Mozilla Says No More iOS Browser
March 11, 2013

No More Firefox For iOS Users

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Apple´s App Store is a “my way or the highway” sort of playground, and Mozilla has said they´ve already packed their bags. Speaking in a panel at the SXSW Festival this week in Austin, TX, Mozilla´s vice president of product Jay Sullivan said they don´t plan on developing anymore browsers for Apple if they continue to enforce their own guidelines and standards.

Firefox was available on the App Store until last September when Mozilla pulled it from the store themselves. According to Sullivan, the company is not building a new iOS app and has no plans to do so going forward. It´s a decision that seems to be rooted in a point pride: Sullivan claims his company only wants to release the best mobile browser for iOS and believes Apple´s guidelines prohibit them from doing so.

The issue lies in the way Apple makes third-party browsers display web pages. Currently, all third-party browsers, including Chrome, Dolphin or Puffin, must use the UIWebView engine to render webpages. Apple´s stock Safari browser, on the other hand, uses the Nitro JavaScript engine which, according to VentureBeat, is much faster.

Though it may seem anticompetitive on Apple´s part to insist that third-parties use a subpar engine, the iPhone maker claims they made the decision in the name of security. If third-party browsers were able to use the Nitro engine, iOS could be opened up to exploits, an issue Apple rarely has to deal with. If exploits are found, Apple can quickly patch it. If a sloppy third-party opens up the platform to the same exploit, however, it may take them longer to patch the same hole.

Yet while Mozilla may disagree with Apple´s stance, there are still many other mobile browser developers who are willing to work inside the guidelines in order to get their product in front of a very large audience.

David Dehgahn, the chief software architect for the Dolphin Browser also spoke on the SXSW panel and said: "Competition is critical to our survival.”

According to Cnet, Opera´s Mike Taylor also agreed with Sullivan that users need options in order to make the best decision possible. However, it´s likely Taylor is only willing to agree to up to certain point, as the Opera Mobile browser is currently available on the iOS App Store.

Mozilla is also focused on making their own smartphone OS at the moment, one which uses the HTML 5 programming language to run a myriad of web apps. This means the phone will be able to run any web apps available online, such as Pandora or Wolfram Alpha, without developers having to port these apps to a specific platform.

If Mozilla really wants to compete on the mobile browser space, it´s very likely they´ll be able to with a new OS and their existing Android browser. They´ll have an uphill battle, however. According to Cnet, Firefox holds less than one percent of the mobile browser market, while Safari commands a whopping 55 percent.

This point was further illustrated when the panel´s moderator, Cnet´s Seth Rosenblatt, asked how many in the audience were iOS users. A majority of the panel viewers claimed they used iOS. When asked how many of them were suffering by not having access to Mozilla´s browser, only “a few” hands were raised.