Some Clarifications Regarding about:mozilla

It has come to my attention that there is some confusion over the origin of the about:mozilla text, what exactly it refers to, and the basis of its literary style.

about:mozilla was originally an “Easter Egg” – a hidden amusing feature put into a software program unrelated to its main purpose – in version 1.1 of Netscape’s browser. These days, it’s so well known that it hardly deserves the name. The history of about:mozilla, giving the different versions of the text displayed, is well explained on Wikipedia. After a small amount of editing on my part of the section about the most recent revision, everything that page says is now true to the best of my knowledge.

The current about:mozilla text is as follows:

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

This text was written by Neil Deakin in the days following the split of the Mozilla Foundation from AOL. It was one of several suggested texts that we evaluated; we considered this one to be most creative, and in the spirit and style of the previous two. At my prompting, the staff approved the inclusion of Neil’s version in forthcoming builds. You can read the bug which documents the development process. I checked a slightly modified version into Mozilla on the 1st September, 2003, and Ben Goodger checked the same text into Firebird (as it then was) later that month.

The nature and literary style of the text may be slightly mystifying to some. To understand it fully, you need to first be aware of the influence of the King James version of the Bible on modern English culture.

The King James (or Authorised) Version of the Bible is an English translation which was first published in 1611. It is so named because King James ordered the translation to be made. For several hundred years, it was the most commonly-used English Bible. Today, it has been superceded by more accurate translations which take advantage of modern linguistic scholarship and a better knowledge of the original text.

However, the language of the King James, which today would be thought of as archaic, has had a significant impact on English-speaking culture. Even today, people often quote the Bible (perhaps unknowingly) in the King James version, or language which approximates or imitates it. For example, they might say “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, rather than “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

The about:mozilla text is designed to be in the style of Biblical prophecy, such as that found in the book of Revelation, as translated in the King James version. For example: “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15). The fictional “Book of Mozilla” is a book of similar prophecy about the rise of “the beast” (Mozilla, who has always been a great lizard) and his triumph over the world. When great changes happen in the Mozilla project (such as the release of the original code, and the split from AOL) the text is updated with a new ‘quotation’.

The word “Mammon” is actually taken directly from the original text of the New Testament. It’s a word of Aramaic origin, meaning something like ‘riches’ or, by personification, ‘money-god’. The King James rendering of Matthew 6:24 – “You cannot serve both God and Money” – is “Ye cannot serve God and mammon“. The word is also found in other related translations, such as the American Standard Version. Mainly because of the fame of this passage in its King James form, “mammon” in still used in English today, and is taken to refer to an imaginary God of money, possessions and pleasure.

So the use of “Mammon” in the text is an oblique reference to the Bible. Just as Jesus in Matthew 6 in the King James Version contrasts serving God and serving Mammon, following the truth and following falsehood, so the quotation sets up the difference between the followers of Mozilla (those reading the Book) and the followers of Mammon (those who oppose the coming world domination of Mozilla). (Some might well associate Mammon with Microsoft; I couldn’t possibly comment on that…)

I hope this clears up some potential misunderstandings about the origins and meaning of the about:mozilla text. As a Christian who believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and a staff member and Mozilla contributor, I do not believe that there is any problem with about:mozilla from a Christian point of view. I would welcome emails from anyone who wishes to correspond with me on the subject.

37 thoughts on “Some Clarifications Regarding about:mozilla

  1. I always thought that ‘the beast’ was Netscape (Communications Corporation). That’s certainly the term JWZ always used to refer to Netscape:

    You might also be interested in this page:

    View the source to see some explainations. I’m not sure how accurate they all are though (the blink one is definately wrong – it’s a reference to the blink tag).

  2. Anon: actually, I’d trust that explanation:

    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).

    much more than the received wisdom about the <blink> tag. It makes much more sense, too. Given that the file is so old it predates source control, I suspect whoever wrote it was writing from a position of knowledge.

    Note that “the beast” in those source comments refers to Netscape the product; therefore it’s quite reasonable that after the source was released, it came to refer to Mozilla the product.

