Mozilla begins development of Firefox for Metro

Mozilla begins development of Firefox for Metro

Summary: Mozilla today announced that it has begun "a very large project" to build a Metro styled version of Firefox for Windows 8. Can Firefox for Metro really be ready this summer?

SHARE:
TOPICS: Browser, Hardware
32

Mozilla’s Brian R. Bondy revealed today that development has begun on Firefox for Metro.

Last month, Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler announced that a Metro version of Firefox was in early planning stages, with a blog post about Mozilla’s goals that in turn linked to a roadmap. Dotzler is listed as the product manager.

Today’s announcement fleshes out some of the key decisions that the Mozilla team has made in the past month.

According to Bondy, Firefox for Metro will mimic Internet Explorer 10’s split personality, as a “Metro style enabled desktop browser”:

Unlike Metro applications, Metro style enabled desktop browsers have the ability to run outside of the Metro sandbox. Meaning not only can we build a browser, but we can build a powerful browser which gives an experience equal to that of a classic Desktop browser.

Metro style enabled desktop browsers have access to most Win32 API and the entire new WinRT API.

Unfortunately a browser can only participate in Metro mode if it is the default browser. So if Firefox is not the default browser on a system, you can't use it in Metro mode. This is a decision made by Microsoft.

Bondy notes that development is in its very early stages, and because of the amount of new code involved it will be “a very large project.” It's too early to even think about UI/UX issues, Bondy acknowledges.

So how long will it take to Metro-ize Firefox? That’s nearly impossible to say. The unique requirements of a desktop enabled browser make development resources difficult to find. It’s not likely that Microsoft is going to be an eager development partner, either. The new Firefox is intended to be a direct competitor to Internet Explorer, and in December Mozilla signed a long-term search deal with Microsoft’s archrival Google.

The Mozilla Wiki topic for Windows 8 says Firefox 14 is the release target date. On Mozilla's new rapid-release schedule, that date is only about four months away, with a public release scheduled for July 17. Given the uncertainties in development and the fluid state of Windows 8, it’s hard to think of that date as much more than a guess, and an optimistic one based on a best-case scenario to boot.

Update: In the Talkback section below, Asa Dotzler clarifies the possible release schedule: "the Firefox 14 target is not a final release of Firefox for Metro. We're working in stages. We have a proof of concept now. Next we'll get an actual browser standing up. After that, an Alpha, then a Beta, then a final release. I do not anticipate that we will get beyond a late stage Beta this year."

In a February 29 update, Mozilla's Dotzler said:

[I]f we do our job, Firefox on Windows 8 Metro should be every bit as capable and integrated with the system as Internet Explorer.

Microsoft had an awful big head start with IE 10 but now that we know what's possible, we hope to close that gap.

If you want to track the progress of the project, you can do so via Bug 732518, which was opened a week ago. Yesterday’s report says “So we have a working metro enabled browser application (not an actual browser yet)…”

Clearly, this development effort is a big stake in the ground as Mozilla fights off a relentless assault on its “alternative to IE” status from Google Chrome. If Google decides to jump into the mix as well, the game would change completely.

Topics: Browser, Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

32 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Mozilla begins development of Firefox for Metro

    I'm all for this project. The more Metro apps the better. Its time to embrace Metro like Mozilla is doing instead of fighting it. Having a release in 4 months seems very optimistic, I'd say it would be closer to 6 - 8 months. I believe it took a year to go from Phoenix betas to hit a 1.0. Also gives Mozilla a chance to rework the code and hopefully make it lighter on system resources. Sometimes the current Firefox app will spike to over 500mb which is just too much for a browser.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • It's average for a desktop browser, Chrome is the same.

      It's average for a desktop browser, Chrome is the same.
      bradavon
    • Huh?

