Mozilla shows off a Metro style Firefox prototype for Windows 8

Mozilla shows off a Metro style Firefox prototype for Windows 8

Summary: Mozilla reached another milestone in its race to deliver a Metro style browser capable of working with Windows 8. Today's announcement shows off the Metro style interface and documents support for some key Windows 8 features.


Mozilla has moved one step closer to its goal of delivering a  “Metro style enabled browser.” In a status update earlier today, Mozilla’s Brian R. Bondy announced that his team had produced a “working Firefox Windows 8 Metro prototype":

As of last week, we have a working browser in Metro. It currently looks and feels the same as the Android browser. You can navigate the web, create tabs, bookmark pages, build history, retain cache, adjust preferences, and more.

It’s a preliminary step, says Bondy. “[W]e still have some open design questions, and a ton of platform integration work to do.” He also notes that the “UI will be changing,” and that feedback on the user experience (UX) design has not yet begun.


Considering that development began only a few weeks ago, the progress to date is reasonable. Part of the reason for the accelerated progress is the team’s ability to use the existing Firefox mobile browser, Fennec. Surprisingly, Fennec “just worked” on Windows 8, in sharp comparison to the performance problems they experienced using the same code base on Android:

Our prototype in its current form is based on the Fennec XUL code. We used to use Fennec XUL on Android, but changed to a Native UI on Android for startup performance reasons.We haven't seen the same types of startup performance problems we've had on Android yet, even on VMs.

The prototype app includes support for Metro snap, the HTML file picker, and the Windows 8 search contract. That latter item is important, as it allows the Metro style Firefox to process search terms entered in the Windows search box.

The prototype also supports the share contract, which means a page opened in the Metro style Firefox can be shared easily with other apps, such as Mail or a Twitter or Facebook client.

The status update includes several additional screenshots, showing off the admittedly preliminary Metro style UI:

Image credits: Brian R. Bondy / Mozilla

In a section at the end of the status update, Bondy explains “Why Windows 8 Metro support is really important":

If a browser does not support Metro, it is seriously at risk of losing the default browser status, and therefore significant market share. A browser without support for Metro, if default, would be taking away a Metro browser completely from the user's computer.

Microsoft has a big edge already in Windows 8, with a Metro style enabled browser that has at least a six-month head start on its rivals. For Mozilla, though, the chief rival is Google, which has a Metro style version of Chrome in the works and has virtually unlimited development resources.

Previously, Mozilla has said it expects to have a beta of Metro Firefox available for general use before the end of 2012.

Topics: Android, Browser, Google, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • Hmm

    Im already to used to the metro IE to switch :)
  • and so it begins

    If Mozilla and Google can see the writing on the wall, then it's about time to accept that Metro will be everywhere. So if your still committed to a 20C crowded desktop of static icons, now's the time to consider changing your mind ;-)

    Although why we need another Metro browser is a good question.
    • Thumbs down

      Why did 2 people thumbs you down? I thought your comment actually made sense!
      • Thumbs down

        Because Metro is a step backward in Desktop GUIs
      • It would be great if the Iranians dropped

        a big old H-Bomb on Redmond so we wouldn't have to put up with this metro bs.
      • tboneJoey

        with the most idiotic comment ever. try again
        Emi Cyberschreiber
    • Well...

      I imagine it comes down to people being able to choose their default browser. Only the default browser functions as a Metro app; for example, if you install FF and set it as default, it disables the IE Metro app and clicking it just takes you to the Desktop version of IE 10. As Bondy said, if alternate browsers don't support Metro then they're taking a risk... people might not like being pulled to Desktop every time they try to use their default browser (especially if they're only casual users.) By developing Metro versions of Firefox and Chrome, users can still install FF or Chrome and be able to use a Metro app to check their email, etc. It will also theoretically give them an advantage when it comes to Win8 tablet market share since they'll already have Metro experience when making any conversions that might be needed for getting their browsers to run on WOA archetecture.
  • Time has passed them by. With IE10 there is no reason to change browsers.

    It's way faster, way more secure, and more html5/css compliant than FF or chrome. The time has come for them to join the ranks of Mosaic and Navigator and opera in the closet of browsers nobody needs anymore.
    Johnny Vegas
    • I hope not!

      While I think IE10 is fantastic and probably the best browser I've used to date, let's be honest. Without competition it's a lose for everyone. If not for the success of Firefox and Chrome we'd probably running IE6.5 on Metro.
      • Exactly.

        If not for FF and Chrome, Microsoft likely never would have stepped up their game to create IE9 and IE 10.
      • Agreed

        Agreed! Competition breeds innovation, and I'd hate to see us in a world controlled by only one browser again.
      • Then, why did Microsoft go from IE to IE2 or IE3 all the way thru IE6, if

        they didn't really have the competition before then? What made Microsoft "upgrade" from the first version to IE6? If FF and Chrome weren't even in the picture, what prompted Microsoft to upgrade, or "innovate" as some people put it? If competition is what forced them to improve their browser, what competition existed before IE6 to force the "improvements" or updates?
      • Netscape

        A brower called netscape
      • re: adornoe@...

        @adornoe The answer to your question is a browser called "Netscape." It was the dominant browser for most of the mid '90s.

        Before Microsoft was a virtual monopoly, there was another browser war with Netscape. That's what's responsible for the first few versions of IE. Perhaps you are too young to remember it, but IE was certainly not the most popular browser in the mid '90s. It wasn't until the late '90s that IE had really become so dominant.

        By the time IE6 rolled around, Microsoft had become a virtual monopoly, and they had no intention of continuing to advance the state of the art.

        Indeed, the first versions of Firefox were called "Phoenix," which would have been an apt name, because Firefox rose up from the ashes of Netscape, Microsoft's old nemesis. It became popular enough to become a threat to IE again, and so forced Microsoft to start working on IE again.
      • You all talk a good line

        But until MS stops bundling IE into it's own OS, it's nothing more than empty air.

        Bring on choice like what the EU demanded then we'll talk about competition again.
      • Air ain't quite so empty anymore

        "But until MS stops bundling IE into it's own OS, it's nothing more than empty air."

        Is it? Is that what the numbers are showing? Last I checked, Firefox and Chrome are doing well despite this behavior.
      • CobraA1: You're correct about Netscape, but, was Netscape that much

        of competition before IE6? What about IE3 through IE5? Was Netscape still competing effectively against IE before IE6?
      • Oh it's still quite full of it

        [i]Is it? Is that what the numbers are showing? Last I checked, Firefox and Chrome are doing well despite this behavior.[/i]

        Then there's no need for that behavior, now is there?
    • Tired argument

      The argument made by ScorpioBlack is getting ridiculously tired. Why don't they rip out Calculator as well? How about Notepad and WordPad? MS Paint? Since when does bundling a software package in to the OS stifle competition? I'm running IE9, Chrome, and Firefox on my PC, with Chrome as my default browser. Strange, I don't feel like my hands are tied. The ONLY thing Microsoft is preventing you from doing is uninstalling IE from your system. But given that hard drives now a days are huge, and CPU's are multicore... who cares? Don't like IE? Don't use it. Simple. Don't like MS Paint? Don't use it.
      • Rip all that_sh!t out

        Good idea. If people want Notepad, Wordpad, Paint then make it modular and let them download it themselves.

        And cut out the proprietary bundling that only inflates IE's numbers. Let it stand on it's own and see how long it lasts.