Firefox certainly looks geared to make impressive gains in the PC browser marketshare war. However, with cell phones, smart phones, and other mobile devices being one of the hottest market segments right now, Firefox is serious in its belief that in order to truly become a superpower it must make inroads in these markets.
The Mozilla Mobile initiative first was announced last October, and after lots of hard work has already reached a functional prototype stage. The new pre-alpha build codenamed Fennec was presented by Mozilla Mobile director Jay Sullivan, who is gearing up for the August 2008 first alpha build.
The difference between Fennec and MicroB, the early browser, produced an easily noticeable speed difference. Typically such differences are more subtle, but with Fennec it was pronounced; the new browser is fast!
And the Fennec developers aren't just focused on developing a top speed and memory performer. They also are equipping the browser with an intuitive interface, including touch capabilities, which will make it a natural fit to the mobile environment. The Fennec browser was based on one of Mozilla's touchscreen mobile interface proposals.
Fennec is not ready for an alpha release yet as many of Firefox's main features need to be added or implemented still. However it already supports useful inertial scrolling and a single click bookmark system similar to that of Firefox 3. Support for Mozilla's new AwesomeBar technology will eventually be added, but is not present currently.
"The current build you've got is really just a starting point to give us a framework to start experimenting, doing performance tests, etc.," says Sullivan, "It's a true peek under the hood, and you're able to get that peek because of the unique level of openness we have at Mozilla."
He continues, "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. Web compatibility, security, performance, support for rich internet apps will all be key."
"With existing mobile browsers, it's hard to do basic things like enter URLs, navigate around rich pages, switch between multiple pages, and in general the browser is in a silo separate from the rest of what the phone can do," Sullivan explains, "We're doing some creative thinking about how to make it easier to get to the content you care about, easier to navigate within those pages, easier to seamlessly move between your PC and your phone."
The browser is written with XUL, an XML based language, making it easy to modify and extend the browser by modifying its .xul, .js, and .css files. The .js file will allow more complex java script extensions, and the system should support full extensions capability similar to Firefox on the PC. New add-ons are being developed for the browser.