      500mb of memory or disk space? I can't see either in any case. IE9 [32-bit version in Win7 X64] is taking up 90mb with one tab [this one]. IE9 [64-bit] is taking up 50mb with one tab. If it is RAM, try removing unneccesary toolbars.
      Gisabun
  • embrace Metro

    On a tablet or phone, yes. I look forward to a add-on enabled browser (think adblock) that runs on my windows tablet or phone.
    txscott
    • add-ons

      I'm looking forward to an add-on free browser with ad block and tracking and web beacon blocking built in
      mswift@...
  • Needs to support flash in metro experience

    Then it will be a winner. MS decision not to support flash in Metro version means it feels broken. Forcing you to switch to desktop version all of the time and run either two browsers or one non touch optimized browser is lame.
    nanderto
    • Agree

      I was looking forward to running Win8 on my nettop and tv , but most of what I watch uses flash (Amazon Video and ESPN) so I would always be bouncing between the desktop and metro. One day flash may be dead. Today is not that day.
      txscott
      • Flash SHOULD die

        Regardless, on your net top/tv, I expect that before long, there will be Metro apps for Amazon VOD and ESPN such that you don't need to worry about Flash anymore. They already have apps for Vimeo and Dailymotion.
        Jeff Kibuule
      • It's the format not the player

        Yes most of Flash use by consumers may be video, but most of the video played is now H264 (usually named .MP4) and that makes Flash redundant as HTML 5 is fine for playing that format. I produce eLearning that first looks for HTML 5 and then for Flash to play audio and video and as long as the device supports full HTML5 (not Apple) then Flash is not needed.

        Flash as a development platform is another story and depends on your need for Flash games or annoyingly slow to load web sites. Expect most of these to be recoded in HTML 5 in the coming years.

        I like IE10 in Metro format and the fact that I have IE10 on the desktop to fall back to if I need it. Do we need another reinvented wheel like FF on Metro? Don't really think so, but it can't hurt. The most interesting thing is that Mozilla feels it needs to move to Win 8 and Metro despite all the FUD coming from some ZDNet bloggers ;-)
        tonymcs@...
      • There is ZERO need for Flash or HTML 5 for video playback

        I still don't understand why in the world would anybody want to use a CPU hug like Flash, or an incomplete standard like HTML 5 for video playback.

        The browser should just have direct hooks to the native player of the OS, a player that is optimized to use the full strengthen of the hardware instead of (unnecessarily) over utilizing the CPU.

        There is ZERO need for Flash or HTML 5 when every OS has MANY more powerful native players that can do a better job.
        wackoae
    • well

      ehmm thats why you can choose if you want use both desktop and metro, or only metro or only desktop. if you dont know how??? well its your problem.
      and flash is crap, and it should disappear.
      Emi Cyberschreiber
    • If we get a Chrome Metro browser

      We may see that, as Chrome builds Flash right in.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • Proof of Concept, not Final Release

    Ed, the Firefox 14 target is not a final release of Firefox for Metro. We're working in stages. We have a proof of concept now. Next we'll get an actual browser standing up. After that, an Alpha, then a Beta, then a final release. I do not anticipate that we will get beyond a late stage Beta this year.
    asadotzler
    • RE: Proof of Concept, not Final Release

      [i]I do not anticipate that we will get beyond a late stage Beta this year.[/i]

      This sounds like good timing to me, roughly on par with Office 15. In addition, will x86, Windows 8-based devices really be available as early as late Summer or early Fall, 2012?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Hmmmm

        Most Win 7 apps and devices will work fine in Win 8 since the core hasn't changed since Vista. Only major change now is the Metro interface. Whether or not companies will want to port anything over is up to them.
        Win 7 didn't include drivers for my printer [came out I believe just before Win 7] . So I am using Vista drivers. Those same drivers should work in Win 8 [if not including a generic version].
        Gisabun
  • What?? Still early stage? Decisions made this past month?

    What have they been doing on FFW8 since //build 6 months ago. W8 is a much bigger factor for their market share than chrome.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Well...

      The support document for making a Metro style web browser only just came out when the Consumer Preview was released...
      Jeff Kibuule
  • Unfortunately, it won't be approved to Windows 8 store

    Mozilla should be aware that only browsers powered by IE kernel can be approved, just like Apple's app store that non-safaried browser won't be allowed. It's Windows 8, not Android, where everything including virus, trodan horses abound.
    UseYourHead
    • Can you back it up please?

      Otherwise you should use your own head like your handle says.
      Ram U
    • LOL

      "IE kernel"?

      HAHAHA

      yeah right, now I (and maybe others) should think you really know about it??
      you are really talking crap about stuff you dont even know and stuff you cant even prove.
      Emi Cyberschreiber