    Just because JWZ refers to Netscape Communications Corp as “the beast”, doesn’t mean he necessarily had about:mozilla in mind. Having said all that, interpretation of prophecy always has to be done with a certain amount of humility; it is quite possible I’m wrong ;-)

  3. A super King Jimmified version would begin with: “And then it came to pass” instead of “And so at last”

  4. By the way, about:mozilla is localizable in Firefox, and the French version has localized it:

    Alors, au final, la b�te fut vaincue et les infid�les se r�jouirent. Mais tout n’�tait pas perdu, car des cendres s’�leva un majestueux oiseau. L’oiseau scruta les infid�les et lan�a sur eux le feu et le tonnerre. D�s lors que la b�te fut r�incarn�e et sa puissance renouvell�e, les disciples de Mammon se tapirent dans l’horreur.

    Does anybody know any other localized versions of Firefox with a translation?

  5. I take i someone was complaining about the easter egg?

    Is this the same one who claimed MoFo was a communist sympathizer because of the old design (and the mozillazine blimp)?

  6. Anon: well, one reason would be because up until now, it’s changed about once every four years. Too much change spoils it, IMO.

  7. There will be an Estonian version of the egg at some point. It’s translated, but not packaged and shipped.

  8. nb-NO has it translated as well:

    Og s� til sist falt udyret, og de vantro frydet seg. Men alt var ikke tapt, for fra asken reiste det seg en stor fugl. Fuglen stirret olmt ned p� de vantro, og spydde ut flammer og torden over dem. For udyret hadde blitt gjenf�dt med ny styrke, og Mammons etterf�lgere skalv av frykt.

  9. I didn’t know about this ‘easter egg’, and I’ve been using Mozilla for two years, so this was interesting. :)
    I checked it out, looks nice.

  10. I, for one, DO NOT appreciate the changing of this easter egg. As someone who’s been using Netscape since v2.0, I feel that the easter egg should be reset to the way it was before. It’s a tradition, something which should be preserved. Given that you renamed the feature-less version of navigator to a small mammal, it hardly seems relevant. On the other hand, the original text is still quite relevant.

    The rest of this is off-topic.

    On a side note, I’d like to chime in on this whole firefox thing, now that I’ve given it a chance to get better. As an experienced netscape/mozilla user, I think firefox is terribly irritating. Machines are so fast now that any “percieved” benefit from stripping out all the features is virtually nil. Why do I care that a page loads 10ms faster? Why is it that features are always sacraficed for pandering to the lowest common denominator of the userbase? Did it ever occur to you that power users might actually like being able to download only one package and have everything they need to work and communicate effectively on the internet? With firefox, I find the lack of close-knit integration very frustrating. I do not apperciate having to go hunting all over the internet for add-ons just to get the dumb browser back to a level of functionality equivilant to navigator. I know I’m not alone in this feeling, but others have been afraid to speak up, given the massive push to shove it down people’s throats. Please do not discontinue the suite, since I’m sure others out there share my feelings.

    Also, this whole abandoning of the lizard is terribly rediculous. It’d be like trying to change the Linux or BSD mascot. Obviously the people who made this decision are not true Mozilla evangelists.

    However, if you really must go with the fox name, then please get the NVU devs to rename their composer replacement. For God’s sake, could they *please* stay just a little consistant with naming conventions, like the other standalone components have (firefox/thunderbird/sunbird)? Another stupid name which needs to be changed.

    Lastly, can someone please negotiate with AOL/TW to release the source code for AIM & Netscape WebMail client?

    Just my 2 cents, love it or hate it :-).

  11. Nicholas: Firefox is not being stripped down to make it faster, but to make it more usable. The suite is still available if that’s what you like.

    The red lizard has not been abandoned. The green lizard was abandoned due to its uncertain trademark status.

    As for Nvu, you’ll need to contact Dan Glazman about that.

    It’ll be a hot day in Siberia before AOL release the AIM source code. They very much want the protocol to be a secret. Back in the day, wven the Netscape browser folks only got binary drops of the AIM module to go into Netscape 6/7. They weren’t trusted with the source code.

  12. Regardless of whatever religious, spiritual, or philosophical doctrine you may follow it is most inappropriate to indoctrinate something regardless of whether people are aware of, agree with, or care for or not.

    You have admitted that your viewpoint is Christian (which is fine) and therefor have either knowingly or unknowingly admitted to a perspective of Christian bias (which is also fine until this extent). This egg is an example of failing to think before you do by obviously not considering how others who do not hold your beliefs would respond upon such a discovery.

