No Firefox web browser for iPhone or iPad unless Apple relaxes its rules

No Firefox web browser for iPhone or iPad unless Apple relaxes its rules

Mozilla has no plans to bring its Firefox browser to the iPhone or iPad in the future and it is putting the blame firmly at Apple’s door. Mozilla vice president Jay Sullivan was speaking at the mobile browser wars panel at SXSW Interactive. According to CNET:

The sticking point for Mozilla is not being able to carry over its sophisticated rendering and javascript engines to iOS. Essentially, the organization doesn't feel like it can build the browser it wants to for Apple's platform, Sullivan told CNET.

Of course this should come as no great surprise to iOS users; the browser debate has been rumbling on for a long time. The App Store already offers a lot of different web browsers which include the likes of Google Chrome, Dolphin Browser and more.

The fact that none of these alternative browsers can be set as the default browser is hindering enough. When you also factor in the lack of access to the Safari exclusive Nitro JavaScript engine; which considerably speeds up the browsing experience, you can see why it is not an attractive platform for third party browsers.

Nitro gets its speed by using a just-in-time compiler that can execute code faster, but at the expense of security. Given the amount of security exploits that target web content, Apple only uses it in aspects of iOS it can be completely responsible for securing, namely Safari and in web.app (web apps clipped to the Home screen). Third party apps are restricted to UIWebView, which uses the older, more secure yet slower JavaScript engine. That means all alternate browsers can really offer are different interfaces and add-on services, like Chrome does with tabs and sync.

Now that Mozilla is making their own mobile operating system, however, perhaps they can lead by example and show how alternate browsers can run with their own HTML and JavaScript engines, unrestricted, and in a completely secure manner.

Source: CNET

chrisoldroyd

UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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Reader comments

No Firefox web browser for iPhone or iPad unless Apple relaxes its rules

33 Comments

The reason is for security and mal-ware prevention, but this is a really serious problem for Apple. They should enforce severe rules to protect users, to be sure, but still allow fully-functional 3rd-party browsers on the iPhone.

Explain how other browsers such as Chrome or Mercury are not "fully functional". Just because it doesn't have the Nitro engine or the ability to be a default browser doesn't mean it doesn't perform all of the functions that safari does. I can still view every web site, video, picture, etc. it functions just like a browser is supposed to.

Actually, it does. You just listed two things Safari does that Chrome cannot. Or, if you really want to split hairs, you listed one thing Chrome cannot do and one thing Chrome will never be able to do as well as Safari, no matter how hard they try.

The point is an "alternative" browser on iOS can have only those functions Apple allows it to have. That by definition limits the power and creativity of the developer. Mozilla has chosen not to develop under those conditions. I'm sure Google hates them, but they are willing to work under them to get more eyeballs. As much as Google emphasizes speed, I would wager V8 on iOS would have forced Apple to improve Nitro to keep up. But they insulate Mobile Safari from such competition.

You may agree with Apple's reasons, and think the trade-offs are worth it. On balance, you may even be right. But to pretend those trade offs do not exist, and that there are not consequences for developers and users is disingenuous.

Nobody cares about Firefox anymore. It's not 2005 anymore, where you can choose only between IE and Firefox. Firefox ain't important browser anymore, and with Firefox OS they only showing that the company is close to the end.

OH NO!!!! NO FIREFOX, WHAT WILL WE DO NOW?? NOOOOOOOO.....FIREFOX..........PLEEEEAASE!!!!!! APPLE PLEASE BEND THE RULES FOR FIREFOX, I CAN'T DO WITHOUT FIREFOXXXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!!!

Headline could read:

"Firefox's stubborn refusal to develop for iOS costs them 500 million potential customers."

I think Firefox is correct for making a stand it would be nice to be able to choose which default browser I want to use without having to jailbreak, it's not about we want to be able to use our own rendering engine it's more about choice and what would this world be without choice honestly, look at it this way if android had not come in and take the world by storm we would all still be using 3.0 mpeg cameras on a 3.5 inch screen.

Making a stand? Really?

Let's see. If you want to race in the Indy 500, you need to have a race car that follows several rules and limitations. If Mozilla wants to put on an unsafe car that doesn't follow the same rules that everyone else follows you think this is "taking a stand?"

OK...

Apple need introduce a new system, their current one doesn't give developers any freedom in what they produce! Android Markets system is good because developers can pretty much do as they wish but have to declare what things the apps can do (privacy wise). Apple kind of introduced it with photos, Facebook and twitter access but it certainly doesn't give developers anything more! I would also like to see different rendering engines allowed on iOS! Nitro is ok, but not the best...

"…their current one doesn't give developers any freedom in what they produce!" Really? Then who's making the more than 750,000 apps that run on the iPhone?

Or perhaps you mean developers don't have the freedom to produce the 293,091 Apps classified as outright malicious and a further 150,203 classified as high risk. It took Microsoft Windows 14 years to attract this volume of malicious code!

Last week, Microsoft was heavily fined by the EU Commission for not allowing sufficient customer choice over which browser they could use in Windows. Why should Apple be any different? Coulld be EU Commission be looking at Apple next?

No. Because Apple does allow alternative browsers.

Also, Apple does not have any sort of monopoly, you are free to use an Android phone.

Also, this is not anti-competitive. Apple merely restricts a few APIs in the OS from third party use.

Firefox can write whatever they want for iOS, they just can't use the Nitro JavaScript engine or be set as a default browser.

The EU can't go after Apple because Firefox doesn't want to write code for iOS. Firefox could write a browser and Apple would approve it. There is no anti competitive anything here.

Firefox (Mozilla) used to be an underdog. So they wrote a browser for just about every OS out there. Then they got big, and fat and lazy. Now they are complaining that the world is not fair. It seems like they should go back to their roots and remember that what made them big was the fact that we could use a good Firefox browser wherever we wanted to... Now they are stamping their feet crying about Apple and all it does is limit the audience of people using Firefox... Counter productive.

Apple may lose 3 iPhone sales over this... Firefox loses 500 million potential users.

Keep crying Firefox...

Microsoft was a dominant platform (90%+ share). iOS isn't. When you're not a legal monopoly, governments aren't allowed to tell you what to do.

Which is a good thing, usually.

I'm not a huge fan of a lot of Firefox's recent choices. I would have preferred they support H.264, and that they focus more on native interface.

They could easily make a UIWebView powered browser for iOS, but if they're allowed to use their HTML and JS engines, and there's a vulnerability, how fast could it be patched, what could Apple do if Firefox didn't patch it quickly?

Mobile isn't desktop. iOS isn't OS X.

They're more like game consoles than PCs. There's not much browser choice on Xbox, Wii, or PS.

Their choices now are based on the same principles they have always held - free, open, and standard. It is not hyperbole to credit their digging in their heels in the days of IE6 for keeping control over the entire web out of the hands of one company. Those principles that compelled them to stand firm against significant pressure to adopt ActiveX and other platform specific conventions compel their choices today. That you like today's market king better than yesterday's does not lessen the need for somebody to keep them honest.

I was a Lumia 800 user (WP 7.8) until last week. I switched last Thursday to iPhone 5 and the first thing I've installed was Chrome (love the sync between my PC and the Phone), to be honest I don't care about Firefox, at all. But having it in the ecosystem wouldn't harm however Apple should focus more on improving the OS (make it more customizable), I would love to see the option to make a default browser without having to jailbreak my brand new iPhone.

IMO This appears to be a publicity stunt by Mozilla. I believe Apple has a right and an obligation to protect their system and their users.

I'm not so concerned about different web engines on my iPhone so much as I wish Apple would allow a different default browser to open for http and https links.