Friday, April 11th, 2008

Mozilla Fennec: The mobile browser wars

Category: Browsers, Firefox, Mobile

IE may be the dominant browser on the desktop, but the mobile wars are going strong. WebKit, Opera, and Pocket IE have a lot of users, but Mozilla has been a little weak in the past.

Now though, they have a new Fennec browser that takes the great performance gains in Firefox 3, and makes a mobile oriented version.

Sullivan explained that the Fennec project aims to bring the desktop Firefox user experience to handheld devices but will focus on meeting the unique requirements of mobile computing users. “Our goal on mobile is to embody the principles that have made Firefox so successful on the desktop, but with the recognition that mobile is different—not so much in that it presents some constraints, but in that it enables new types of experiences, and people’s interaction with these devices are different than when they’re sitting at their desks,” he says. “Web compatibility, security, performance, support for rich internet apps will all be key.”

I have been curious how it can scale down, just due to the XUL overhead, but it works great.

Much of the Firefox user interface is constructed with XUL, an XML-based user interface description language. This makes Firefox very easy to customize and extend. Mozilla hopes to leverage this advantage to encourage experimentation with new mobile user interface concepts. Developers can augment or reinvent the Fennec user interface by modifying the browser.xul file in the Fennec chrome directory and the associated browser.css file. Additional functionality can be implemented in JavaScript by modifying the browser.js file. Fennec will eventually support a complete extension system like Firefox 3 that developers will be able to use for modifying the browser’s behavior and user interface.

“Another exciting thing is that we’re providing full support for add-ons,” Sullivan notes. “These will fall into three buckets: most add-ons will just work out of the box; some won’t make much sense away from a PC; and a whole new class will be created that are going to be new for mobile.”

There are other aspects of the Mozilla Mobile initiative that will appeal to developers as well. Mobile software development is hard, and Mozilla could potentially offer a novel approach to simplifying the process. The underlying XUL technology on which the Firefox interface is built can be used independently with a XULRunner runtime to create platform-neutral mobile applications with XML and JavaScript.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:16 am
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Moblie browser wars ……. get real

Comment by Aphrodisiac — July 30, 2008

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