Posts tagged Mozilla
One page out gives Mozilla trouble with Google. Enhanced campaigns get Google+ annotations and an upgrade center. And it sure was hard not to see Eric Schmidt. Here’s a quick recap of search and social marketing news and tips from the past week.
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We reported yesterday that Google penalized Mozilla over user generated content. Today we learn that it was a really really small penalty that only impacted a single page out of Mozilla’s ~22 million web pages. Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, added more to the Google thread…
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Have user generated content on your site? Pay attention to what those users are doing. That’s the takeaway from Google hitting Mozilla with a spam penalty this week, along with another takeaway. Despite Google’s saying it’s being more transparent about spam actions, people clearly…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
It started with a gecko, of sorts. It then became a fennec, a type of winter fox. Now, it is a smartphone, and soon it will be available all over the world.
We are, of course, talking about Firefox OS, the open source, Web-based smartphone operating system created by Mozilla. The company announced Sunday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, that it has partnered with device manufacturers and mobile operators across the world to launch Firefox smartphones in 2013.
Mozilla also officially launched the Firefox Marketplace, an app store featuring mobile Web applications and websites that will be able to operate on the new smartphones. Both the Firefox OS and Marketplace are optimized towards HTML5 development and open Web standards using Mozilla’s Firefox browser as its backbone.
Mozilla claimed three initial manufacturers ready to build and deploy Firefox OS smartphones: LG, Alcatel and ZTE. These devices will be distributed to 17 global carriers in nine countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Serbia, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, Hungary and Venezuela. (Note that these are largely developing markets, and the list does not include the United States.) Since the announcement yesterday, Sony has also said that it would build and release Firefox OS smartphones in 2014. On the other hand, market leader Samsung has said that it is not interested in building smartphones for Mozilla (likely due to its investment in the similar Tizen platform).
The seed of Firefox OS came from Mozilla’s first ventures into the mobile browser wars against Android. Mozilla started with its rendering layout engine, Gecko, and applied it to Android as a third-party browser. Initially, the Gecko-boot of Firefox for Android was named Fennec.
Mozilla then started thinking bigger.
As HTML5 has evolved into the newest open Web standard, Mozilla became a leading developer and evangelist for HTML5 websites and apps. The problem that Mozilla had with smartphones, though, was that it was not possible to tie smartphone hardware capabilities to mobile browsers. If you ever hear of the “Web vs. Native” argument when it comes to apps, the issue of tying Web browsers to smartphone and tablet hardware (like a camera, accelerometer etc.) is central to the issue. Mozilla wanted to fix that and created what it calls Web APIs (application programming interfaces) to access hardware through a browser.
(See more ReadWrite coverage of HTML5.)
That goal was what ultimately led Mozilla to announce its own smartphones this year at Mobile World Congress. It has dedicated itself to open Web standards and mobile evolution, all in the name of consumer choice. Firefox OS smartphones will be extremely affordable and targeted at emerging smartphone markets where there is still a lot of potential to make a dent in the industry.
Building The Marketplace
As shown in the rise of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the name of the game in smartphones is apps. Mozilla plans on leveraging the power of the Web to build out its app store by enabling websites and app developers to create apps for the mobile Web that can easily be integrated into Firefox OS.
To start, Firefox announced that a variety of content and app partnerships with the likes of AirBnB, Box, Disney Mobile Games, EA Games, Facebook, Pulse News, Sound Cloud, Twitter and others. Mozilla stated that it will have a variety of games, news and media, productivity and business apps.
When it comes to apps built for the likes of iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, many already have a core of HTML5 and Web-based technology powering them. Apps are often built as mobile websites and then “wrapped” with native properties to help them connect to device hardware before being deployed to the various native app stores. Mozilla’s plan is to eliminate that need to “wrap” apps and let developers build straight for the Web. The potential is that almost any app that will work in browser can easily be deployed to the Firefox Marketplace, reducing the cost for developing and distributing apps.
We will see the first Firefox OS smartphones in developing markets later this year. Does Firefox OS excite you? Let us know what you think of the project in the comments.
