Firefox for iPad officially in the making

Firefox for iPad and iPhone

One of the most common complaints that the users of Apple iPad and iPhone have is the lack of Mozilla Firefox for iPad browser for these devices. In the past, Mozilla has consistently refrained from releasing a version of these devices, considering the restrictions that exist on these devices for third party applications. In this tussle between Mozilla and Apple, common users have suffered. However, now it seems that the policy of Mozilla is about to change and we might soon be able to see a Firefox for iPad browser developed specifically for iPhone and iPad. This was hinted by Mozilla

“Firefox-like” Experience for iOS Devices

The announcement was made by the release manager of Firefox, Lukas Bakk, who said in a tweet that Mozilla needs to be where its users are, which is why the company has decided to launch a version of the Firefox browser for iOS. The comment was later confirmed by an official blog post by the company later. According to this brief post, the company is developing a version of Firefox browser which would give a “Firefox-like” experience to the Apple users. Without revealing anything more, the company said that more updates would be released soon in this regard.

Development Restrictions on iOS Devices

Over the last few years, Mozilla has refrained from developing Firefox for iPad browser for Apple devises because of the development problems. As per the details, Apple allows only those browsers on its App Store which are developed on top of its own rendering and JavaScript engines. This was not acceptable to Mozilla because it uses its own technologies for the same task. It is not clear so far why Mozilla has decided to shift its policy and also the extent to which it is ready on giving up its insistence on using its own technologies for the development purposes.

History of Mozilla Firefox with iOS Devices

First time Mozilla made an announcement about its unwillingness to release a Firefox for iPad version for Apple iPad and iPhone was back in 2009. The CEO of the company at the time, John Lilly, said that Mozilla was unlikely to release an offering of Firefox for iOS. The same stance was repeated in 2010 and the reason given this time was the technical and logistical restrictions that hindered the way of developing a full Firefox browser for iOS devices. This position was reiterated by a product manager at Mozilla, Ragavan Srinivasan.

Safari is the default browser for iOS devices, although other browsers have also been developed by third parties including Google and Opera Software. Both Google Chrome and Opera Coast were released on the variation of the same WebKit rendering engine that is required for Apple browsers and is also used on the Safari browser. Due to this reason, Google could not offer the full Chrome experience on the iOS devices. Mozilla, on the other hand, did launch Firefox Home for iOS which was mainly about tab synchronization and bookmark technologies. However, the product was soon axed and Mozilla diverted its attention to other projects.

Firefox for Windows 8

Mozilla also developed a browser version for Windows 8 which, however, was killed eventually by the company. The reason given for this cutting off of the product was the unimpressive numbers for the pre-release builds of the software. According to the head of Firefox, Jonathan Nightingale, this was because of significant investment and low impact, factors which made it unviable to continue the product. Later, however, it was said that the restrictions imposed by Microsoft about the default browser assignment were the reason behind the scrapping of the project, even though the restrictions faced by the software on Windows 8 were much less compared to those that the company will have to face for developing a browser version of iOS devices. It is not clear how Mozilla would work around those limitations.

Considering the restrictions that the software will have to face on iOS devices, it is clear that users won’t have the full experience of the Firefox for iPad browser as it exists on the desktops. This was also made clear by the official announcement according to which the new software would be something “Firefox-like” and not exactly Firefox. From this, it can be deduced that the new browser would be developed on the Apple’s required WebKit whose user interface would be similar to the actual Firefox browser.

Reasons for Development of Firefox for iOS

There can be several reasons behind this change of mind on part of Mozilla. Perhaps the most important one is the increasing competition in the domain of browsers and slow growth in the usage share. This was made amply clear by the stats recently released by the analytics firm Net Applications and StatCounter. As per the details of these stats, the desktop user share of desktop has dwindled by as much as 26% over the last 12 months while only 2% growth has been seen in the desktop usage share. These numbers are certainly troubling for the company due to which it might be thinking of venturing into new domains.

Stats about the Firefox browser on mobile devices are also not very encouraging. For instance, the Firefox browser version designed for Android devices has not enjoyed the popularity that was previously expected. As per the stats released by StatCounter, the usage share of Firefox browser on the mobile devices was only 0.4% last month. The same was the share of the browser previous year which means that there has been no growth. Besides, the open-source mobile operating system of the company, Firefox OS, has also received lukewarm response.

All these reasons have naturally combined to give a push to the idea of developing a Firefox for iPad version for iOS devices. If the iOS user base is tapped by Firefox, it would certainly yield rich dividends and giving up on certain restrictions because of Apple’s policies seems like a sacrifice worth making. The recent deal of Mozilla with Yahoo has probably played a role in this decision too, considering that Yahoo would like to have the Firefox-generated search requests from the 42% of the US smartphone market of Apple. But whatever the reasons, it would be nice to have a variation of Mozilla Firefox for iPad Apple devices.

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