Mozilla and Mobile
People ask us all the time about what Mozilla’s going to do about the mobile web, and I’m very excited to announce that we plan to rock it. Here’s some information about what we’re planning to do with hiring, technology, partnerships, and products, and how you can get involved. Short summary: we are serious about bringing the Firefox experience and technology to mobile devices.
Why increase Mozilla’s presence in mobile?
* A large portion of the world accesses the Internet from mobile devices, and this will become increasingly true over time (mobile devices outsell computers 20-1). Each Firefox install is an individual choice by a person to download something that didn’t ship by default on their computer. Why not offer that option for mobile devices?
* Firefox the most popular open-source browser on the planet with > 100 million active users. Bringing Firefox add-ons, the Mozilla platform (including XUL), open source, and a large and passionate community to the closed and fragmented mobile platform will do the world some serious good.
* Firefox and Mozilla give device manufacturers the best of both worlds: shared investment in the core open-source project plus the flexibility they need to customize the browser for their devices.
* You can already get a Mozilla-based browser for the Nokia N800 and Firefox is a key part of Ubuntu Mobile and the new Intel Internet Project, and most recently ARM has put serious effort towards Firefox on mobile devices.
* Through Joey, we’ve seen how the desktop and mobile browsing experiences can be bridged to build a better experience for both. Wouldn’t it be great if your bookmarks, history, extensions, etc. from Firefox on your computer just worked on your phone?
Just what are we announcing?
* Mozilla will add mobile devices to the first class/tier-1 platform set for Mozilla2. This means we will make core platform decisions with mobile devices as first-class citizens.
* We will ship a version of “Mobile Firefox” which can, among other things, run Firefox extensions on mobile devices and allow others to build rich applications via XUL.
* Mozilla will expand its small team of full-time mobile contributors to focus on the technology and application needs of mobile devices. In particular two new folks just joined:
** Christian Sejersen, recently the head of browsers at Openwave which has shipped over 1 billion mobile browsers, joined Mozilla Monday. He’ll be heading up the platform engineering effort and setting up a R&D center in Copenhagen, Denmark.
** Brad Lassey just joined Mozilla from France Telecom R&D. He’s already been an active contributor to our mobile efforts and can now focus on Mozilla mobile full time.
These folks will accelerate the tremendous work already done by Doug Turner, Chris Hofmann and the entire Mozilla community. The efforts in mobile will be magnified by all aspects of our kick-ass community in everything from testing, to UI design, to core engineering. Together we will accelerate the development and use of mobile-ready Mozilla technology.
* Getting a no-compromise web experience on devices requires significant memory (>=64MB) as well as significant CPU horsepower. High end devices today are just approaching these requirements and will be commonplace soon For example, the iPhone has 128MB of DRAM and somewhere between a 400 to 600 MHz processor. It is somewhere between 10x-100x slower on scripting benchmarks than a new MacBook Pro and somewhere between 3-5x slower than an old T40 laptop on the same wifi network. But rapid improvements in mobile processors will close this gap within a few years. There are chips out there today that are faster than the one in the iPhone and integrate graphics, cpu, and i/o (wifi/3g/wimax) on one die. Intel has recently re-entered this market which will keep things interesting. Most exciting of all ARM has announced that by 2010 devices will be shipping with a processor 8x faster than what’s in the iPhone!
* The user demand for a full browsing experience on mobile devices is clear. If you weren’t sure about this before you should be after the launch of the iPhone.
* We’ve seen through Mozilla on the Nokia N800 and Minimo that it is possible to build a great experience on devices by using the Mozilla code.
* We are wrapping up work on Gecko 1.9 and there is room post 1.9 to make significant changes to the architecture for improved performance and memory use on devices. Things like reducing the use of XPCOM, unifying memory management under MMgc, and other improvements from Mozilla 2 will make Mozilla a great platform for all devices from mobile phones to your desktop. The use of a single source base gives us the leverage that makes OSS work so well.
Is this the right time?
Absolutely! Up until very recently device limitations required writing new mobile browsers from the ground up. Being able to leverage all the investments in the Mozilla platform across both desktops and devices is the right approach. There is far from a dominant player in this marketplace and even the best mobile browsers today have compromises in user experience, performance, and compatibility. There is still *plenty* of room for innovation.
As mentioned above, Mozilla browsers are already available to N800 users and you can use Joey today to extend your Firefox desktop browsing experience to your phone. We’ll continue to invest in Joey and will work closely with partners who want to ship Mozilla browsers today. Mobile Firefox will arrive later (certainly not before 2008).
What about Minimo?
Minimo was an experiment in mapping the desktop browser experience to a specific mobile context. While we don’t currently plan to develop that project further, it has already provided us with valuable information about how Gecko operates in mobile environments, has helped us reduce footprint, and has given us a platform for initial experimentation in user experience.
Does this mean that Firefox 3 will run on my phone?
No. This project is focused on Mozilla technology that will ship after Firefox 3. We’re at least as excited as you about getting Mozilla’s great web capabilities into your hands, literally, but it’s a big undertaking, and won’t be something that we can wrap up in time for Firefox 3.
What mobile devices will Firefox run on?
We haven’t yet determined what our target platforms will be. If you’re a mobile device or software-stack developer, your insight and support will be very helpful in determining which configurations we can and should support in our initial efforts.
How can I get involved?
Join us on IRC at #mobile, in the newsgroups, or ping me. We need your help!