Mozilla shows off a Metro style Firefox prototype for Windows 8

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.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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