As it marked the 75 millionth download of its Firefox Web browser, the Mozilla Foundation said it was expanding in several directions.

The foundation's open-source e-mail reader, Thunderbird, is approaching its 10 millionth download. Mozilla's browser for small devices, Minimo, reached a milestone, as a prerelease version appeared with tabs, a bookmark manager and RSS feeds. The Mozilla staff itself has quadrupled during the past six months, to 40 employees.

"We're beefing up the management on the project," said Chris Hofmann, whose title at Mozilla is in flux since the foundation hired another director of engineering. "The project is still very healthy. We're seeing continued corporate interest and have a lot of large organizations that want to do deployments."

Mozilla on Tuesday marked the 75 millionth download of Firefox. That number has only a hazy relationship to the number of people actually using the browser; it counts multiple downloads of different versions and doesn't count Mozilla's automatic updates or copies from single downloads distributed through organizations by technology managers.

The milestone provides at least a psychological boost to the foundation's volunteers and staffers, who have watched growth rates slip this year amid a string of security problems.

Thunderbird, the foundation's e-mail application, had been downloaded 9,951,582 times as of Tuesday afternoon.

Replacing Hofmann as director of engineering is Mike Schroepfer, who will be responsible for day-to-day management of the engineering staff and determining what features and fixes go into releases. Hofmann's duties will shift to the browser's deployment and distribution, partner relationships, security and community relations.

On the mobile front, Mozilla on Monday released Minimo 007, the latest version of the prerelease mobile browser with an interface built in XUL (Extensible User Interface Language).

A XUL interface makes it easier for Mozilla to use Firefox features in Minimo and make the browser work on a wide array of device operating systems, including those produced by Microsoft.

"This may be the first handheld browser to have both tabbed browsing and Web services support," said Doug Turner, the Mozilla engineer heading up the Minimo project. "It offers desktoplike browsing functionality optimized for small screens...so you can access Gmail or Google Maps. Secondly, this is built on the same platform as Firefox. This will allow, for the first time, extension writers to access the handheld platform. Extensions like AdBlocker and even Greasemonkey may be easily ported and seamlessly run on these handhelds."

Turner said Mozilla was in discussions with phone makers about using Minimo, but he did not name them (the project counts Nokia as a funder). He did say that Pioneer planned to use the project's "Spatial Navigation" feature for surfing Web pages with directional keys, a feature Pioneer funded.

Minimo plans within the next five to six months a "beta" test version for use with Windows CE PPC and Windows CE SmartPhone.

SOURCE