The Book of Mozilla
There is no real book titled The Book of Mozilla. However, apparent quotations hidden in Netscape and Mozilla give this impression by revealing passages in the style of apocalyptic literature, such as the Book of Revelation in 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 six official verses of The Book of Mozilla which have been included in shipping releases, although various unofficial verses can be found on the Internet. All six official verses have scriptural chapter and verse references, although these are actually references to important dates in the history of Netscape and Mozilla.
The six 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 extract some meaning from the verses. Furthermore, the Book of Mozilla page has annotations for each of the first, second, third and fifth 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. 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.
- 1 The Book of Mozilla, 12:10
- 2 The Book of Mozilla, 3:31
- 3 The Book of Mozilla, 7:15
- 4 The Book of Mozilla, 8:20
- 5 The Book of Mozilla, 11:9
- 6 The Book of Mozilla, 15:1
- 7 Behavior in different browsers
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
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 Book of Mozilla page, which includes four of the 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 users who didn't conform to standards) are traditionally biblical but with the strange threat that their "tags shall blink until the end of days". This is a reference to a feature in early versions of Netscape that would make bad tags blink, as seen in the source code comments from the Book of Mozilla.
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), Netscape versions 6 to 7.1 and Beonex Communicator; it still appears in Classilla due to that browser's unusual history.
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 Book of Mozilla 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"). The "legion" is actually a reference to the biblical quote Mark 5:9 in the King James Version (KJV) bible ("And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many."), since The Book of Mozilla is presented as a sort of "computer bible" with prophecies. "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 from September 2003 to July 2008 (Mozilla 1.5 - Mozilla Firefox 22.214.171.124), all versions of Camino and the Mozilla Thunderbird email client, the SeaMonkey application suite, the Epiphany web browser (version 1.8.0), the Minimo Pocket PC web browser, and all Netscape versions from 7.2 to 8.1.3 (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 Book of Mozilla page, 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 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, "Mammon" is Microsoft, Mozilla's main commercial competitor.
The Book of Mozilla, 8:20
And thus the Creator looked upon the beast reborn and saw that it was good.
from The Book of Mozilla, 8:20
The 8:20 chapter and verse notation refers to August 20, 2006, when the first internal email was sent mentioning the possibility of developing the next Netscape Navigator in house.
Unlike previous verses, the HTML source for the Book of Mozilla page does not feature any verse-related annotations.
The "Creator" refers to Netscape the company. There are two interpretations of the verse: the phrase "beast reborn" appears in the previous verse referring to the Mozilla Foundation and "it was good" could be a tribute to everyone who contributed to the Mozilla project. "Beast reborn" could also be a reference to Netscape reopening their browser division instead of outsourcing development; Netscape Browser 8 was produced by Mercurial Communications.
The Book of Mozilla, 11:9
This verse landed in the Mozilla trunk codebase on January 9, 2008. It first appeared in Firefox 3.0 Beta 3. This is also produced in the alpha 1 version of Mobile Firefox, codenamed "Fennec", Flock Browser Version 2.0.6, Waterfox and Songbird.
In the HTML source of the Book of Mozilla page, this verse is accompanied by the following annotation:
<!-- 9th November 2004: Firefox 1.0 is officially released -->
<!-- The worldwide support of Firefox fans leads to its success, illustrating the power of community-based open source projects. -->
"Mammon" (Money) is again Internet Explorer, which "slept" for the 5 years between releases (between Internet Explorer 6 and 7). The "beast reborn" refers to Firefox, which gained supporters who self-organized through Spread Firefox, and undertook publicity for the browser, taking out an advertisement in The New York Times and making a crop circle shaped like the Firefox logo. The "cunning of foxes" is a direct reference to Firefox's name. The "new world" refers to modern, standards-based dynamic websites and open source applications. The latter half of the passage links to the Mozilla Manifesto and the about:Mozilla newsletter. The last part, starting with "Mammon awoke" speaks of the release of Internet Explorer 7 and with "it was naught but a follower" describes it as a follower, copying several of the functions in Firefox that Internet Explorer previously lacked. Additionally, this quote from the "10th edition", is an allusion to the Mozilla Foundation's 10th anniversary during the Firefox 3 development cycle.
The Book of Mozilla, 15:1
This verse landed in the Mozilla trunk codebase on January 23, 2013. It first appeared in the nightly builds of Firefox 21 and, as of May 29, 2014 is the currently displayed text in the released product.
The "twins of Mammon" refers to Apple and Google, whose mobile operating systems, respectively iOS and Android, have taken a duopoly of the mobile OS market. The "new darkness" refers to the closed nature of traditional app stores. The beast moving "swiftly" refers to the new rapid release cycle of Firefox. The phrase "went forth and multiplied" refers to "Firefox becoming multiple things" through Firefox for Android and Firefox OS. The verse number 15:1 refers to the code freeze of Firefox OS 1.0 (January 15, 2013).
Behavior in different browsers
Microsoft Internet Explorer
In some versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer,
about:mozilla produces a blank blue page, an inside reference to the Blue Screen of Death. The page still can be seen (even in IE11) when using the URL:
res://mshtml.dll/about.moz. (However, without using this URL in IE10, it will cancel the webpage navigation.) The about page was defined in a registry entry
Starting with Netscape 0.93beta (and up to version 1.0),
about:mozilla produced the text Mozilla Rules!.
In versions of SeaMonkey browser later than 2.0,
about:mozilla displays the same Book of Mozilla from the Firefox trunk build that it was built off of.
