Mozilla Exits Mobile Development, Focuses on Browser

January 8, 2016 - 2 minutes read

Most of us know Mozilla as the company behind Firefox, the highly customizable Chrome alternative. But to iPhone and Android app developers, the company is known for something else: Firefox OS, an intriguing but short-lived attempt to provide an alternative to Android and iOS.

While the anti-native web-app-only interface showed a lot of promise in a mobile landscape increasingly tied in with the cloud, Mozilla marked this Christmas by officially abandoning the project — and all other non-Firefox projects, such as Thunderbird — to focus exclusively on developing their web browser. While it’s sad for Linux users to see Thunderbird officially bite the dust, mobile app development more or less advances without Mozilla’s contributions.

Mozilla chairperson Mitchel Baker had this to say about the transition:

The current setting isn’t stable, and we should start actively looking into how we can transition in an orderly way to a future where Thunderbird and Firefox are un-coupled.

The move comes as a surprise to Chicago mobile app developers as the push for Firefox OS mirrored some of the enthusiasm for web-only interfaces in the mainstream market. Google’s Chromebook, for example, provides a similar service (albeit on a laptop instead of a smartphone). Whether or not users are ready for the idea of a phone without “native” functionality, Android and iOS’s prevalence in the mobile OS market may have doomed the project from the start.

Even early adaptors need a sense of security, and while Mozilla’s open-source work is both admirable and innovative, it doesn’t have the stability needed to grow a broad userbase outside the web browser they’re known for.

Consequently, many mobile app developers predict that if web-only devices become popular, it will only be once HTML5 standards have advanced and stabilized — and that the push will come from a mainstream market force like Apple or Google.

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