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Firefox for mobile: being built to to provide a browser for the GPhone?

So, Firefox is to develop a mobile version of it’s browser

No one seems to be pointing out that Google practically ‘owns’ the development of Firefox (the browser’s lead engineer and most of the other full-time devs are Google staff) – and so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume this to ramp up the creation of a kick-ass browser for the GPhone.

The dates given are ‘next year’, which in turn could indicate that that the GPhone won’t be around until then (clearly Google couldn’t launch the phone without a fully matured browser – if this is for the GPhone).

I wrote about this back in June, guessing that Firefox/Google would be moving into this space. But as I warned then:

“Google’s significant backing of Firefox development and its interest in the mobile space must also guarantee something is going on with Firefox. However we in the community need to make sure that the Mozilla/Firefox engine doesn’t get 0wned by Google solely for their benefit in the Google phone.”

It’s also very curious that Firefox are not able to announce (read: commit) to which mobile platforms they’ll be supporting.

What mobile devices will Firefox run on?

We haven’t yet determined what our target platforms will be. If you’re a mobile device or software-stack developer, your insight and support will be very helpful in determining which configurations we can and should support in our initial efforts.

Seems odd that the project is beginning without it being clear the target devices (or device profiles, at least). Perhaps it’s because the key candidate device (the GPhones) are not announced yet?

Published in News


  1. Flotsam Flotsam

    Does this mean Googzilla have abandoned the Minimo project that was staggering along some years ago?

  2. Both Google and Yahoo! have deals with the Mozilla Corporation regarding the built in search engine functionality in Firefox.

    Ben Goodger, who was one of the lead developers on the Mozilla Project along with Blake Ross is working full time at Google and is no longer actively contributing/involved with Mozilla or Firefox.

    Last time I checked, Mozilla wanted to keep an open mind with regard to the mobile platforms it aims for which is a good strategy – avoids lock down to a phone.

    At the current time, Doug T’s Minimo project for the mobile browser was only for proof-of-concept, to see how the Gecko engine working in the mobile environment. As of now, it’s being discontinued for the Joey project/mobile platform work for 2008.

  3. Chris Burrell Chris Burrell

    it’s = it is
    its = belonging to it
    [remember: his browser, her browser, its browser;
    not: hi’s browser, he’r browser, it’s browser]

  4. Ben Smith Ben Smith

    It don’t seem odd in the slightest – They know (roughly) the screen size they’ll be targetting and other system specifications devices are likely to have. The existing Firefox code is cross-platform (and more importantly, cross-architecture) so targetting many devices shouldn’t be a real issue.

    I’m sure the Firefox devs involved with the handheld Firefox will be wanting to see their efforts on all kinds of mobile devices, even if, although we don’t know it yet, the project has primarily been started because of Google wanting to get into that area.

  5. MrBobla MrBobla

    Chris Burrell stfu asshole

  6. Please Please

    Chris Burrel: you’re a prat. Grow up.

  7. Jack Moxley Jack Moxley

    Actually it is standard practice to start development before choosing a full range of handsets this is for 2 reasons.

    1: Phones stats, (memory, disk space, speed, screen size, device specific bugs, and many different OS’s) significantly vary from device to device, and are notoriously difficult to fit apps on the older versions, its not till mid development cycle you can be sure what handsets you application will fit on to, you can make a good guess but it will not always be accurate.

    2: Phones age fast, most people upgrade every 12-18 months, a list you compile now will not be an accurate coverage of the market when you finish development in lets say 6 months times.

    In conclusion I would say they are being sensible.

  8. The rumours going around at GPhoned ( are that Firefox is being/ has been developed for the Nokia N800 (Linux). Could this be the test bed that Google are looking for?

  9. Seb Seb

    Yet again, a browser maker trying to steal Opera’s thunder. Opera is beautifully supported on mobile platforms, ranging from Opera mini which runs on virtually all modern phones (as a java app, using clever server-based pre-rendering to make it fast and snappy on these devices), to the full Opera mobile that works on Symbian, Windows mobile and most other devices. Opera mini 4 (beta), in particular sports a user interface matched only by the iPhone browser, which will soon be ported to Opera mobile.

    I doubt that Mozilla would go to the trouble of developing a mobile browser for the ‘Gphone’ purely to save the embarrassment brought about by a browser maker needing to use someone else’s browser on their phone. Once again, ideas are stolen and the big marketing party begins. Well, in case you didn’t know since Opera don’t have the press in their pockets, it’s here already: Opera mini / mobile.

    Isn’t it about time that companies (and politicians for UK residents!) stopped ripping of others’ ideas and started innovating? Isn’t that what free markets, open source and consumer choice should be about?

