Mozilla’s Firefox Browser Won’t Follow the Crowd to iOS or WebKit

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With Google Chrome and Opera both vying hard in the iOS browser space, Mozilla Vice President of Product Jay Sullivan told showgoers at this week’s SXSW show that Mozilla will not release an iOS version of the Firefox browser until Apple “changes its ways.”

FirefoxApple demands that third-party browser developers use the same engines as its own Safari browser to render pages and parse JavaScript. Mozilla uses the open source Gecko rendering engine instead. Mozilla has made it clear that it doesn’t want to build browsers under Apple’s guidelines, which require apps that browse the web to use the iOS WebKit framework and WebKit JavaScript.

Mozilla pulled an app called Firefox Home, a spinoff of its browser, from the Apple App Store in September.

A Risky Move for Mozilla?

iOS users have access to various other browsers, anyway, including Apple’s Safari, Chrome, Opera and iCab. Not producing an iOS browser could be a risky move for Mozilla. Chrome has already moved to WebKit, the rendering engine preferred by Apple. After releasing the beta edition of a WebKit-based Android browser last week, Opera is planning a WebKit browser for iOS in the near future.

According to NetMarketShare, Mozilla holds less than 1% of the mobile browser market, while Apple holds more than 55% of the market with Safari. Not tapping into the Apple’s share of the cell phone market might prove costly for Mozilla.

Meanwhile, Mozilla has developed a Linux-based Firefox operating system which includes the Firefox browser. Firefox OS will run on low-end smartphones such as the 3.5-inch Keon and 4.3-inch Peak, which are expected to be released in 2014.

Sullivan made his comments during a panel discussion at SXSW on mobile browser wars.



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