The New Mozilla Firefox for iPad

The new Mozilla Firefox for iPad

Mozilla Firefox is one of the most popular web browsers on desktops including all the major operating systems such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. However, one of the main problems that the users of Apple iPad face is that there is no version of the Firefox for iPad browser available on the device. A few years ago, Mozilla did launch a version of the browser for iPad and iPhone, but it was soon disconnected because of the low response. Additionally, Mozilla has also been reluctant in embarking on any such venture because of the restrictions that third party developers have to face while launching their applications on Apple app store.

Now, however, it seems that we might see a change in this official policy of Mozilla and the users of Apple iPad might soon be able to use the Firefox for iPad browser on their devices. This was made clear recently by officials at Mozilla who said that the company is considering to change its policy and launch a Firefox for iPad version of Apple devices. More specifically, the changed intentions of the company were made clear by release manager Lukas Blakk in a tweet. According to the tweet, the company would like to release Firefox for iPad for its large user base on Apple devices and it would be appropriate to release a version of Firefox iOS for that purpose.

Restrictions on Apple for Third Party Developers

The launch of a Firefox for iPad version for Apple iOS is not as easy as it might sound to a lot of people. For instance, Apple has fairly strict restrictions for third party developers when it comes to Apple app store. Officially, the browser used on Apple devices is Safari, but there are others in use too, including Opera and Google Chrome. In the presence of the same old strict restrictions, it would be interesting to see how Mozilla manages to deal with the requirements of Apple while retaining the essence of its Firefox for iPad browser. Previously, Google also launched its Chrome for iPad and it too had to compromise on some of the features of the standard version because of the same problem of restrictions for third party developers.

This decision of the company was arrived at during a recent event of the non-profit organization Mozlandia at Portland. It was Jonathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox, who floated the idea which was taken by everyone else quite enthusiastically. It is also expected that common users would also be very enthusiastic about the idea considering that Firefox is among the most popular browsers, even though its popularity has somewhat declined over the last year, which might very well have been one of the reasons why the company decided to explore new avenues with Firefox for iPad.

Declining Share of Firefox on Mobile Devices

An important factor for this decision is the declining popularity of Firefox in the face of Google Chrome, particularly in the domain of smartphones and tablets. Over the last few years, a large number of people have shifted from desktops and Macs to smartphones and tablets, which means that browsers that enjoy popularity on these handheld devices have seen wider acceptance among the users. Due to this reason, while the popularity of Google Chrome has constantly increased, the user base for Mozilla Firefox has steadily declined. However, the important factor of the increased popularity of Android devices has also played its role in the popularity of Google Chrome.

Currently, the share of Mozilla Firefox on the mobile devices has been just a paltry 0.6 percent which is one of the lowest. And in the face of mounting pressure, this share will continue to decline if the company does not resort to serious measures. And it does seem that the company is taking this seriously with Firefox for iPad, which explains their changed mind about releasing Mozilla for mobile devices. So far, the most popular browser on Apple mobile devices is Safari which enjoys a share of over 45 percent. The share of Google Chrome, on the other hand, is over 22 percent. However, Google Chrome has a strong support base in Android devices.

The Problem of Web Engine for Firefox for iPad

The main bone of contention between Mozilla and Apple previously has been on the issue of development. Apple requires all the third party developers to develop on its own web engine. However, this condition was not acceptable for Mozilla who wanted to use its own tools with Firefox for iPad. Other major third party developers, including Google and Microsoft had to also go through the same restrictions while launching their apps for Apple devices. For instance, both Opera and Chrome had to use Apple’s own rendering engine and JavaScript for their development process. So, finally it seems that instead of sticking with the old rigid stance, Mozilla has decided to ignore this hitch and move on with a Firefox for iPad version of its browser. It is yet to be seen how successful this venture would turn out to be because a previous such effort from Mozilla did not turn out to be well.

So far it’s not clear how Mozilla will deal with the restrictions of Apple, since the latter has not changed anything about the development requirements. Obviously, there are some changes that Mozilla would inevitably be required to make to deal with the restrictions of Apple and the final product would be quite different from the standard Firefox browser as seen on the desktops. We will have to wait for further official announcement from the company, clarifying their stance about the development process.

But still, even if Mozilla sticks to the restrictions, there is lot it can do. For instance, it can include its important features of bookmark syncing tools as well as other important features that are currently available for the Android users. These features were also included previously on Firefox Home for iOS which was eventually abandoned. It is yet to be seen how far Mozilla has decided to go this time with Firefox for iPad and what would be the final shape of the browser which we would see on the Apple devices. For that, we will have to wait for further announcements from the company in this regard.

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