Mozilla opens up over Boot 2 Gecko

Summary:Mozilla's Jay Sullivan discusses the ambitious Boot 2 Gecko project, a HTML5-based smartphone OS designed to give developers and consumers a technology-agnostic platform with greater privacy and security

...our mission was a desktop browser, but those problems are solved. There's a lot to do there and we can always get better, so we said, "Hey, where are people today? What's our mission? What would be the most disruptive thing we could do to support that?"

The pillars were really identity and an open-app ecosystem. B2G really started last summer though, where we took the next step and said, "Wow, we have all these components. What would happen if we directly connected this stuff up to the hardware?" It turned out Telefonica had been doing something similar for even longer. I think they've been working on their stuff from sometime earlier in 2011. So when they were already working on it too and when they read about our project, we joined forces pretty quickly.

We were completely aligned on the goal, and then Deutsche Telekom got involved and Qualcomm got excited about it. It's just kind of the right thing at the right time. It's early though. I don't want to get ahead of myself. We're just starting here and we'll see where it goes.

How have manufacturers been responding to the early builds you've been showing them?
There's been a lot of interest. I think people have the shared understanding of how ecosystems evolve and they want to see an open option with more choices. Obviously, mobile devices are a growing target for people who create or distribute malicious software.

Presumably, B2G will provide the same level of security as existing established OSes?
One of the cool things about it is how it unifies app and web security models. For example, on the web today, Google Maps requests your location, and you say, "Yes, no, never, always." That happens kind of just-in-time, proportional to what you're doing. So you can decide either A, yes, this is worth it, I don't know where the hell I am, or B, no, I don't want to be sharing right now.

But if you contrast that with a mobile app today, especially Android, let's say you want to install a single-player chess app, and the app says, "We want to access your phonebook, your SMS, your location, your dialler", and it's like, whoa.

It's kind of this all-or-nothing, take-it or leave-it model and you have to pick at the time of install, and you don't really know what happens. Just look at the case of Path recently.

We have to make it so the user interface doesn't get noisy, only asks for the right stuff at the right time.

Imagine a model where there's no difference between a website and an app, where you have permissions that are proportional and are asked when you need them. We have to make it so the user interface doesn't get noisy, only asks for the right stuff at the right time, but the user should have more control over when they're going to share their whole life to play chess.

Another thing. Imagine if the whole phone respected our do-not-track initiative. Right now, just the browser does. So, say, you have an app. If it's an HTML5 app, it's just using the same web stack, so if you select do not track, then that app will be sending the do-not-track signal to those sites, so they can decide how they want to handle that. There are a lot of cool benefits to not having a separate web and native model.

Presumably you're going to add support for new technologies such as NFC over time?
Yes. NFC, Bluetooth, all that stuff is in the roadmap. First it was telephony, SMS, battery, GPS — all the stuff you really need. NFC is important now, and Bluetooth of course. That's going to be as good as any other phone, or better.

It's come a long way. One thing that's cool is that because it's HTML it's been really fast to prototype and build the interfaces. It's going to be interesting. We can't predict where this thing is going to go but it's certainly an exciting step for the industry to get behind a true HTML5 device.

And when it is ready for the masses, will it follow the same kind of update schedule as the desktop Firefox browser?
I don't know at this point. Firefox is a released product. This hasn't even hit beta yet.

So when will we see the first device?
Telefonica mentioned that their intentions were to ship something this year. So it's going to be exciting. I see more happening early next year but I don't have a firm beta date.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Mobility


With a psychology degree under his belt, Ben set off on a four-year sojourn as a professional online poker player, but as the draw of the gambling life began to wane his attentions turned to more wholesome employment.With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a s... Full Bio

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