    Imagine if YOU had found the same egg but it was in complete opposition to what you believed to be true. If you cared as much as I do in that reverse situation you would understand and be offended as well. Simply put it’s best just not bring up the topic in the first place as part of the browser though it’s perfectly fine to load it in a web-page (that is not of course PART of the browser for those slippery slop people out there). No one in their right mind can assume you are or aren’t supportive of something if you have not even brought up the topic.

    Please keep in mind that regardless of how much any of us may agree or disagree relative to each other, it still does not change whether something is truly right or wrong. This is in not way a personal attack or an attack on anyone’s doctrine. It is simply two things represented by one post.

    The first is that I hope you can understand that others such as myself have been sincerely offended. Gecko products are used worldwide by many people of varying doctrines and to implement any one or more doctrine(s) in any form is to show favoritism and bias. Such are the practices that have driven the development (and of the past few years lack thereof) of what Microsoft claims to be a browser. Why not have the egg based upon THAT situation since all of Gecko users can surely agree upon it with no one being offended … well except for those who don’t like standards compliance!

    The second is a request to either change or remove this offensive easter egg. There is no moral issue in exclaiming your views or beliefs until you are in a position of power through which you may force on to others who have little or no choice to go, use, or an implement alternative means (which in this case would be either Opera or KHTML … so basically ALT=””. Gecko is my favorite but now my memory of it bleeds from the lack of consideration, shall it continue long enough to scar Gecko? We all make mistakes and it is whether we learn from this mistakes or not that shows the quality of one’s character. I implore you to retract the statement and either remove the easter egg or change it to something that is not offensive by including no religious, spiritual, or philosophical references that exclude any of the fans of Gecko like myself.

    I do like the styling and I think easter eggs do very much rock. I’ve got a few of them on my site, one that’s even based on a classic Blizzard egg.

    In the future should others reply to this thread of sorts I would like them to know that if someone does not agree with you that they are not automatically red commie bastards. I’ve noticed this is a common thing among people of a certain religious group and I feel they need to understand that they are PART of the world, not the world itself. Respect only works if it’s mutual and Gecko has mine, your move.

  13. Whoa… can we say ‘overreaction’? (Re the John Bilicki III comment.)

    Or would the use of a word like ‘overreaction’, which has Latin and older component parts, be offensive to those people who don’t subscribe to the religious pantheons led (respectively) by Jupiter and some now-lost ancient gods?


  14. So people might be offended by something written in the STYLE of one particular TRANSLATION of part of one particular faith’s Holy Writings?

    I can see how hypersensitive members of a faith might object to their scriptures being parodied, but for the life of me, I can’t see how such an easter egg is remotely close to INDOCTRINATING people in the faith in question.

    If you don’t believe me, “The internet exploder does not have the browser nature”. Now you’re a Buddhist. Or is it a Taoist? I forget.

    Seriously, wait till your next-but-three life before worrying about that sort of thing. This one will be busy enough with real problems!

  15. “Please keep in mind that regardless of how much any of us may agree or disagree relative to each other, it still does not change whether something is truly right or wrong.”

    Hmm, what’s “truly right or wrong” is only in the eye of the beholder. I think it’s right of the Mozilla team to have this in, and you obviously think it’s truly wrong because of your belief. You make it seem your belief stand above all others who disagree with you, and you show little respect for those?

    “The second is a request to either change or remove this offensive easter egg.”

    Your request has been noted. :-p

    “We all make mistakes and it is whether we learn from this mistakes or not that shows the quality of one’s character.”

    It may only be a mistake to you, and satisfying the earth population is quite tough. Does that reduce their character’s quality? All they can do is go with the majority’s opinion, and I’m sure the quote will be changed if a large group is against it. It doesn’t seem like it though.

    “Respect only works if it’s mutual and Gecko has mine, your move.”

