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Summary:

It’s no secret that the Mozilla team is looking to expand from desktops and laptops to handhelds. The Firefox browser is popular on the big screen, but Mozilla’s Fennec is poised to challenge on the small screen. And the company’s prototype synchronization service, known as Weave, […]

fennecIt’s no secret that the Mozilla team is looking to expand from desktops and laptops to handhelds. The Firefox browser is popular on the big screen, but Mozilla’s Fennec is poised to challenge on the small screen. And the company’s prototype synchronization service, known as Weave, will bind the web experience together. I looked at Weave in its early prototype and it has come a long way since then — the service syncs bookmarks, passwords and cookies between web clients. Theoretically, Weave will help your browsing experience be continuous whether you’re on your notebook or your handheld. Might that even include your browsing experience on the iPhone? John Lilly, the CEO of Mozilla, didn’t offer specifics, but he did tell Om that there’s a Mozilla app for the iPhone coming soon.

Apple did begin to approve third-party browser applications earlier this year, so a Mozilla browser does have a chance for approval. And that could open the door for the Weave service, as well.  Apple’s Mobile Me service doesn’t sync bookmarks or web passwords over-the-air currently, although I suspect these functions could be added in the future. In light of that, I’m thinking we’re about to see Fennec on the iPhone. That’s the simplest explanation, and the simple ones are often right. And there’s a little — admittedly, very little — evidence that the iPhone could be in the mix for Fennec. Digging around the Mozilla wikis, I did find some UI and design bits that specifically show working mockups for the “large format screen (e.g. N810, android, iPhone).”

Mozilla says that these are examples of format and flow, not actual pixel perfect screen shots. But is is interesting that the iPhone is mentioned by name. Come to think of it, it’s equally interesting to see Google’s Android platform mentioned, but that’s another story for another day. And I don’t want to overlook something that Fennec offers over mobile Safari — native support for Flash. Lilly said that we’ll be surprised by what’s coming and I think Flash on a third-party iPhone browser would qualify as such.

The Mozilla wiki page I found hasn’t been updated since December of 2008, so it could well be that Fennec isn’t what’s coming. Mozilla has specifically said that Firefox wouldn’t be on the iPhone.  But they never said anything about Fennec — or Weave, for that matter — did they? In any case, we know that something is coming from Mozilla for the iPhone. Got any guesses?

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  1. Lincoln Stoll Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Actually, MobileMe does sync bookmarks OTA, and has since it launched.

  2. I have tried Fenenc several times during its long period of development, and Weave, but both left me a little empty in their operation.
    Last time I tried Fennec on my winmo was about one month back and the operation was less than stellar.
    I don’t use Weave anymore as it proved inconsistent.
    I truly wish the Mozilla teams all the best with this, I would dearly love to see them take a bigger share of this market and I would convert back at the drop of a hat provided they both work as they should.
    For the iPhone; I heard somewhere about a week ago that there was a Firefox browser in the offing. I haven’t heard anything about Weave for quite some time.

  3. If this happens the meaning of happiness will be complete…

  4. I have difficulty seeing Apple approving a Mozilla based application at this point. Firefox and Flash are precisely the types of competition that they had in mind when they wrote in their apps restrictions that they would not allow applications which allowed for scripting. Firefox/Fennec becomes an uncontrolled apps engine in their eyes as developers could run applications on top of it like a platform.

  5. Oh, I meant to say that I could see the potential for some sort of weave-based solution coming to the iPhone. Technically you don’t need Firefox to take advantage of Weave Sync technologies.

  6. “And I don’t want to overlook something that Fennec offers over mobile Safari — native support for Flash. Lilly said that we’ll be surprised by what’s coming and I think Flash on a third-party iPhone browser would qualify as such.”

    Well, that’s one thing that certainly won’t happen.

    That would require the Flash runtime on the iPhone with all the problems that would bring in terms of instability and battery life. Apple have *already* ruled that out. In fact, they’ve specifically said no third-party runtimes at all.

    Goodness knows what this application is, but if it’s supposed to “surprise” people, then the likelihood is it isn’t anything that’s occurred to you.

    1. Completely understand what Apple’s stance is on this. Then again, their stance on applications was that web “apps” were good enough and we all know that they changed that thought — which changed the mobile application market as we know it. ;)

      In any case, you raise a valid point about the hardware challenges of putting Flash on the iPhone. However, it’s a similar hardware package to Palm’s Pre, which we do know is getting Flash. From a hardware perspective, I’d say the latest iPhone can handle it.

  7. James Kendrick Monday, October 19, 2009

    I can’t see Apple ever letting another browser on the iPhone. I think this will be a Weave app for syncing bookmarks over to the iPhone from the Firefox world. They already let Xmarks do that for Safari.

      1. Nope. Those are all frontends to Apple’s own Webkit rendering engine. In layman’s terms, Safari is still running the show, with a different user interface on top. If a website is broken on Safari, it will be broken on all of those.

        Apple has not allowed ana third pardy full browser app on the iPhone so far, as far as I know, and there’s little chance of that happening.

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