I noticed that Mozilla 1.3 hit the beta stage today. I’ve been running the alpha version under Windows 2000 since mid-December, both as my primary browser and mail client, and I found it to be buggy, but its bugs were very predictable.
Predictable is good. Predictable means you can work around it. I worked around them easily enough that I didn’t report them, which was a mistake, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw them. I’ll report them if they’re still present in the beta.

Aside from those couple of predictable bugs, none of which ever caused the application to crash, it was reasonably stable. The main reason for calling it an alpha, I think, was feature incompleteness rather than stability. Stability wise, 1.3a was at least the equal of the original (pre-service pack) IE 5.0, 5.5, and 6.0, if not better.

So now I’m running 1.3b. I had issues with installing it. If you have 1.3a, disable startup acceleration. If you have a previous version of Mozilla hanging around and you intend to install 1.3b and you want to be absolutely safe, disable startup acceleration, then reboot, then install.

Then again, you may not have any problem at all. I get annoyed when people pronounce something stable or unstable based on trying it on one machine under one set of conditions for a couple of hours, and then they wonder what’s wrong with you if you do the same thing and have different results. So I won’t claim to have the final word.

But I’ll say this: If you want innovation in a Web browser, especially under Windows, Mozilla is pretty much the only game in town anymore. And its mail client isn’t bad either. For that reason alone, it’s worth a look.

And if the “beta” branding scares you off, I don’t blame you, because beta software has a deservedly bad reputation. This one’s a lot better. I won’t say it’ll never crash, because I’m sure it occasionally will. But the more people use it, the faster the bugs get found, and the faster it reaches true production quality. And that’s good for everyone.