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Firefox Friday: On life after Aza, making your own browser, beta 8, bigger bug bounties, and more!

The open source community shudders with equal measures of saddening loss and anxious anticipation. Mozilla Firefox, one of the most important open source projects, has lost a very big player, and no one quite knows how extensive the repercussions will be.

Aza Raskin, the creative lead behind most of the magic in Firefox 4, resigned earlier this week to pursue the humanization of health care with startup Massive Health. Few details of the new venture have emerged yet, but Aza has reassured me that he is leaving "on great terms" with Mozilla, and he's positive that his beloved Panorama will be well looked after.

As for what Raskin's leaving means for the long term health of the open source and open Web movements, it's hard to say. Mozilla, in general, has always been one of the most important, humanist Web advocates, and Firefox 4 was a major proponent of this year's frantic we're-more-hardware-accelerated-than-you cockfight between Mozilla, Google and Microsoft. Without Aza to drive innovation in Firefox 5, will Google and Microsoft be left to battle it out for the crown -- and will the Web as a whole be less innovative?


Still, it's not all bad: Mozilla Labs, Aza's home before he became Firefox's Creative Lead, continues to churn out lovely goodies like Chromeless, a tool that lets you build your own Web browser using just CSS, HTML and JavaScript.

When Chromeless was first released back in October it was almost unusable. Now that it's reached the rather mature milestone of 0.1, however, it's good to go! Grab the code, unzip it, and run chromeless.bat to start it up. You'll need Python installed, but other than that, a quick check of the README should be enough to get you making your own Web browser!

I won't lie: unless you have a few nerdy muscles, you this won't interest you in the slightest. Still, watch the demo video before making your mind up; it's pretty cool!

Where is Firefox 4 beta 8?

If Firefox 4 wants to launch in the first quarter of 2011, beta 8 needs to arrive now -- but where on earth is it? The nightly builds have moved onto beta 9, which means beta 8 should be released by now. If it doesn't emerge this week it will be moved back to January, and there are still at least two more beta versions to release before the first release candidate.

I've actually been forcibly shifted back to Chrome and Internet Explorer 9 after finally being defeated by some very sluggish bugginess in FF4 beta 7. Here's hoping that beta 8, and 9, bring the browser closer to launch quality.

Mozilla extends its $3000 bounty for bugs found on its websites

Remember that kid that netted $3000 for finding a bug in Firefox 3.5 and 3.6? Sad that you don't know C++ and can't get in on the bug-stompin' bounty-rewarding goodness? Well, good news: Mozilla will now pay you if you find a bug on one of its main Web properties.

Not every website is eligible for the bounty, and you will have to find a suitably gribbly bug to qualify for the full $3000, but still -- anyone that knows a bit of HTML or JavaScript can leap in and begin a vetting of Mozilla's code. As we move towards an 'open Web' in 2011, public scrutiny of JavaScript libraries will become a lot more common place. It makes sense for Mozilla to get ahead of the curve and tighten up its websites now.

The Mozilla Labs newsletter

I know -- a text resource that isn't a blog! Did Mozilla not get the memo? I mean, mailing lists are OK, and newsgroups are still very popular -- but an actual newsletter? Chrikee.

In theory, the newsletter will contain original, never-before-seen content from the folks at Mozilla Labs. A brief glance at the first two editions -- yes, they're online; no, I don't understand why it isn't just a blog -- suggests it's more of a news digest or link dump, though. If you're still interested, you can sign up on the bottom right corner of the Mozilla Labs home page.

Mozilla Labs Gone Wild (in London)

Finally, an update on Game On 2010, Mozilla Labs' inaugural Open Web Gaming competition, which comes to a close in less than a month. After a "Gaming Special" Labs Night at the Californian Mozilla offices in November, they followed up with a huge event in London last week. More than 150 game developers turned up for an evening of debauchery geeky games development discussion.

I'm cursing myself for not going, but thankfully all of the talks and demonstrations have been posted online. Remember, it's not too late to develop your first Open Web game!

Tags: aza raskin, AzaRaskin, chromeless, columns, firefox, firefox 4, firefox 5, firefox friday, Firefox4, Firefox5, firefoxfriday, mozilla, mozilla labs, MozillaLabs, open web, OpenWeb, web