Mozilla: No iOS app until Apple opens up

Speaking at SXSW, Mozilla's vice president, Jay Sullivan, has said that Mozilla has no plans to introduce a third-party iOS client, until Apple allows developers access to their JavaScript Nitro rendering engine. Currently, Apple forces developers to render web pages through their UIWebView component, which isn't as speedy as their own engine, which is limited to Safari. 

Mozilla has recently introduced a new IonMonkey rendering engine, which is used in their desktop and Android versions of Firefox. Mozilla has previously shown a prototype browser for iOS, called Junior, which used Apple's UIWebView rendering component, before saying: "There are a lot of reasons we should be on iOS even though we can't bring our rendering engine there." 

Mozilla is currently facing the same problem on Windows RT, where Microsoft doesn't allow access to Win32 APIs, which prevents them from introducing their own rendering engine and achieving the speed of their OS X and Windows 8 versions. [Update: As a reader has pointed out, Windows RT does not include Win32 APIs.]

Mozilla recently announced Firefox OS, which may help them regain their foothold in the browser market, especially on mobile. Safari currently rules the roost, with Android's native browser coming in second, while Firefox has failed to build a strong presence on mobile. 

Source: CNET | Image via Mozilla

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66 Comments

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I'm no lover of Firefox but I believe users should have freedom to customise their software as they choose. That's why only Android remains of interest to me.

That is a good reason to choose Android. As much as I really prefer iOS over Android, I respect people's appreciation of Android's openness.

Pink Floyd said,
this is actually a good news for everyone. Who wants firefox on their ios device anyway.

That's the thing. I am perfectly happy with chrome running on my mobile, desktop and laptop and all synced up.

Come on guys. I'm a Google Chrome user but there's no reason to put down Firefox or diss it in any way. Firefox has always been and still is a good browser - one of many out there. Even though I mainly use Google Chrome on my PC, I use Firefox for my smartphone instead of Chrome.

Boo Berry said,
Come on guys. I'm a Google Chrome user but there's no reason to put down Firefox or diss it in any way. Firefox has always been and still is a good browser - one of many out there. Even though I mainly use Google Chrome on my PC, I use Firefox for my smartphone instead of Chrome.

Unfortunately too many chrome fan boys/defenders are too blinded to see that.

Yup. No Firefox for iOS that runs a 3rd party interpreting engine. Same policy that blocked Flash and Java from coming to iOS. Apple holds the keys to interpreting code for anything compiled.

Mozilla could make an HTML5 app of their web browser and do whatever they can in Javascript to pull in other web sites and display them within the HTML5 app that is being run by Safari or Webkit. But I doubt it would be very efficient.

People still use Firefox ?
Don't get me started with how STUPID Firefox SYNC is with its stupid keys

And on top chrome blows the doors off of Firefox they need to just give up

The_Decryptor said,
Are you upset that Firefox Sync uses a password?

Firefox Sync is truly unusable as their profile mechanism and even Hardware Acceleration many times, but this troll is... just trolling because... he mad.

maxslaterrobins said,
Firefox has a 29.6% market share (http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp), so yeah, people do still use it.

Notice the trend of that 29.6%?

Jan 2012 Mozilla had 37.1% and Chrome had 35.3%.
Feb 2013 Mozilla has 29.6% and Chrome has 50%.

Mozilla is on it's way out the door. They just haven't turned around to see where they're going yet and it's fooling the hopeful into thinking they might stay.

maxslaterrobins said,
Firefox has a 29.6% market share (http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp), so yeah, people do still use it.

...and according to w3school, IE has a 13% marker share (!!). Doesn't that shock you to use ridiculous numbers from this source?
these numbers are accounting only for w3school visitors, in other words: beginners webmasters. Not general population.

in the real world, Firefox is around 20%, and has lost a lot a market share during the last two years.

its relevancy in the future is very questionable...

Wait, keeping your data safe is a problem? What is wrong with Firefox Sync? Seems to work perfectly well for me and I'm also safe knowing that my data can't be used by Mozilla for anything other than syncing.

link8506 said,

...and according to w3school, IE has a 13% marker share (!!). Doesn't that shock you to use ridiculous numbers from this source?
these numbers are accounting only for w3school visitors, in other words: beginners webmasters. Not general population.

in the real world, Firefox is around 20%, and has lost a lot a market share during the last two years.

its relevancy in the future is very questionable...


Also W3 keeps saying NOT TO USE THEIR STATISTICS for any reference.
Even on the same page:

Statistics Can Be Misleading

You cannot - as a web developer - rely ONLY on statistics. Statistics can be misleading.

Note: W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user. The average user tends to use the browser that comes preinstalled with their computer, and do not seek out other browser alternatives.

Tip: Global averages may not be relevant to your web site. Different sites attract different audiences. Some web sites attract professional developers using professional hardware, while other sites attract hobbyists using old computers.

Anyway, our data, collected from W3Schools' log-files, over many years, clearly shows the long term trends.

