The Mozilla Foundation is cutting off development of its flagship Mozilla browser suite with the current 1.7.x line, but says it will back a community-supported version of the suite for those that wish to continue using it.

"We intend that the 1.7.x line of releases will be the last long-lived, maintained versions released by the Mozilla Foundation," it said in a "transition plan" published late yesterday.

The Foundation made it clear in 2003 that it would be shifting most of its resources away from the suite towards the stand-alone Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client, but it was unclear - even to many of Mozilla's own developers - exactly where the cut-off would be.

Further muddying the waters was a series of recent Mozilla 1.8 alpha and beta releases, which the Foundation acknowledged has led developers to contribute a substantial amount of work on features for Mozilla 1.8, under the impression there would be an official release of a 1.8 client. The 1.8 releases have not been directed at developing a Mozilla 1.8 client but to test changes to the back-end side of the code base, according to the Foundation.

"This has been a error on our part. These contributors have reason to be unhappy with us. We can only apologise," the Foundation stated.

The Mozilla suite was the first result of the Foundation's effort to create an open-source version of the Netscape browser, but was later left aside in favour of smaller, faster stand-alone applications. However, the project - known internally as "Seamonkey" - is still used by a number of commercial distributors and has a significant developer base.

Because of this the Foundation plans to provide infrastructure such as CVS access, development tools, a bug-tracking system and the like for the project to continue development under the direction of the open-source community. The community version won't get an official release, but the plan means users of the suite can continue to get security fixes and new features without having to switch to an application such as Firefox. The transition follows a proposal put forward by developers.

The fact that support is still possible for Mozilla Suite users and developers shows the strength of open source, said Mozilla Foundation president Mitchell Baker in a Web log post. "In a traditional proprietary world those users and developers would be out of luck, stuck forever using the last version received from the vendor or forced into an unwanted upgrade," he wrote. "In the open source world this need not be the case."

The Foundation hosts a number of projects that aren't official Mozilla products, including the Mac-only browser Camino and MiniMo, a browser for mobile devices.