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The privacy-obsessed don’t seem to think much of Google.
A survey of consumer confidence found Mozilla to be the most trustworthy pure Internet company when it comes to user privacy, the organization eagerly announced. Out of companies generally, Mozilla broke into the top 20 in the study, which was conducted by the Ponemon Institute.
The top 20 includes plenty of other tech firms, including Amazon, eBay, Intuit, IBM, Microsoft, HP and even oft-loathed telecom carriers Verizon and AT&T.
Notably absent? Google.
It’s worth noting that this survey is a measure of consumer sentiment, not actual privacy features. Google gets very high ranks from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in its annual Privacy Scorecard, which tracks how major tech companies score on major issues of privacy. Twitter and the ISP Sonic.net topped the EFF’s list last year, but Google ranked third thanks to its privacy policies, transparency about user data requests from governments and legal and legislative advocacy on behalf of protecting user privacy.
The EFF doesn’t include Mozilla in its Privacy Scorecard and declined to offer an off-the-cuff score for the nonprofit.
Mozilla vs. Google – Who Can You Really Trust More?
Mozilla is making a big deal of its ranking, and has been making user privacy a very public priority for some time. Despite questions about its effectiveness, the organization has been proactive in incorporating Do Not Track technology in its browsers. Mozilla espouses a six-point philosophy when it comes to user privacy and generally tends to be transparent about its intentions and activities related to how it shares and protects user data.
At the same time, Google – which has more complex privacy issues to contend with as a search engine, email provider and major player in mobile computing – has itself been pretty transparent on privacy, doing things like publishing regular transparency reports outlining the growing number of government requests it receives. Google tends to comply with those inquiries, but does so judiciously and has decried the ease with which governments are legally able to snoop on users’ electronic communications.
At the end of the day, both Chrome and Firefox are secure, privacy-friendly browsers – as are their other competitors. But defending privacy for Google is inherently more challenging given the company’s enormous size and broad product line. And it appears that Google is not doing a great job of portraying itself as a privacy-friendly organization.
That could be a big problem. Moving forward, such perceptions – even more than objective actions and policies – could be crucial competitive differentiators.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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For Mozilla, 2012 was a year to start transitions. The browser maker started its biggest transition since releasing Firefox in 2004 when it started building Firefox OS, a HTML5 Web-based mobile operating system for smartphones.
Mozilla also focused a lot of attention on its Firefox for Android browser as a bit of a proving ground for its fledgling operating system. It has almost everything in place to make a big push in the mobile sector come 2013.
Mozilla calls Firefox OS the operating system “to power the world’s first Open Web Device.” That is an interesting statement. Mozilla is putting together four elements that are not usually thought of in the same breath: open, Web, mobile and operating system.
You can put any two or three of those elements together and make a world of sense. Open + Web is the most obvious, as open standards rule the Internet and are the basis of Firefox itself. Open + mobile could point to (in some ways) Google’s Android operating system or technology stacks like HTML5. Mobile + operating system points to iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, BREW, Tizen, Bada, Palm, Symbian and so on. Even Web + operating System makes a certain amount of sense, if you look at Google’s Chrome OS.
An open mobile Web-based operating system? That does not exist.
Chrome OS may be the closest to what Mozilla is trying to build, but as yet it can only be found on laptop and notebook-like PC devices. Tizen, the bastard offspring of MeeGo and supported by the Linux Foundation, may come close. Palm OS, ostensibly supported by Hewlett-Packard, is Web-based and open source, but the poor remnants of Palm are an ill-formed zombie.
Mozilla’s biggest challenge has been to bridge the capabilities of a mobile browser with the features and functions of a smartphone. Part of that challenge is tying the browser to the hardware features of a smartphone, like the camera or internal storage. To tackle this issue, Mozilla has created what it calls Web APIs (application programming interfaces) to tie the browser to the hardware. To this point, Mozilla has 30 Web APIs that command features like the proximity sensor, phone vibration, push notifications and power management.
See the infographic below from Mozilla to view progress the company made in both its mobile and desktop browser spaces in 2012.
