The Stack Archive

Firefox considers return to iOS

Wed 3 Dec 2014

After years of opposing a complete iOS version of its Firefox browser, Mozilla seems to be revaluating its stance.

In a statement made by Firefox VP Jonathan Nightingale at an internal Mozilla event, and relayed by Firefox release manager Lukas Blakk, employees were told that Mozilla “need[s] to be where our users are so we’re going to get Firefox on iOS.”

Apple has been extremely restrictive toward hosting third-party browser engines on iOS, only letting companies use its in-house rendering. However, Mozilla looks to be planning a return to the platform answering to its current mobile and browser statistics, and wish to grab a larger slice of the market.mozillatweet

This decision would mark a significant step for Mozilla following its past relationship with the iPhone giant. Originally, Mozilla offered Firefox Home across iOS but pulled out of the partnership two years ago. In 2013, Jay Sullivan, former VP of product at Mozilla, said that the company did not “feel like it could build the browser it wants” on iOS, and that it had “no plans” to create a version of Firefox for the mobile platform.

One of the tension points was Apple’s persistent opposition to allowing third-party browsers to carry over their rendering and JavaScript engines onto iOS. In earlier versions of iOS, this meant that external browsers would run at slower speeds than Apple’s Safari.

This lack of inoperability and flexibility with iOS presented a challenge for companies such as Chrome, Opera, and Firefox who found it difficult to support a satisfactory version of their browser on the Apple mobile platform. However, in June this year Apple announced that it would allow third-party apps to use the same JavaScript on which its Safari browser runs, enabling quicker speeds.

For now little detail has transpired regarding Firefox’s iOS plans, however it is expected that Mozilla will continue to work within Apple parameters, using its engine and placing a custom interface on top, in a similar fashion to the iOS version of Chrome.

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