The Book of Mozilla, 11:1
Though not an official verse by Mozilla, a new verse of the Book of Mozilla, 11:1, became available in Flock Browser 1.0+, a "Social Web Browser" based on Firefox. This verse is shown on blue/white vertical gradient when about:mozilla is entered into the location bar. The verse is as follows.
And when the Beast had taken the quarter of the Earth under its rule, a quarter hundred Birds of Sulfur flew from the Depths. The birds crossed hundreds of mountain views and found twenty four wise men who came from the stars. And then it began, the believers dared to listen. Then, they took their pens and dared to create. Finally, they dared to share their deed with the whole of mankind. Spreading words of freedom and breaking the chains, the birds brought deliverance to everyone.
from The Book of Mozilla, 11:1
"And when the beast had taken the quarter of the earth under its rule..." is probably a reference to the 25% market share Firefox had gained over the more popular Internet Explorer. "Birds of Sulfur" references the developmental codename of Flock, which is Sulfur. The "mountain views" references the city of Mountain View, California where the company that produces Flock (as well as Mozilla) was based at the time of writing. The "24 wise men" refer to the 24 staff employees of Flock at that time. The "stars" refer to the star used in the branding ("Flockstar"). Though this verse was released 5 November 2007, much of the meaning is still unclear. "They took their pens and dared to create" is most likely a reference to the blogging and social networking integration in Flock. The section "Finally, they dared to share their deed with the whole of mankind." could possibly be making a reference to the fact that it is open source, and that they shared their good deed (their creation of the browser) with the world.
Due to a dispute with the Mozilla Corporation, the Debian project was forced to change the name and branding of Mozilla Firefox in its distribution. In response, it changed the name to Iceweasel and the icon to a white weasel-like variant of the Firefox logo. Iceweasel includes the
about:mozilla easter-egg and showed the standard page from the Firefox version it was built from. However, when users navigate to
about:iceweasel they see a thematically similar message from the Book of Ice that describes the dispute with Mozilla and the creation of Iceweasel.
And thus the beast grew powerful, and fire and thunder swept the land. But Mammon stirred in their hearts, and the beast Foundered, and its Corpse arose, and commanded "thou shalt not fly in my name." And the blazes shall freeze cold, and the souls of the followers of Mammon shall learn to tremble in the face of ice as they did before the fire.
from The Book of Ice, 10:13
The "Corpse" in this edition represents the Mozilla Corporation and the references to the prohibition on "flying in my name" is a reference to the trademark prohibition.
- Michelle Slatalla (1998-04-09). "User's Guide; It's Time to Hunt For Easter Eggs". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
- Firefox Hacks. O'Reilly Japan. 2005. p. 279. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
- Stan Miastkowski (2003-04-01). "Find software Easter eggs". PC World. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
- Scott Granneman (2005). Don't Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox. O'Reilly. p. 284. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
- Ian S. Graham (2000). Xhtml 1.0 Web Development Sourcebook: Building Better Sites and Applications. John Wiley. p. 293. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
- "Book of Mozilla". Mozilla Foundation. Retrieved 2008-08-09.
- Genesis 1 (New American Standard Bible) Bible Gateway
- Luke 3:22 (New American Standard Bible) Bible Gateway
- Mozilla developers. "Bug 411352 – Update Book of Mozilla passage (about:mozilla)". Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- "CVS Log for mozilla.dtd". Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Mike Beltzner (10 January 2008). "Mike Beltzner's Description". Retrieved 2008-01-11.
- Mozilla Foundation (8 April 2008). "about:mozilla - Mozilla turns 10, Foxkeh news, Toronto moves, AMO redesign, Firefox announcement, Freerice, and more". Retrieved 2008-04-14.
- "Bug 830767 - we should implement a new about:mozilla text for B2G". Mozilla developers. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Nightingale, Johnathan. "Bug 830767 - we should implement a new about:mozilla text for B2G". Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- "Release Management/B2G Landing - MozillaWiki". Mozilla. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- Flock Press Releases "History". Flock Releases the Social Web Browser. Flock, Inc. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
Changes to about:mozilla page
- Bug 213117 – new text for about:mozilla (bug report that led to the change from 3:31 to 7:15)
- CVS history for the about:mozilla file in the old (classic) Mozilla code base
- CVS history for the about:mozilla file in the new Mozilla code base until it was renamed to mozilla.xhtml
- CVS history for the about:mozilla file in the new Mozilla code base after it was renamed to mozilla.xhtml
- CVS history for the about:mozilla file in applications that use the new toolkit (Firefox, Thunderbird etc.)
- CVS history for the about:mozilla text (November 2004 and later)
- Mercurial history for about:mozilla passage since Mozilla' migration from CVS to Mercurial in 2007
Book of Mozilla on Mozilla.org
- The Book of Mozilla (includes annotations in HTML source)
- Bug 217203 – Book of Mozilla not on mozilla.org (bug report that led to the creation of www.mozilla.org/book/)
- CVS history for www.mozilla.org/book/index.xml (later replaced by index.html)
- CVS history for www.mozilla.org/book/index.html (replaced index.xml)
Articles about The Book of Mozilla
- MozillaZine article announcing the new verse of The Book of Mozilla
- Results of a MozillaZine poll on the readers' favourite verse
- Some clarifications regarding about:mozilla written by mozilla.org staff member Gervase Markham
Collections of passages
- Extracts from The Book of Mozilla – a compilation of official and unofficial passages from The Book of Mozilla