In a recent tweet following an internal meeting at Mozilla, Lukas Blakk, the Firefox release manager made an announcement that indicates the company is breaking its stance of not bringing its popular Web browser to iOS, and will instead be pursuing a route to have the browser available as an App, similar to Chrome, Safari, and other browsers. In addition, Mozilla has made a similar announcement on its blog, outlining its new interest in iOS.
At Mozilla, we put our users first and want to provide an independent choice for them on any platform. We are in the early stages of experimenting with something that allows iOS users to be able to choose a Firefox-like experience.
We work in the open at Mozilla and are just starting to experiment, so we’ll update you when we have more to share.
In addition, Mozilla’s reluctance has been for its focus on Firefox OS—its approach for a mobile OS that relies on a build of Android centered around the Firefox browser. While an interesting and exciting addition to the mobile offerings, this approach also does nothing to break Mozilla into the mobile marketshare that Apple possesses with iOS.
It therefore appears that for Mozilla to get Firefox on iOS, the company will need to simply create a WebKit version of its browser for iOS, and then give it the services and interface that will attract users away from Safari and Chrome, which have a strong foothold with evolved integration with other apps and services that both Apple and Google have refined for iOS.
The question occurs to me in regard to their Firefox OS effort: Who needs another mobile operating system? In particular, do we need another branch of Android that will rely, as the other branches do now, on third party developers to integrate Android updates and upgrades with their versions of the OS? How well has that worked out? Then their’s the challenge a new version of Android will present to app developers. Without compatible apps, any mobile OS is dead in the water. Just ask BlackBerry. And how is an app supposed to work in an OS centered around a web browser? That was Steve Jobs’ first solution to the demand for apps for iOS. The proposal went exactly nowhere. As a result he found and developed a far more satisfying alternative – and millions of apps later iOS is the preferred and most profitable environment for mobile apps.
As if Android is not too fragmented already, Mozilla wants to make it worse? I think not. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
Perhaps it’s finally dawned on Mozilla that the Firefox OS will never be more than a toy for geeks to play with and that a version of the Firefox browser for iOS is far more promising. Not to mention a better use of limited resources. They already dropped support for the Thunderbird e-mail client because only a few tens of millions of people were using it. It’s highly unlikely they have the stamina to develop, promote and stick with their own operating system, even if it is built on top of Android.
Whereas, they already have a substantial user base for Firefox on the PC and the Mac. It’s reasonable to assume these users will flock to a Firefox web browser on their iDevices. That’s supposing Mozilla does it right so that it offers the features and usability Firefox fans now enjoy on their computers.