The Web is the platform, and you can hold it in your hand

Tristan Nitot

17

A few months ago, maybe a year and a half ago, I had a long discussion with a good friend of mine. He challenged me, “Mozilla has brought back choice in the Web browser space. It’s great: there are four major browsers and three of them are (mostly) open source. Each of them is investing in Web standards. Internet Explorer is not dominant any more and Microsoft is backing Web standards again. Now what are you guys up to? What’s your next bold move?”

At the time, I did not have a lot to respond. We were hard at work on Firefox 4, aiming at a Firefox release every 12 to 18 months, and we where working on a plan. While Mozilla works in the open, too few people understood what the plan was. Connecting the dots was hard.
Fast forward to today, early 2012. Mobile World Congress Рthe largest mobile-related event in the world Рopened this morning in beautiful Barcelona.  Already Mozilla is rocking the boat with an impressive announcement: our partnership with Telefónica on Boot to Gecko (aka B2G) and Open Web device.

B2G Home screen

B2G Home screen

Some Mozillians and Web developers may wonder why Mozilla is doing more in the mobile space. There are a couple of reasons why:

1 – More and more, this is where the action is. In 2012, it is estimated that smartphone sales will be bigger than PCs. If we want to be on the side of Web users, as we always have been, we need to be where the users are. And increasingly, they’re on mobile phones.

2 – The existing mobile platforms are a lot more closed than what we would like. Most of them are closed source. Those who aren’t closed are “delayed open”, not developed in the open, with proprietary applications and services to create vendor lock-in. If we want users to have control over their online lives, we need to offer something more open. As open as the Web. Because the Web is the Platform.

What has made the Web what it is now is openness, the ability to view the source code, learn from it and build something else, without asking permission. This is what we’re bringing to the mobile world today. Now entire applications, including the “home screen”, the dialer and the text message application are actually Web applications!

Here is the proof:

B2G Home screen with view source

B2G Home screen with view source

It has been Mozilla’s mission as an organization to develop and bring about a completely open and standards-based Web as a platform for innovation, and we think this is going to benefit users and developers alike! Boot to Gecko and the opening of the Web on mobile opens a new chapter for Mozilla, and this makes me really proud. I’m sure I’m not the only proud Mozillian today!

Next time I meet that friend of mine, I’ll know what to tell him about Mozilla’s direction : “we’re trying to do to the mobile world what we have done to the PC-based Web in 2004: empower developers and users with the Web. On mobile this time.”

17 responses

  1. Nico wrote on ::

    Just one question : would it be possible to see Firefox on Apple’ s products like iPad ou iPhone ? I would really enjoy. ;)

    1. Arthur wrote on :

      No, since Firefox is open source and Apple’s stupid policies block ways for software withopen sources to be released on AppStore.

      1. tommis wrote on :

        They do not block applications on the basis that they’re open source. Some one could create a full screen web browser with this running on it and submit it to the appstore.

        1. tnitot wrote on :

          Tommis: from what I understand, Apple blocks “platforms”, applications that could run other applications. Flash falls in this category. Browsers with a JavaScript engine too. This is why there is no full-fledge browsers on iOS. You do have “skins” running on top of Apple’s WebKit engine, but that’s just because they don’t have their own JS engine and reuse Apple’s engine.

  2. Paul wrote on ::

    Very interesting idea ! Really !

    Many questions comes in my mind:
    How do you access the device API ?
    Is the engine is a kind of web browser ?
    Where are stored datas ? In the phone ? In the cloud ?
    What is the server side engine ? (since webapps not only requires js/html/css)

    Really I love this idea

    1. Roy Fernandez wrote on ::

      I too would love to know answers for those questions.

      1. Tristan Nitot wrote on :

        Sorry, I somehow missed this comment.

        These are a lot of questions, and many answers can be found here:

        http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/b2g/faq/ and http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/b2g/

        Device APIs are accessible from the Web applications using… Web APIs that are being written by Mozilla and submitted as standards to the W3C.

        The engine is actually made of 3 layers, as described here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/B2G/Architecture

        1 – Gonk (Linux kernel and userspace hardware abstraction layer)
        2 – Gecko (Firefox’ browser engine, used as an “Application Runtime” for Web Apps)
        3 – Gaia, the user interface of B2G.

        Data can be stored locally and in the cloud. It’s up to the application author.

        1. Roy Fernandez wrote on ::

          Thanks for reply, Sir!

  3. Desiderius wrote on :

    I had the chance to see and to manipulate this smartphone in the “real” life !

    Awesome ! Everything is so fluent and so easy ! It is the revival of the mobile !

    And all that is just Gecko, HTML5, CSS and Javascript !

    You are all able to develop Web applications for B2G.

    Good work Mozilla !

    Have fun

  4. tnitot wrote on :

    @Desiderius: thanks for the nice words!

    @Paul: See https://wiki.mozilla.org/B2G/Architecture for more details. In short, B2G is Linux Kernel + Gecko (Mozilla’s rendering engine) + HTML/CSS/JS

    @Nico: the contract that Apple requires application developers to sign seems not to be compatible with Firefox. In short, it’s very likely that Firefox would be rejected from the iOS AppStore :-( .

    1. Nico wrote on ::

      @nitot : what a shame, I would really enjoy seeing my favorite browser on Apple products. :-(

  5. Pingback from Native et Web Apps, la convergence arrive | MB2013 on ::

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  6. Phil wrote on :

    This looks very very promising!
    The level of freedom and simplicity offered by html, css and js is hard to beat.

  7. Yoshie Canham wrote on ::

    Nice site

  8. Roy Fernandez wrote on ::

    It would indeed be great to see Firefox on iOS devices.

  9. shaan wrote on :

    Great we web designers and devs love this and add the freedom of opensource,awwwwsome!!! would love to see it in tablets and maybe this is far fetched but, Chrome has a netbook of its own, so a desktop/netboook/notebook version of B2G would be great too.
    Very intuitive. Thank you mozilla for a great product (innovation)..

  10. Mk wrote on ::

    Your friend should not challenge a long-time Mozillian ;)
    Love the Article…