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Mozilla Will Not Release an iOS Version of Firefox Due to Apple's Limitations on Third-Party Browsers

firefoxCNET reports that during a talk at SXSW, Jay Sullivan, Mozilla's vice president of product, said that the company has no plans to release an iOS version of Firefox because of technological limitations imposed by Apple.
The nonprofit Mozilla, which pulled Mozilla Firefox Home from Apple's App Store in September 2012, is not currently building a version of its Firefox browser for iOS, nor does the company plan to, said Sullivan, speaking on a mobile browser wars panel at South by Southwest Interactive moderated by CNET Senior Reporter Seth Rosenblatt.

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.
Mozilla's stance on a Firefox browser for the iPhone is not new. In 2010, the company announced that it did not plan to create a standalone browser for the iPhone, citing the same technical and logistical restrictions that would prevent the company from creating an acceptable mobile experience via iOS.

Apple's Safari uses the speedy Nitro JavaScript engine exclusively, while restricting third-party browsers to UIWebView, which gives Safari a significant performance boost over other browsers.

Mozilla did create an iOS application called Firefox Home, which allowed Firefox users to sync Firefox history and bookmarks with a Webkit-powered web viewer.

The company also experimented with a stripped down version of Firefox called "Junior," which was designed to simplify the iOS browsing experience. That project has yet to see a public release, and Mozilla ended up removing Firefox Home from the App Store in September.

Other major players continue to compete with Safari, despite the imposed limitations. Opera has long had the Opera Mini browser in the App Store, and Google released a Chrome app for iOS last summer.

Top Rated Comments

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Posted: 18 months ago

I agree with Mozilla. Open up the APIs and let the developers have at it. Benefits based on artificial constraints hurt everyone.


I've never jail-broken any of my iOS devices (although the temptation to do so grows every time I read an article like this one). ...


They know of the proprietary advantage Apple reserves for Safari, so as to make themselves look superior.

Why should Mozilla waste time with the cards stacked against them. Even more impressive is they spoke out and called Apple on it.




That's not the story. It's not an artificial constraint. (http://daringfireball.net/2011/03/nitro_ios_43)

Apple's Safari uses the speedy Nitro JavaScript engine exclusively, while restricting third-party browsers to UIWebView, which gives Safari a significant performance boost over other browsers.


Nitro (or a similar just-in-time compiler) in third party apps would mean they could put data into RAM and make it executable--a HUGE malware vector and source of risk. Unsigned native code can now run. The only reason Apple allows this risk in Safari is because they can work to keep Safari free of security flaws that would allow exploits. Apple can't control that in other apps, so they're not opening the door to such problems.

That's the trade-off: speed vs. security. Apple has found a good compromise I think, but yes, JavaScript will run slower in third party apps--in other words, at the same perfectly acceptable speed Safari did before Nitro (only faster because today's hardware is faster).

This doesn't mean it's not worth making a third-party browser. And it doesn't mean Apple should open up Android-style security holes.
Rating: 21 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago
That didn't stop Google from releasing Chrome.

Innovation, people. Don't let a limitation stop you from working with all the resources you have.
Rating: 14 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago
iOS users lose yet again. As always Apple frowns upon their users having a choice.
Rating: 13 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago
I agree with Mozilla. Open up the APIs and let the developers have at it. Benefits based on artificial constraints hurt everyone.
Rating: 11 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago

That didn't stop Google from releasing Chrome.

Innovation, people. Don't let a limitation stop you from working with all the resources you have.


Firefox uses both a different Javascript and rendering engine than Safari and Chrome (which both use WebKit). It's not possible for Firefox to exist on the platform, with it's own Gecko rendering system, due to Apple's imposed restrictions. Don't compare Firefox and Chrome, it's two entirely different things.
Rating: 10 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago
It's a computer, the should be no restrictions that the user themselves didn't place.

Stop being a turd and open up
Rating: 9 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago

It's a computer, the should be no restrictions that the user themselves didn't place.

Stop being a turd and open up


I'm sure the Official Apple Keep An Eye On MacRumors Guy is, as I type this, noting your eloquently stated complaint about Apple's closed ecosystem, and is in the process of conveying said eloquently stated complaint to Tim Cook. Cook, being overwhelmingly impressed with your well stated and well reasoned argument, and realizing that you are a very special customer, is reversing Apple's well established system and opening everything up...especially for you.

We all thank you for your important contribution to the welfare of all us Apple owners.

:rolleyes:
Rating: 8 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago

2 things:

Firefox sucks. So who cares? Most people are fine with Safari, which has always worked perfectly well for me, and there other options.

Second, and this has already been put forward, but: if you don't like Apple's limitations of their iOS platform, don't get an iOS device! Get an Android, and find an app that will listen to your whining and utter consoling phrases from time to time. This is one of the core ideas that differentiates between companies like Apple and Google, and why the heck would Apple completely change their philosophy? Seems to be doing OK for them.


That's why I went Android. Didn't want Apple telling how run my device. Its my device not there's.
Rating: 6 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago


If you want to dick around with your device rather than using it, and don't like OS updates, then WTF are you doing here instead of wrestling with some lame-ass Android POS?


Lame-ass Android POS? Android 4.2.2 on the Nexus 4 runs circles around iOS on any device you can put it on + offers total personalization and features. I have an iPhone, I'm not against Apple in any way. I see an amazing device that could be so much more if the OS was open. I see it from a developer standpoint, because I too am one - this is a technology forum, not just a user place to chill and where noobs gather to feast in the latest ignorant comments about their beloved iOS by the mighty Apple.

iOS is limited, it won't let you do anything interesting apart from the limitations imposed by Apple. I agree with Mozilla, but they won't ever open up.

As a regular Joe, I prefer iOS for its simplicity, but as a developer and tech enthusiast, Android is my preferred platform because it allows total customization.

People shouldn't be shading Android just because it's open and allows users to do stuff. Seriously, demo a Nexus yourself, see what you can do with it, and then talk crap about Android if you're still not happy.
Rating: 5 Votes
Posted: 18 months ago
Not too concerned that Mozilla won't release a browser known for memory leaks on iOS.
Rating: 5 Votes

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