Mozilla thinks mobile Firefox will kill app stores

The big problem facing developers today is that each mobile app store is unique. Apple's App Store requires one SDK, Android, another, and so on and so forth. Why is there no uniform platform to make developer's lives easier? Why can't someone just develop a single application and then allow all mobile devices to use it?

This is precisely the issue Mozilla feels they can address with their upcoming mobile version of Firefox (aka Fennec). According to an article from PC Pro, Fennec, when it's released, will have the fastest javascript engine of any mobile browser available in the smartphone market. This, according to Mozilla, will allow developers to create their applications to work in the browser, as opposed to running it directly from the phone's platform. Jay Sullivan, VP of mobile at Mozilla, says that Fennec will make it so that "anyone who knows javascript and HTML can develop a great app without having to learn a specific mobile platform." He's also realistic, admitting that it will be a while before developers move away from app stores and embrace the web model.

The concept makes sense, and it would surely put developers at ease; but the issue of browser based apps still poses a problem. People don't always have a working Internet connection, or are not always in service. Unless these apps can be run independently of an Internet connection, perhaps using the browser to run an app that's stored on the device's internal memory, developers may never consider working with such a model.

With mobile hardware beginning to reach gigahertz speeds and process 3D graphics with ease, Mozilla's vision doesn't seem so farfetched. After all, web browsers are becoming more and more powerful by the day, and that will only continue, thanks to HTML 5 pushing the web to new heights. Sullivan claims to see the future of mobile apps, and app stores don't seem to be a part of it. He feels that "over time, the web will win." Why? "because it always does."

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43 Comments

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I'm surprised at all the naysayers. This is extremely plausible. And while premature, it is obviously a good step to get in at the ground floor and start pushing this now.

Xero said,
They need to get their heads out of their asses if thats what they seriously think. WebApps are nice for sites and certain things. But everyone prefers a native application.

Tons of native apps are moving to web apps as a development platform for the ease of development and cost improvements therin. For example, Quick Books. The entire interface is an embedded web browser.

backdrifter said,
Everything good about this idea is for developers and not for the end users. And this is why imho it will not work.

The reason I'm excited about this is precisely because the biggest benefit will be to the users. Yes, the user experience will improve simply because development will be so much simpler and cheaper that there will be vastly increased variety and competition. But also, by virtue of using such a common and open development framework, applications will begin to follow the principles of web media, which are primarily free, and driven by advertisement and an extreme focus on pleasing users. This does not have some doomsday impact on product quality or company financials. For the same reason that everyone wants their product / service available on the world wide web, companies will want to be on phones as well. And this approach will let more of them do it.

I love the idea of a platform to use various apps on various phones: this would fix the biggest flaw in user experience.

However, why an internet browser?

Couldn't there be an app (online or offline, doesn't matter in principle) that could be used as a platform for other apps that would have more capablities and take less processing power than this?

What if I'm abroad and don't feel like paying ridiculous fees for an online data plan there?

This is the same story as with Google Chrome OS. Nice in theory but utterly pointless if you don't have an internet connection available for whatever reason. Also, looking at how poorly Firefox performs on Mac OS X compared to fully native applications I wonder how this plays out during real day usage.

Before thinking something they should do something. In past few years there were only tones of talks how great will firefox mobile be. The talks that resulted in nothing. Opera Mobile and Opera Mini have passed several major, fully new revisions since Mozilla has "started" works on firefox mobile. Opera has made Mini 4 and Mini 5, and Mobile 9 and Mobile 10 for all main platforms. Mozilla has done nothing.

Makes sense Mozilla.. I mean why run one app ( the program ) when you can run two, FF and the program I'm sure this will lead to a performance breakthrough and amazing battery lives ..

And the basic rule of thumb is cloud computing on mobiles won't take off because telcos and isps charge so damn much for broadband access which usually flops in speed and quality which cloud computing or apps need so no. Sorry firefox get a better strategy for mobile platform.

As much as firefox wants to think that web apps are useless. They were trash when iphone came out and still are. Doesn't matter about how good or not javascript engine is it's a matter of what the platform can allow you do or access.

Why is there no uniform platform to make developer's lives easier? Why can't someone just develop a single application and then allow all mobile devices to use it?
Accutally, Mono/.Net is availible for theiPhone, Android, and of course, Windows mobile.

They need to get their heads out of their asses if thats what they seriously think. WebApps are nice for sites and certain things. But everyone prefers a native application. Especially for games. They can hope and wish all they want but WebApps aren't taking over anytime soon.

Xero said,
They need to get their heads out of their asses if thats what they seriously think. WebApps are nice for sites and certain things. But everyone prefers a native application. Especially for games. They can hope and wish all they want but WebApps aren't taking over anytime soon.

Though I agree with you, I wanted to pint out this line from the article:

He's also realistic, admitting that it will be a while before developers move away from app stores and embrace the web model.

He's also realistic, admitting that it will be a while before developers move away from app stores and embrace the web model.

Good, lets hope "a while" = "forever".

WTF does Chrome OS have to do with this? The two aren't even remotely related. And how do you know Chrome OS is bad? Have you actually used it on real (not emulated) hardware for its intended purpose?

tonyunreal said,
Too bad they won't be able to get past Apple's approval process.

Yeah, which is a shame. But Apple would never approve this.

With mobile hardware beginning to reach gigahertz speeds and process 3D graphics with ease

exactly, and with javascript, all that power is lost

You don't understand Javascript then.. it is a very formidable language.

And really, when are you not connected to the internet to use half of your apps, soon enough all these phones will be on 3g like networks, if not, you probably don't use apps very often.

sure i don't understand javascript...show me a javascript that uses 3D hardware acceleration and i'll eat up my words

omnicoder said,
Because it won't 'kill' native apps if it can't do games.

I don't think this model would ever kill apps... Some thing certainly... Like all the Twitter apps (Or so I pray), but most of my apps would never be feasible in the browser like this... And I'm not even talking about games...

Glendi said,
Since when you call apps games?

Games = category of application
If you want to "kill" apps (Which is retarded, native apps are much better) then you have to "kill" them all.

M_Lyons10 said,

That would be cool. But not sure how useful that would be for gaming unless you had an unlimited plan, which a lot of the carriers are shying away from...


I think it could still be useful for less "involving" games. People are already spending a lot of time online with their phones despite missing an unlimited plan.