A Firefox couple highlights:
- Do Not Track was adopted by 19% of Firefox mobile users and 8.6% of desktop users
- New Firefox is 50% faster with four times less memory used than the previous version
- Firefox added new social APIs including Facebook integration
- 50 billion items were synced through Firefox in 2012
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On November 9, 2004, President George W. Bush was still glowing a week after his successful re-election bid and preparing for his second term in the White House. Xbox game Halo 2 had the most successful opening day sales of any video game, topping $125 million.
And the Mozilla Foundation released the first version of the Firefox browser.
Yes, Firefox turns eight years old today. Begat from the ruins of Netscape and the evolution of the Mozilla Navigator browser, Firefox had a very specific aim: topple the near monopoly of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Beginnings: A Simple Mission
In the beginning, though Mozilla did call its browser “Firefox.” The original name (in April 2003) was meant to be Phoenix, but Mozilla ran afoul of Phoenix Technologies, which had a semblance of its own browser at the time. Mozilla then thought it would call the browser “Firebird.” but that did not work either, as the Firebird database server already had the name. Firefox was chosen for its similarity to Firebird, but Mozilla then learned that a group in the United Kingdom owned the trademark to Firefox, which delayed the browser’s release. Mozilla worked out a licensing agreement and Firefox was born.
Firefox was developed as a branch of the open source Mozilla Suite as a cross-platform browser that would work anywhere. Firefox’s original space within the Suite was known as Navigator – next to other features such as Communicator (Mozilla Mail and Newsgroups), IRC chat (ChatZilla) and a webpage developer (Mozilla Composer). It was developed using XUL markup language, which essentially created the market for browser extensions and themes.
After Firefox 1.0, Mozilla released new versions of the browser about once a year (or so) until 2011, when Mozilla went to the “rapid release” schedule, issuing new versions of Firefox every six weeks or so. Firefox for the Web is now on version 16.2, which was released on Oct. 26, 2012.
The core goal of Mozilla through Firefox was to create an open source community that gives developers and consumers a choice in how they want to interact with the Web. Firefox continues to meet that goal.
Firefox was an essential piece in the evolution of the Web. Before there was Google Chrome, before there was iOS Safari, the browser landscape was pretty much Internet Explorer and Firefox. The two diametrically opposed organizations - a closed system with few choices versus an open system with many choices – have defined, in parallel, the evolution of the Web.
The Web is a lot different place in 2012 than it was in 2004. Yet that same open/closed dichotomy still defines how the Web evolves.
Firefox In The Mobile Era
The Mobile Revolution put enormous pressure on organizaions focused specifically on Web browsers. Mozilla looks after many open-source projects, but the bread-and-butter of the non-profit organization has always been Firefox.
As more smartphones reach consumers hands, the less time they spend on the Internet through their PCs and laptops. Smartphones come with default browsers, such as Android’s browser (and Chrome for Android, which will become the default browser for Android in successive releases of the operating system) and Apple’s Mobile Safari. Many other third-party mobile browsers are available (such as Opera and Dolphin) for both iOS and Android, but most smartphone owners stick with the default browser. Unlike the PC world, where installing your preferred browser is one of the first things that people with a new machine, third-party browsers are not yet pervasive on mobile devices.
That could be because unlike on PCs – where the browser is basically the only way to interact with the Web – the browser is not as central to how mobile users interact with the Internet. Native apps, as found through Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play, consume as much time for users as do the default browsers. Whereas I might use Firefox to visit The Huffington Post on my computer, I am more likely to use The Huffington Post app on my tablet or smartphone.
The native environments inherent to mobile operating systems belie the open principles that Mozilla was founded on. Hence, Firefox finds itself in a position shared by many Web companies in the Mobile Era: evolve or die.
That is easier said than done. Especially if you want to make a significant impact in how people fundamentally interact with the Web through their mobile devices. Third-party mobile browsers are important to the mobile app landscape because they give users choice, but ultimately the likes of Opera, Dolphin, Skyfire or Miren remain niche options for users with specific tastes.