    What respect? Not much respect from you for the decisions that has been made by the Mozilla foundation anyway. I’m sure they respect your faith, but should they go against the opinions of the masses to satisfy you? (I’ve honestly not heard anyone but you voice an opinion like this, so it can’t be common)

  16. from terminal.el of emacs:
    ;;; This file has been censored by the Communications Decency Act.
    ;;; That law was passed under the guise of a ban on pornography, but
    ;;; it bans far more than that. This file did not contain pornography,
    ;;; but it was censored nonetheless.

    the original version might have been less readable than the rework, but it had also certainly been funnier before.
    go on! remove the last bit of humour for the sake of people who already lost theirs :/

  17. In Firefox 1.0 es-ES it’s also translated:

    Y as�, al final la bestia cay� y los incr�dulos se alegraron. Pero no todo estaba perdido, porque de las cenizas surgi� un gran p�jaro. El p�jaro contempl� a los incr�dulos y lanz� fuego y truenos sobre ellos. Porque la bestia hab�a renacido con su fuerza renovada, y los seguidores de Mammon se acobardaron en el horror.

  18. There’s a Swedish version of the egg, too:
    Och s� f�ll till slut odjuret och de otrogna gladdes. Men allt var icke f�rlorat, ty ur askan reste sig en v�ldig f�gel. F�geln sk�dade ned p� de otrogna och kastade eld och �ska upp� dem. Ty odjuret hade nu �terf�tts med f�rnyad styrka, och Mammons anh�ngare hukade i skr�ck.

  19. Hate to be a party pooper, but I disapprove of all “Easter Eggs” in software. To the extent that the code makes the program larger it is a waste of the user’s disk space. To the extent that it needs memory to run it is a waste of the user’s system resources.

  20. Neil: I have to agree with jwz here, especially the first paragraph of what he says:

    Yes, there are a bunch of easter eggs in Mozilla; so? By and large they’re pretty small, but that doesn’t really matter, because they serve a very important purpose: first, they’re entertaining to find (I love it when I stumble across them in other programs, and judging by the amount of mail I get about these things, so do a lot of other people.) Programs should be fun to use. But by far their most important reason for existing is that they are fun to write. Hackers get a kick out of puzzles, and you know what? If dropping in an easter egg allows a hacker to blow off some steam and consequently stick around the office for a few hours longer, and put in a 20 hour day instead of merely a 16 hour day, then those are resources well spent. The hacker’s happy at having been creative; somewhere down the road, some users will be amused by it; and the program ships faster, and is a better program because the people who wrote it cared about it. Everybody wins.

  21. sounds like the BEast is Mozilla, the Bird is Firebird, now the Fox is a smaller beast. I guess is ate the Firebird. Mammon is the love of money, an idol many people build for themselves.
    Code should be free ! Who let the Beast out !?

    LittleTender (read “MS”) will suffer greatly and the moanings of his suffering will reach the depth of hell. [ from The Book of Mozilla, 17:15 ]

    the reality of Christ and His second coming is undeniable. just look deep in your soul and find a hole there that no entertainment, money or pleasures will fill.

    “…he now commands all people everywhere to repent, 17:31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to all by raising111 him from the dead.” from The Book of Acts 17:30 [ ]

  22. OMG, I love it!!! Sharp and clever the same way Simpsons is. The Book of Mozilla – ah!

    With regards to John Bilicki III’s comment – as a recovering Catholic I have to say dude, get a grip and a sense of humor. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and poking fun of something is a close step behind. The person who wrote this obviously knows and appreciates the Gospel enough to write such a wonderful phrase.

    As a Christian, rather than taking offense, would it not be better to use this as a talking point? If the Bible is the real Truth, then it is timeless and can (and should) be used as a guide to understand our current world. That phrase has generated discussion about good and evil in the computing world – isn’t that what God would want, for us to explore good and evil in our everyday lives?

    Don’t shut people out by saying the literature of Christianity shouldn’t be used in an everyday way. Rather, invite people to explore their world through the framework of the Book and God’s Word.


  23. Does anyone know about the about:mozilla easter egg that was in MS IE? I dont think it exists in ie6, but it was deff in 5. Basically is turned the browser window blue, supposedly this was meant to represent a BSOD. Anyone know the origins of this?

  24. You know what – I wish to heaven Mozilla store would put the words on a re mozilla tee-shirt.

    Id never take it off.

    How about a competition to design a Moz/FF tee shirt? :)

  25. Oh yeah and for those who didnt know:

    use about:config to edit moz/ff properties fast and easy :-)