Funny that Firefox has been dropping for a while now and Mozilla still keeps pointing all fingers at MS, while its almost only Chrome that has been taking away Firefox users. I do see a history repeating itself

Order_66 said,
Firefox is still clunky after all these years, when I use firefox I feel like I'm opening an old program from 1998.

Honestly, I don't feel that way with the latest Firefox. I am using Firefox (Mac) right now as I am typing the message. Chrome isn't perfect, I am afraid. It drains battery faster than Firefox on Macbook Pro. I am also not a big fan of its built-in developer tools, not intuitive like Firebug. I am not interested in Firebug Lite on Chrome either.

With Chrome, I have experienced at least 4 times of bookmark/history sync hell. It ends up syncing a ton of bookmarks with empty urls, and somehow sync across all my chrome browsers among 7 or 8 devices. At times, it won't even sync at all. And each time, I end up losing all my bookmarks...after 5th or 6th time, I gave up, not using the sync feature anymore. I have a much better luck with Firefox, so no thanks with Chrome's sync feature.

The only thing I can complain about Firefox is the lack of iOS app (sadly, this may never be resolved).

What I really like about Firefox is that I don't even need to bookmark anything anymore; I just type in my URL bar to search my history. I normally have to type two words tops before I see the link I want. According to my browser history, I've visited close to 50,000 pages. So while I may use Google a first time when looking for something, I find it to be slow compared to Firefox.

TurboShrimp said,
People still use Firefox ?
Don't get me started with how STUPID Firefox SYNC is with its stupid keys

And on top chrome blows the doors off of Firefox they need to just give up

Are your that thick headed, Firefox is just as good as chrome is. Even better in the memory usage department and add ons departments. so Firefox should just give up? why so everyone can be stuck using chrome, hell no. chrome is not all that damn special, not everyone is going to jump on chrome's bandwagon.

thomastmc said,

Mozilla is on it's way out the door. They just haven't turned around to see where they're going yet and it's fooling the hopeful into thinking they might stay.

And you're a damn fool thinking they're on their way out.

Sub_Zero_Alchemist said,

And you're a damn fool thinking they're on their way out.

Are you angry Sub_Zero_Alchemist ?
I can really sense you are upset it's ok to be a Firefox fan .
Some of us just don't like them and some do everything will be ok

TurboShrimp said,

Are you angry Sub_Zero_Alchemist ?
I can really sense you are upset it's ok to be a Firefox fan .
Some of us just don't like them and some do everything will be ok

No I'm not an angry or anything. I just don't like people spewing out misinformation that isn't true and just for your information i use all major browsers IE 10,Opera and Firefox. I'm not a fan of one browser, i use what works for me.

The gecko engine is crap anyway! It's taken Mozilla a long time to stablize their desktop firefox browser with all the memory leaks! No one will really miss it on iOS! Google chrome is quite good and there is also Opera. If you want to run the nitro engine for google chrome, just jailbreak your phone and install the "Nitrous" tweak. Furthermore, most normal users don't really care about rendering engines and the default engine in safari does a pretty good job! I can understand how Apple might not want other apps controlling its ecosystem, but they sometimes lock down a bit too much with the reason of security.

Compared to Google's Chrome engine and Apple's safari engine for mobiles! Firefox has always been a dog to use on desktops! Chrome blows it away and chrome is implementing new features way faster than any of the other browsers.

WebKit, you mean. I have to disagree with your opinion claiming Gecko "sucks" even though I'm an avid Google Chrome user. I just opened up Firefox here on my PC and it's hardly a "dog to use".

szo said,
Compared to Google's Chrome engine and Apple's safari engine for mobiles! Firefox has always been a dog to use on desktops! Chrome blows it away and chrome is implementing new features way faster than any of the other browsers.

As said, Chrome doesn't have an engine, it uses Webkit.
Chrome on phones also use, you guessed it... Webkit.
And it isn't Gecko what makes Firefox slower then the rest.

szo said,
Compared to Google's Chrome engine and Apple's safari engine for mobiles! Firefox has always been a dog to use on desktops! Chrome blows it away and chrome is implementing new features way faster than any of the other browsers.

BS, Latest Firefox is just as good as chrome is. Chrome doesn't blow it away, Firefox is implementing features just as fast as chrome is. Check your facts again.

Edited by Sub_Zero_Alchemist, Mar 11 2013, 9:07pm :

maxslaterrobins said,
MP3 players don't matter, as only the Touch has Wi-Fi. Apple's tablet market share sits at around 70%, which isn't a monopoly.

Where do you draw they line? They are clearly abusing their dominance in one market to gain an unfair advantage in another unrelated market.

maxslaterrobins said,
Apple doesn't need to change, as they don't have a monopoly.

You can argue that Apple has monopoly on its iOS platform, in the area of default browser, mapping, mail apps, and etc. Had this been Microsoft's platform, would you still say it is not monopoly since it is Mobile, not Desktop platform?

Weird. I've been using iOS for years and I use Google apps (Chrome, Google Maps and Gmail) because Apple Maps suck and Safari isn't integrated with my other browsers. How's that a monopoly?