Sure, Mozilla has released Firefox as a third-party browser for Android. But Mozilla is thinking bigger than just being another third-party browser on some other company’s operating system.
The future of Firefox will be as its own operating system, based on HTML5 and shipped on its own devices. Firefox OS is based on the open source Boot2Gecko project and will be a browser-based mobile operating system built to be optimized towards the Web. ReadWrite has covered Mozilla’s ambitions in mobile extensively in the past. See the stories listed below for context:
- HTML5 Does Have A Mobile Future: Mozilla’s Chris Heilmann Goes Mythbusting
- Mozilla Close To Cracking HTML5 Mobile Hardware Integration for Android
- Firefox For Android Reveals The Future Of The Mobile Web
- Mozilla Putting All The Pieces Together To Be A Smartphone Contender
- Mozilla’s Plan For Keeping Firefox Relevant In A Post-Browser Web
A look back at eight years of Firefox makes it clear while Mozilla challenges have remained constant, but the context has changed. While Google, Apple and Microsoft try to control the user experience through their (mostly) closed native ecosystems, Mozilla wants to bring the Web back as the central user experience in mobile. The first Firefox OS devices are due to ship sometime in 2013 and will initially be focused on foreign markets, such as Latin America.
Mozilla is adapting to the evolution of computing, but it remains to be seen if its new plan will be enough to keep Firefox relevant.
Top image: Phoenix version 0.1, Historical browser images courtesy Wikipedia.
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One of the biggest problems facing HTML5 development for mobile devices is the ability to tie the software to the hardware. It is a daunting task that has proved slow going by developers trying to figure out how it can be done. The fundamental problem is this: How do you tie a mobile browser to a device’s hardware to turn it into a functional operating system? Solve that issue, though, and you break the stranglehold that a phone’s OS has on many of its operations – and open your device up to a world of useful possibilities that aren’t necessarily defined by Apple or Google.
There are many fine engineers working on this basic but complicated problem. The closest to solving it comes from an open source project, spearheaded by Mozilla.
Mozilla’s quest to create an HTML5-based mobile operating system is called Boot 2 Gecko (B2G), which was unveiled as an open source project near the end of 2011. The promise behind B2G is that is will create a mobile OS that can be a platform for mobile Web apps that function just like their native counterparts on iOS and Android but are based on browser technologies. More so than any other HTML5 initiative, such as creating apps that function across platforms, the ability to be the platform and the hardware is one of the most significant development projects that developers are working on right now.
Since unveiling its roadmap, Mozilla has made significant progress. The pertinent piece in tying HTML5 to device hardware is called WebAPIs. It is aptly named: The goal is to take application programming interfaces (APIs) that have the ability to connect data from one point to functions at another point and tie them to the Web through a browser.
In this scenario, the browser becomes the platform. It needs to be able to interact with the hardware on a mobile device that controls a variety of simple functions including the telephone, vibration, accelerometer, power management, Wi-Fi, device storage, contacts, camera, NFC, BlueTooth, push notifications and more.
The ability to perform these basic functions through a mobile browser is still very much a work in progress. But developer Paul Rouget already has a working demo of WebAPIs in action. In a video post earlier this week, he showed off such fundamental capabilities including the use of an accelerometer, GPS, proximity sensors and power management.
The smartphone in that video is likely an HTC One X, the high-end Android phone running Ice Cream Sandwich, Android’s most recent iteration of its OS. Mozilla is working on two different ways of tying HTML5 to device hardware. Yes, it is trying to create a mobile operating system with B2G, but it is also working through its mobile browser, Firefox for Android (dubbed Fennec), to create a HTML5-based browser platform within Google’s smartphone OS. Almost all of the WebAPIs being developed are developed for Fennec on Android alone as well as in concert with B2G. Take a look at the documentation page for WebAPIs to see the progress of the project. Note that in the progress section, most WebAPIs are documented for both Android and B2G. (Because Mozilla doesn’t have a browser under iOS, employing this approach for the iPhone will be much trickier, and likely well off in the future; expect this approach to be Android-only for some time.)
