all three verses from The Book of Mozilla, contains the following explanation in its HTML source code:

<!-- 10th December 1994: Netscape Navigator 1.0 was released -->
<!-- This verse announces the birth of the beast (Netscape) and warns bad coders (up to Netscape 3, when you watched the HTML source code with the internal viewer, bad tags blinked). -->

The "beast" is a metaphor for Netscape. The punishments threatened towards the "unbelievers" (most likely non-Netscape users) are traditionally biblical but with the strange threat that their "tags shall blink until the end of days". This probably refers to the fact that invalid tags blinked in Netscape's internal HTML source code viewer (seeing tags blinking in this way would therefore be undesirable), though it could also be a reference to the controversial <blink> HTML element introduced by Netscape.

The Book of Mozilla, 3:31

On May 10, 1998, Jamie "JWZ" Zawinski changed The Book of Mozilla verse to reference the fact that Netscape had released its code as open source and started the Mozilla project. This verse was included in all Mozilla builds until October 1998, when a rewrite of much of the Mozilla code meant that the Easter egg was lost. On February 5, 2000, Ben Goodger, then working for Netscape, copied The Book of Mozilla verse across to the new code base. It was included in all subsequent Mozilla builds (until the introduction of the 7:15 verse) and Netscape versions 6 to 7.1.

The verse states:

And the beast shall be made legion. Its numbers shall be increased a thousand thousand fold. The din of a million keyboards like unto a great storm shall cover the earth, and the followers of Mammon shall tremble.

from The Book of Mozilla, 3:31
(Red Letter Edition)

The chapter and verse number 3:31 refers to March 31, 1998, when Netscape released its source code.

The www.mozilla.org/book page has the following comment in its HTML source about this passage:

<!-- 31st March 1998: the Netscape Navigator source code was released -->
<!-- The source code is made available to the legion of thousands of coders of the open source community, that will fight against the followers of Mammon (Microsoft Internet Explorer). -->

Again, the "beast" is Netscape. The text probably refers to Netscape's hope that, by opening its source, they could attract a "legion" of developers all across the world, who would help improve the software (with the "din of a million keyboards"). Some suggest that "Mammon" refers to Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer browser was Netscape's chief competition. The word "mammon", in various semitic languages, is related to money and riches; it appears in English translations of the Bible, and is sometimes used as the name of a demon of avarice. It may therefore imply not only that Microsoft has vastly greater funds to draw on, but that it has greedily abused that fact to further its own position in the marketplace; it also highlights the difference between the purely commercial development of Internet Explorer, and the new community-driven development of Netscape/Mozilla. "Red Letter Edition" may be a reference to so-called Red Letter Editions of the Bible, which print quotations by Jesus in red ink. It could also be a reference to a fact that March 31, 1998 was a red-letter day for the Mozilla project.

The Book of Mozilla, 7:15

The next installment of The Book of Mozilla was written by Neil Deakin. It is included in all versions of Mozilla released since September 2003 (Mozilla 1.5 and above) and all Netscape versions from 7.2 onwards (except some Netscape Browser prototype releases):

And so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced. But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird. The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire and thunder upon them. For the beast had been reborn with its strength renewed, and the followers of Mammon cowered in horror.

from The Book of Mozilla, 7:15

The 7:15 chapter and verse notation refers to July 15, 2003, the day when America Online shut down its Netscape browser division and the Mozilla Foundation was launched.

In the HTML source of www.mozilla.org/book, this verse is accompanied by the following annotation:

<!-- 15th July 2003: AOL closed its Netscape division and the Mozilla foundation was created -->
<!-- The beast died (AOL closed its Netscape division) but immediately rose from its ashes (the creation of the Mozilla foundation and the Firebird browser, although the name was later changed to Firefox). -->

The "beast" falling refers to Netscape being closed down by its now parent company AOL. The "great bird" that rises from the ash is probably the Mozilla Foundation, which was established to continue Mozilla development. The bird rises from the ash like a Phoenix — a reference to the original name of the Mozilla Firefox browser (known as Firebird at the time this verse was written). The bird casts down "fire" and "thunder" on the "unbelievers", which is a direct reference to the Mozilla Firebird (now Firefox) and Mozilla Thunderbird products, which became the main focus of Mozilla development a few months before the events of July 15. The fact that the beast has been "reborn" indicates that the spirit of Netscape will live on through the Foundation (which is made up mostly of ex-Netscape employees) and its strength has been "renewed" as the foundation is less reliant on AOL (who many feel neglected Netscape). Again, the "Mammon" is probably Microsoft, Mozilla's main commercial competitor.

See also

External links

Changes to about:mozilla page

www.mozilla.org/book

Articles about The Book of Mozilla

Collections of passages

de:Das Buch Mozillas et:Mozilla raamat es:El Libro de Mozilla fr:Le Livre de Mozilla it:Il Libro di Mozilla pl:Księga Mozilli

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