If you try and claim Apple has a monopoly on iOS, then Google has a monopoly on Android development and Nokia has a monopoly on the Lumia phones. It's a non-argument.

a0me said,
Weird. I've been using iOS for years and I use Google apps (Chrome, Google Maps and Gmail) because Apple Maps suck and Safari isn't integrated with my other browsers. How's that a monopoly?

Weird... have you ever tried to click on a link inside an email? or ever used the built-in mapping inside an app (like Field Trip from Google?). Guess what? The default app is from Apple. So how is that not monopoly? If I want default app feature to be Google, you can't.. because Apple's iOS SDK doesn't allow it. That's why you only have Apple map inside Google's Field Trip app.

It seems like you have choice, but not really, because try as hard as you might, you will have to touch Apple apps one way or another.

Does Firefox OS allow third party browsers to do JIT javascript compilation?

This is really a security issue, not a open vs closed issue. Apple doesn't let third party apps use Nitro because it does JIT compilation of javascript to native code and then executes it, which could be a large security hole if not properly managed.

Yup. It's been this way for years too. You get basically half the JS performance on iOS when using anything other than Safari unless you jailbreak and install Nitrous. Which is complete bull****, Apple should just work around the issues and let everyone use the same JS engine. Or allow developers to apply for whitelisting their app.

Stetson said,
Does Firefox OS allow third party browsers to do JIT javascript compilation?

The way I understand it is Firefox OS itself is a browser. I think it only allows web apps.

Stetson said,
Does Firefox OS allow third party browsers to do JIT javascript compilation?

This is really a security issue, not a open vs closed issue. Apple doesn't let third party apps use Nitro because it does JIT compilation of javascript to native code and then executes it, which could be a large security hole if not properly managed.

Yes they do. You can download the source code for the entire OS and put whatever the heck you want on it, including your own custom browsers.

Apple's ridiculous market policies wouldn't be an issue if they had a checkbox to allow app installs from other locations (like Android has).

maxslaterrobins said,
This isn't about where the app comes from, it's about whether Apple allows developers the use of their Nitro JavaScript engine.

FireFox shouldn't have to use Apple's JavaScript engine in the first place.

maxslaterrobins said,
Third-party browsers exist on iOS, so it can be done; Mozilla has just chosen not to

The third-party browsers are basically just interfaces since they can't use their own engine.

I could be wrong but don't all 3rd party browsers currently on iOS run on WebKit anyway? In which case what's the point really?

Chugworth said,
Apple's ridiculous market policies wouldn't be an issue if they had a checkbox to allow app installs from other locations (like Android has).

LOL, then that would open iOS to the same form of malware and attack vectors Android is currently experiencing... I hope Apple DOESN'T do this. Mozilla be damned! I've seen other browsers bring their platforms to iOS successfully, Mozilla just wants to gain attention to themselves by not doing it, poor them.

IgorP said,
I could be wrong but don't all 3rd party browsers currently on iOS run on WebKit anyway? In which case what's the point really?

Webkit != Webkit
Every browser currently adds proprietary extensions to webkit... Not to mention that Webkit is only a layout engine. There are other central components in a browser, the JavaScript engine for example...

maxslaterrobins said,
Safari is fine for most, anyway.

And so was IE6 back in the day.... then it got stale and kind of hindered web standards untill Firefox came along.

-=MagMan=- said,
LOL, then that would open iOS to the same form of malware and attack vectors Android is currently experiencing... I hope Apple DOESN'T do this.

Would you be affected if they did? Really, if you're happy in the Apple walled garden then you would leave the damn box unchecked. In Android, I only put a check in the box when I need to install something that's not in Google's app store (and occasionally I do need to).

-=MagMan=- said,

LOL, then that would open iOS to the same form of malware and attack vectors Android is currently experiencing... I hope Apple DOESN'T do this. Mozilla be damned! I've seen other browsers bring their platforms to iOS successfully, Mozilla just wants to gain attention to themselves by not doing it, poor them.

No you've seen other browsers build Safari shells. Mozilla actually wants to make an iOS version of Firefox, which would include Gecko. Currently that is not possible. No one on iOS has made a true third-party browser for the same reason.

Chrome on iOS provides a lot of functionality that Safari isn't. I don't care about what engine they use. Normal users care more about the functionality than whatever method is used under the hood.

a0me said,
Chrome on iOS provides a lot of functionality that Safari isn't. I don't care about what engine they use. Normal users care more about the functionality than whatever method is used under the hood.

When you tap on links, they open in Safari, which is why most use Safari.

maxslaterrobins said,

When you tap on links, they open in Safari, which is why most use Safari.


A number of apps give you the choice of opening links in Chrome instead of Safari. It's not as good as being able to set Chrome as the default, but it's better than nothing.

So where is the EU ?????..... Mozilla you have a phone call to make, Opera doesn't seem to have a problem making that call!!! But Opera are a bunch of cry-babies that don't deserve to be in business.

Problem is that XUL will run like crap on ios. If not someone would have made a few test builds available on that jailbroken phones alternative appstore.

Then I guess it's good thing the mobile builds stopped using XUL a long time ago then. On Android (as far as I know) the UI is all fully native to Android.