What does Mozilla hope to accomplish by creating WebAPIs for its Firefox browser in Android? Foremost, the more powerful Firefox for Android is, the easier it will be for Mozilla to deploy dynamic Web apps quickly to a wider array of smartphone users. Boot 2 Gecko is a smart idea, and it is beginning to take shape, but it is still likely more than a year from actually coming to market with a real device. Mozilla is planning on a Web app store to deploy applications both through its desktop and mobile browsers. The mobile browser, which has its largest user base on Android, needs to be able to properly run those apps.
Mozilla’s idea is intriguing. On Android, it can become a platform within a platform. Instead of using the native Android browser or Google Chrome Beta, users will be able to download apps through Mozilla’s application store instead of Google Play. It is not exactly the “end-run around the app store” technique that many hope will be the future of HTML5 mobile Web apps, but the ability to create an app ecosystem that resides right next to the native app store would be a decent first step.
How exciting are Mozilla’s efforts on creating an HTML5 mobile operating system? With the presumed death of webOS and its Enyo-based application framework, has the hope of developers in creating a true browser-based OS on mobile passed to Mozilla? Let us know what you think.
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Mozilla has accused Microsoft of failing in its commitment to give users a choice in browsers. Mozilla says Internet Explorer will be the only browser able to run on Windows 8, at the expense of rival browsers like Firefox, Safari and Chrome.
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When we think of HTML5 as a mobile platform, devices are not what come to mind. The mobile Web, almost by definition, is an amorphous set of technologies, standards, designs, contents and ideas. The mobile Web is more of a Wild West these days then its desktop counterpart. Mozilla is attempting to give the mobile Web shape and definition and today announced a partnership that will bring the first HTML5-based mobile operating system to a device in 2012.
Mozilla announced a partnership at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today with Telefonica and Qualcomm to create the first mobile Web handset, dubbed open Web devices. The platform will be based on Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko platform and will bring core device APIs to the HTML5-based devices. While many other would-be operating systems have tried to counter the dominance of Apple and Google, Mozilla and the open Web may have the best chance yet.
The goal of Mozilla is to create the first truly open source mobile operating system for devices. While Android is technically open source, Google has preferred partners among service providers and original equipment manufacturers and is consolidating design guidelines. Android is as open source as Google lets it. The Open Web Devices program will be more than just Mozilla releasing the source code of platform. Mozilla is building its mobile operating system with open source tools and all references will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.
There will be no proprietary APIs, no backroom partnerships. Just an open platform that anybody can build upon within reason. The goal is to create a browser-based operating system for smartphones that can compete with high-end capabilities on a feature phone budget. In many ways, the Boot2Gecko mobile operating system will be the smartphone equivalent of Google’s Chrome OS that attempts to bring a browser-based OS to netbooks. While the Chrome OS has not been successful on the market, Mozilla has the ability to capture the hearts and minds of developers looking for easier cross-platform standards to deploy applications.
The partnership with Telefonica is interesting. By teaming with the international mobile operator, Mozilla is showing that it will be aiming its operating system at emerging markets. That fits with language in its press release, stating that it intends to bring smartphone level capabilities to the world in feature phone price ranges. This will bring Open Web Devices in direct competition with low-end Android devices, Samsung feature phones and Bada-driven handsets and Nokia’s Symbian series. Whether or not we will see a high-end device come from Mozilla to the United States remains to be seen.
From a development perspective, apps for the Mozilla mobile OS will be browser-based and built with open standards. It is likely that the Mozilla Apps Marketplace will be featured prominently on the phone. Last week we said that Mozilla has a chance to be the king of the mobile Web and it is setting up all the appropriate tools from and app store, a functional operating system and soon a series of devices to deploy them. Other operating systems such as Tizen (MeeGo) and webOS were unable to find a niche in the current mobile ecosystem but Mozilla has the opportunity to succeed where the others have failed.
Developers: are you excited for the Mozilla Boot to Gecko device? Can this be the first real open source smartphone based on Web standards? Or is it destined to become another also-ran in the ecosystem? Let us know in the comments.
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