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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jamie W. Zawinski (born November 3, 1968[1] in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), commonly known as jwz, is a former professional American 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 Unix-like computer operating systems using the X Window System.

Zawinski is currently the proprietor of the DNA Lounge, a nightclub in San Francisco.



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.[2]

Zawinski 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".[3]

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.[4] He resigned from Netscape Communications Corporation on April 1, 1999.[5] His current occupation is managing his DNA Lounge nightclub in San Francisco.


Peter Norvig in Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years:[6] "One of the best programmers I ever hired had only a High School degree; he's produced a lot of great software, has his own news group, and made enough in stock options to buy his own nightclub."

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.
Jamie Zawinski , Jargon file entry

A long time member of the UNIX-HATERS mailing list, Jamie was quoted in the "X-Windows Disaster" chapter of The UNIX-HATERS Handbook, commenting about widget toolkits for the X Window System:

Using these toolkits is like trying to make a bookshelf out of mashed potatoes.

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jamie Zawinski (JWZ; born c. 1968 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), hacker.


  • Some people, when confronted with a problem, think "I know, I'll use regular expressions." Now they have two problems.


  • You can't take a dying project, sprinkle it with the magic pixie dust of "open source," and have everything magically work out.
  • Using these toolkits is like trying to make a bookshelf out of mashed potatoes.
  • I'd just like to take this moment to point out that C has all the expressive power of two dixie cups and a string.
  • Linux is only free if your time has no value.
    • In an interview in June 1998; he later claimed that "Bits and pieces of this article have been quoted out of context in lots of places"
  • Today, I use Linux as my primary OS (on an x86 PC, and on a Thinkpad), and I also use Irix (on an SGI O2). Linux has improved a great deal since I wrote this, specifically with respect to its ease of installation.
  • Your "use case" should be, there's a 22 year old college student living in the dorms. How will this software get him laid?
  • My one purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.
  • If you're using Windows, go fuck yourself.
  • Don't do drugs, kids. Stay in school.
  • I've noticed that when I get quoted in .sig files, it's never any of the actual clever things I say all the time. Usually it's something dumb.
  • Browser compatibility problems are nature's way of saying "stop trying to be so fuckin' clever".
    • Ibid.
  • Professionalism has no place in art, and hacking is art. Software Engineering might be science; but that's not what I do. I'm a hacker, not an engineer.
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