Monday, February 1, 2010

Mozilla releases first mobile Firefox browser

Mozilla has been steadily creeping toward its goal of releasing the first Firefox browser for mobile phones. On Friday, Firefox 1.0 for Nokia's Maemo--previously code-named Fennec--arrived.

Firefox for the Maemo 5 platform has a few interesting conceits that set it apart from other mobile browsers, like Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. Mozilla is banking on the uniqueness of its claim to fame--third-party, customizable browser extensions--to help its browser win mobile market share. Add-ons, after all, helped make Firefox the top browser alternative to Internet Explorer in the desktop space. To punctuate the importance of add-ons for Firefox's mobile browser, Mozilla also pushed out on Friday the general release of its bookmark and history-syncing extension, Weave Sync 1.0, for both desktop and mobile.

Mozilla's accomplishment with a mobile version of Firefox is a mixed one, and not only because Maemo is a platform relatively few people have heard of. Nokia's open-source, Linux-based Maemo operating system supports mobile Firefox on just two devices--the N900 and the N810, an Internet tablet. To make matters more limited, just two days ago Mozilla unveiled a third release candidate with a last-minute decision to pull wholesale support for Adobe's Flash plug-in from the build, citing unhappiness with the overall standard of quality. As an aside, this is apparently a sore spot for Adobe, who became miffed with Apple for excluding Flash in its new iPad device about the same time that Mozilla made its comment about degraded performance when visiting Flash sites.

Yet what kind of mobile browser would Firefox be if users couldn't watch videos or adequately view Web sites that heavily rely on Flash? Not a browser anyone could take seriously. As a workaround, Mozilla has released an add-on called YouTube enabler, that early adopters can install to view YouTube videos. Mozilla is hoping to work out other solutions for those who are wary of optionally installing the Flash plug-in, but still want to see select Flash-based content.

Luckily for Mozilla, a relatively small sliver of the mobile phone-toting population actually has one of the two compatible devices, so there's time to smooth out Firefox before it matures on another mobile platform. Windows Mobile is slated to be next, with Android to follow. You can download Firefox 1.0 for Maemo here, and read more details in Mozilla's blog post.

by Jessica Dolcourt - CNET

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