Zawinski law: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can

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Jamie Zawinski (born November 3, 1968 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), commonly known as jwz, is an American formerly professional computer programmer responsible for significant contributions to the free software projects Mozilla and XEmacs, and early versions of the Netscape Navigator web browser.

He maintains the XScreenSaver project which provides screenblanking for Mac OS X and Unix-like computer operating systems using the X Window System.

Zawinski's early career included stints with Scott Fahlman's Lisp research group at Carnegie Mellon University, Expert Technologies, Inc. and Robert Wilensky and Peter Norvig's group at Berkeley. In the early 1990s, he was hired by Richard P. Gabriel's Lucid Inc. where he was eventually put to work on Lucid's Energize C++ IDE.

Lucid decided to use GNU Emacs as the text editor for their IDE due to its free license, popularity, and extensibility. Zawinski and the other programmers made fundamental changes to GNU Emacs to add new functionality. Tensions over how to merge these patches into the main tree eventually led to the fork of the project into GNU Emacs and XEmacs.

Zawinski, with Marc Andreessen's help, worked on the early releases of Netscape Navigator, particularly the 1.0 release of the Unix version. He became quite well known in the early days of the world wide web through an easter egg in the Netscape browser: typing "about:jwz" into the address box would take the user to his home page (a similar trick worked for other Netscape staffers).

In addition, Zawinski says he created the name "Mozilla".

In 2000, Zawinski starred in the 60 minute long PBS documentary "Code Rush". However, the footage was taken during 1998 while Zawinski was still working for Netscape in which he is portrayed as a pivotal person in the company.

Zawinski was a major proponent of opening the source code of the Mozilla browser, but became disillusioned with the project when others decided to rewrite the code instead of incrementally improving it. When Netscape was acquired by AOL he wrote a famous bulletin explaining the nature of the Free Software Mozilla code. He resigned from Netscape Communications Corporation on April 1, 1999.

His current occupation is managing his DNA Lounge nightclub in San Francisco.

Most of his projects are written in Perl and C.

While still working for Netscape, Zawinski was supposedly known for his dislike of C++. There have been reports about him expressing his anger by throwing a chair across a conference room.  In his post-Netscape life, he continued to proselytize against C++. In Peter Seibel's book "Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming", Zawinski calls C++ an abomination. Furthermore, he believes C++ to be responsible for bloat and compatibility problems in Netscape 4.0 because when programming in C++ all project members have to agree on a subset and "no one can ever agree on which ten percent of the language is safe to use".[12]

According to Zawinski, his dislike towards C++ stems from the fact that the language is too complex:

When you’re programming C++ no one can ever agree on which ten percent of the language is safe to use. There’s going to be one guy who decides, “I have to use templates.” And then you discover that there are no two compilers that implement templates the same way.[10]

Also, Zawinski criticizes several language and library deficiencies he encountered while programming in Java, precisely an overhead of certain classes but also a lack of features such as C-like assertions and typedefs. Despite the positive aspects, ultimately Zawinski returned to programming in C "since it's still the only way to ship portable programs."  

Zawinski's law of software envelopment

Zawinski's Law of Software Envelopment (also known as Zawinski's Law) relates the pressure of popularity to the phenomenon of software bloat:

Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.

Examples of the law in action include Emacs, MATLAB, Mozilla and Opera.

This law is attributed to Jamie Zawinski, who popularized it. It may have been inspired by the humorous Law of Software Development and Envelopment at MIT, which was posted on Usenet in 1989 by Greg Kuperberg, who wrote[14]:

Every program in development at MIT expands until it can read mail.

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  1. Zawinski, Jamie. "jwz User Profile".
  2. Zawinski, Jamie (February 11, 2000). "The Lemacs/FSFmacs Schism.". Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  3. Zawinski, Jamie (1996). "nscp dorm". Retrieved October 12, 2007.
  4. Dave Titus with assistance from Andrew Wong. "How was Mozilla born".
  5. Leonard, Andrew. "Free the night life!".
  6. Zawinski, Jamie (November 23, 1998). "fear and loathing on the merger trail".
  7. Zawinski, Jamie (March 31, 1999). "resignation and postmortem.". Retrieved September 26, 2006.
  8. "Mozilla Founder Resigns on Open Source Project's Birthday". Computergram International. 6 April 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  9. Zawinsky, Jamie. "jwzhacks". Retrieved July 22, 2011.
  10. Seibel, Peter. "C++ in Coders at Work".
  11. McCusker, David "Rys". "erys : resume : netscape : mork : jwz". Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  12. "C++: A Garbage Heap of Ideas".
  13. Zawinski, Jamie. "java sucks.".

External links

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