Tag Archives | Firefox

No Firefox for iPhone? I Would Have Settled for “Firefox.”

Mozilla has published a blog post on its plans for the iPhone platform. Basically, they involve (A) focusing on Firefox Home, an app that provides access to Firefox bookmarks, tabs, and history on the iPhone; (B) not doing a full-blown version of Firefox for iPhone; and (C) not letting Firefox Home evolve into something so fancy that it feels like Firefox for the iPhone.

Why no Firefox for iPhone? The Mozilla post doesn’t explain in much detail:

People have asked about adding more browser-like features to Firefox Home, but there are technical and logistical restrictions that make it difficult, if not impossible, to build the full Firefox browser for the iPhone.

The challenges for a real full Firefox on iOS are obvious: As far as I know, Apple’s recent loosening of its App Store guidelines still don’t permit third-party browser companies to write the comprehensive rendering/JavaScript engine that would be required for Mozilla to write a browser from scratch. But as a Firefox fan and an iPhone user, I would have cheerfully settled for a “Firefox” that involved Firefox Home’s features plus more interface functionality but used Apple’s WebKit engine for page rendering.

Atomic Web Browser, which seems to be the work of one guy, is really Safari with a new skin; it’s terrific. I don’t see why Mozilla couldn’t evolve Firefox Home into something similar, and similarly useful–or how doing so wouldn’t be a boon to Firefox aficionados.


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The Browser Wars' Odd New Equilibrium

Apple released version 5.0.1 of its Safari browser yesterday. It fixes one major security vulnerability. More pleasantly, it turns on support for extensions, which Apple is now collecting in its new Extensions Gallery. The quantity of available add-ins is skimpy compared to Chrome or (especially) Firefox, but there’s already some good stuff–I like Gmail Counter, which adds a button indicating how many e-mails have arrived since you last checked your inbox, along with a banner that rotates through recent subject lines. And Safari extensions have the most seamless installation process I’ve seen to date–one click, and you’re good to go.

Until now, when folks have asked me how the major browsers stack up, I’ve mostly praised Safari but noted that the lack of extensions made for a less customizable working environment. Now it’s got ’em. One more reason to consider using Safari, one less major distinguishing characteristic for the competition.

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Firefox Home: Half a Web Browser is Better Than None, I Suppose

Firefox has arrived on the iPhone–sort of. Mozilla’s Firefox Home, which is now available in Apple’s App Store, brings your Firefox search history, bookmarks, and tabs to the iPhone. It does so courtesy of Firefox Sync, an add-on for desktop versions of Firefox that synchronizes multiple copies of the browser so your bookmarks, settings, and other customizations are the same in every browser you use.

Firefox Home lets you get at search history (courtesy of the Awesome Bar–just start typing and it’ll find places you’ve previously gone), bookarks, and tabs from within the app; you can load Web pages in the program, where they’re rendered by an embedded version of Apple’s Safari, or open them in Safari itself. It’s handy, but it’s nowhere near as handy as a full-blown version of Firefox for the iPhone would have been. You can’t open a new URL, or bookmark a new page, or type search queries into the address bar–it’s strictly for going back to pages you once visited on a desktop copy of Firefox. Which means it neither feels like Firefox nor is able to replace Safari as a workaday Web browser.

Why didn’t Mozilla write a full-blown version of Firefox for the iPhone, akin to Fennec, which is available for Android? Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch says that Apple wouldn’t have accepted it for the App Store. I’m not so sure that’s the case: Apple didn’t have a problem with Opera Mini landing on its phone, and I can’t imagine a just, consistent policy which would accept Opera Mini but prohibit Firefox.

But if Mozilla didn’t want to risk writing an iPhone browser from scratch that Apple might nix, there was a (relatively) easy workaround: It could have built one which relied on Safari for rendering, as Firefox Home does–but with a far higher percentage of the trimmings we’re accustomed to in desktop Firefox. All evidence says that Apple doesn’t reject these pseudobrowsers, such as the outstanding Atomic Web Browser.

Maybe Mozilla can’t bring itself to release a Firefox that’s really a gussied-up reworking of Safari. Or maybe it intends to nudge Firefox in this direction over time. I just know that I like the idea of syncing my iPhone browsing experience with Firefox, but am a lot more excited by the idea than I am by Firefox Home the product.


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Firefox 4: Beta 1 is Here

Mozilla has released Beta 1 of Firefox 4–an update with a more Chromelike, minimalist interface, an improved add-on manager (it occupies a full window rather than a teeny-tiny one), speed improvements, more support for emerging Web standards like HTML5 and Google’s WebM video format, and more. (Only the Windows version has the new interface so far–it’ll arrive for the Mac and Linux in a later beta.)

At the moment, I find myself in the weird situation of not having a favorite browser–I leap between Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Flock without giving it much thought, and sometimes take side trips to IE and Opera. I am, however, rooting for Firefox 4 to be good: I love browser competition, and I don’t want it to devolve into a battle between Microsoft and Google, which is the likely scenario if Firefox doesn’t stay popular and inventive.

More thoughts to come, but I have to do some troubleshooting–the Windows version I downloaded and installed is refusing to load Web pages. Here’s Mozilla’s blog post on the new version.


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Firefox Gets Crash Protection

Mozilla has released Firefox 3.6.4, a security and stability update with one significant new feature: Crash protection designed to stop Flash, SilverLight, and QuickTime from taking the whole browser with them when they choke. The new capability mirrors one which was a much-touted one in Google’s Chrome from the start.

(Semi-related side note: On OS X, for me, Chrome’s crash protection doesn’t stop Flash from frequently freaking out in a manner that renders the browser unusable until I manually kill and relaunch it. Technically, it’s not crashing–but the end result is just as irritating.)

Firefox’s crash protection is for Windows and Linux only; it won’t reach OS X until Firefox 4 ships. If you try it and notice a difference–or don’t–let us know.


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Seven Handy Firefox Add-Ins and Tweaks

I know many of you still stubbornly use Internet Explorer (hello, Carl). I used to, as well. But Firefox, with all its lovely add-ons and tweaks, is just more fun to use.

Let’s start with a something you might not know about: Firefox’s hidden visual tab switching tweak. Right now, you can use Ctrl-Tab to cycle through Firefox’s tabs. But if you’re using Firefox 3.6, the current revision, this tweak will give you a visual look at the tabs, just like using Alt-Tab in Windows.

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Firefox on Android: Coming Soonish?

The browser wars have been one of the best things that ever happened to computer users–but so far, they haven’t spilled over from the desktop onto phones. (Yes, there are multiple browsers available for many phone OSes, but there tends to be one 800-pound gorilla and a bunch of obscure alternatives.) So I’m glad to hear that Mozilla says it hopes to have Firefox up and running on Android by the end of the year


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Two Firefox 3.6 Tips (Fullscreen, Tab Placement)

I’m generally well ahead of the crowd when it comes to Firefox. In fact, I’ve been running pre-release versions as my primary browser since the days when the Mozilla browser was known as Firebird. However, early versions of 3.6 were particularly crashy (along with the Flash 10.1 beta) and buggy in inconvenient ways (couldn’t access my work email due to some sort of cert issue). So I’ve largely abstained. And thus, have been uninformed. Two updates in particular have impacted my workflow – one positive, the other negative.

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