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

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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

nagromme Avatar
103 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.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bb426 Avatar
103 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.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MassiveAttack Avatar
103 months ago
iOS users lose yet again. As always Apple frowns upon their users having a choice.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
camnchar Avatar
103 months ago
I agree with Mozilla. Open up the APIs and let the developers have at it. Benefits based on artificial constraints hurt everyone.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
drwatz0n Avatar
103 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.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thehustleman Avatar
103 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
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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