  10. Ben Ben

    @Jack Moxley: Sure, specific models would be difficult to announce because of the changing pace of device launches… but thats why I included “or device profiles at least”

    Before lines of code are written/ported the dev team has to know whether they are building for a Windows Mobile environment (.Net family), Blackberry devices (Java) or Linux (presumably C or variant thereof), etc.

  11. Ben Ben

    @Lee Rickler: I think the browser in the N800 is Firefox already. The device has been out for sometime, and the software platform was launched for the previous model the Nokia 770.

  12. Ben Ben

    @Chris Burrell: Thanks for your comments.

    I’m not claiming to write proof-read editorial copy – these are my thoughts and notes often written out over a sandwich at lunch or during precious periods of downtime between tasks (I have a day job as a consultant, I’m not TechCrunch).

    I’d rather put up copy that isn’t 100% in the time spaces available to me then run out of time and fail to publish anything. If grammatical errors bother you that much then there are plenty of other places on the net to consume media.

    I’m not putting it up as an excuse, but I would also point out that I am dyslexic and as such these are the kinds of typo’s I’m prone to making without careful proof reading (which I simply don’t have time for quite often).

  13. Ben Ben


    “Ben Goodger, who was one of the lead developers on the Mozilla Project along with Blake Ross is working full time at Google and is no longer actively contributing/involved with Mozilla or Firefox.”

    Hmmm, are you saying Ben Goodger is no longer activlely involved/contributing with the Mozilla project because he is working full time at Google?

    If so, I think you’ll find his role at Google is (or at least two years ago when I met him) was to be Firefox’s lead developer as a paid Googler (as I’ve written in my post).

    The fact that’s he’s full time at Google doesn’t mean he’s not full time at Firefox – Google has a whole team of fulltime Firefox engineers on staff.

    Let me know if I’ve miss-read your post and you know more about this then I do. Like I said, I met Ben two years ago now and I can’t really go into the details of the circumstances for reasons, er, I can’t go into either. 🙂 I don’t know what the current status is.

  14. Looking forward to it. Mainly use is for Mapping Apps
    Currently using the N95 via wifi and with the standard ‘safari’ browser – this tends to crash with large websites and removes images.
    Opera did work then an update killed the network settings and have no pages loaded since.

    As long as they clear up the memory leaks that firefox is prone to (or the extensions).

    The Google Maps Application
    has its own little browsing platform.

    Mapperz (mildly dyslexic too)

  15. @Ben

    Ben is no longer contributing towards Firefox/Mozilla as he is working at both Google (yes I know there are Mozilla Project contributors who work there and IBM et al) and on other projects.

    His post about the future of Firefox/Thunderbird he states that he’s no longer working on Firefox:

    Originally from

    July 3, 2007
    The Autonomous Future?

    Editorial Note: I don’t typically post to this blog anymore since I’m not actively contributing to Firefox these days. However I’ve received suggestions that I link to this post from here since it’s Mozilla-related, so that folk who subscribe to planet will receive the link to the April post on my personal blog.

    “One of the great things about open development discussion is that you can usually expect some crank to come along weeks after a heated debate and throw gas on the fire.

    Tonight I am that crank. In the thread “Mozilla 2 repository migration dirlist” in the group there is a lot of discussion about the allocation of resources to various projects within Mozilla by the Mozilla Corporation. This brings to a head an issue that I’ve seen growing for the past couple of years since the Mozilla Corporation was formed.”

    I have not met him so I cannot say his reasons for no longer being involved with the Mozilla Project on that level. But, I would imagine he would be working with Mozilla in some capacity like Scott McGregor and David Bienvenu as a module owner possibly.

  16. Asa Dotzler Asa Dotzler

    Ben, do you just make shit up?

    “Google practically ‘owns’ the development of Firefox (the browser’s lead engineer and most of the other full-time devs are Google staff) – and so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume this to ramp up the creation of a kick-ass browser for the GPhone.”

    Google doesn’t practically own shit when it comes to Firefox. The lead engineer for the Firefox browser is Mike Connor and he works for Mozilla. Mozilla employs about 40 full-time engineers working on Firefox (and the Firefox backend.) Google, as far as I know, pays zero full-time engineers to work on Firefox. There are another thousand or so part-time contributors to the Mozilla codebase that work at any number of other companies, attend various schools, etc. But, rest assured, Google does not make up any significant part of that mix.

    There was a brief period of time after Google hired Ben Goodger (then Firefox lead) away from Mozilla that Ben was both a Google employee and a Mozilla engineering lead. That was years ago. There was also a brief period of time when Google had a handful of full-time people contributing to Mozilla. Neither of those are the case today nor have then been for some time.

    – A

  17. I’m sure Minimo has got something to with all this. I had it running on my phone next to Opera and Pocket IE for ages and it was developed enough to include tabs, rss feeds, bookmarks and a interesting navigation system. I can’t imagine it was just dumped in the scrap pile

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