Mozilla prepares iPhone app for Firefox users

Firefox Home will be a native app that falls short of being a full browser, but lets users sync their Firefox bookmarks and history to their iPhones

Mozilla is working on a native iPhone application that would make it possible to view bookmarked and recently-viewed web pages from the desktop Firefox browser on Apple's handset.

The development of Firefox Home, which is based on Mozilla's Firefox Sync technology, was revealed on Wednesday in a blog post by Mozilla product manager Ragavan Srinivasan. The free app gives iPhone users access not only to their Firefox browsing history — including tabs from their most recent desktop session — and bookmarks, but also to the Firefox 'awesome bar', which combines search and auto-complete functionality.

"Firefox Home for the iPhone is part of a broader Mozilla effort to provide a more personal web experience with more user control," Srinivasan wrote in the post. "For devices or platforms where we're unable to provide the 'full' Firefox browser — either technically or due to policy — we aim to provide users with 'on the go' instant access to their personal Firefox history, bookmarks and open tabs on their iPhones."

According to the project page, Firefox Home will go to release candidate stage in early June and be submitted to Apple for approval in the middle of June. If approved, the app will be available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, although it has not been optimised for the tablet device. 

Firefox Home does not support passwords within web pages, the Mozilla team noted on the Firefox Home product page, adding that a "secret phrase ensures that only you have access to your data".

The Mozilla team said that they have no plans to develop a version of the Firefox browser itself for Apple's mobile platform, "due to constraints with the OS environment and distribution".

One of Mozilla's rivals, Opera, has put out a version of its browser through the iPhone App Store, but that version — Opera Mini 5 — does its web page processing on Opera's servers rather than on the iPhone itself, thereby complying with Apple terms and conditions that forbid native rivals to Safari. Server-side processing is a long-standing speciality of Opera's, but isn't used by Firefox. 

Mozilla is currently working on a full browser for Android. It has already released a full browser for the Nokia N900, a Linux smartphone, but plans to create a version of Firefox for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform were recently dropped

Firefox Sync, the wider project of which the iPhone app is a part, was until recently known as Weave Sync. According to the Mozilla team, the service will remain an add-on to the Firefox browser "until it becomes a fully-incorporated feature of Firefox in an upcoming major release".

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