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Firefox OS 2.0 starts emerging from its cocoon (cnet.com)
148 points by Garbage 1343 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

As a huge Mozilla fan, I really do hope that Firefox OS takes off at least in a small way. I hear that the Firefox browser isn't being used so much on Android (people are tending to stick to the default Chrome browser). Mozilla really do need to get into the mobile market.

Defaults are such powerful things. If Microsoft had managed to keep IE even marginally competent back in the Long Browser Winter, the window for alternative browsers on the desktop would have been much, much narrower.

It's my hunch that a lot of Mac owners never give Safari a fair chance because their time in Windows land drummed in to them the notion that only dummies use the default browser.

Doesn't help that it's not particularly compelling:

http://www.zdnet.com/the-big-browser-benchmark-january-2013-... http://www.techradar.com/us/news/software/applications/best-...

I use Safari daily, both to test and to visit several popular websites. My experience is that it's the first to somehow lock up with even a moderate number of windows/tabs open.

There's a lot of things to like about OS X, but these days I don't think Apple's heart is in web-related stuff.

IMO it still has the best overall look and feel. Anecdotally, I very seldom see any freezes or crashes. Perhaps having plug-ins completely disabled makes the difference.

Odd. I use Safari as my main browser and since Mavericks, I don't think I've ever seen it lock up. URL to test?

Then why bother making Safari at all? Just rebrand Firefox or Webkit or whatever. it's not like having Safari in the mix has some massive value to the community

Safari is the reason Webkit exists. Apple forked KHTML for their browser project and called the result Webkit.

In my experience, Safari on Mac is the nicest browser for no reason other than Firefox and Chrome failing to nail trackpad input in the way that Apple has.

Granted I still use Firefox because I sync bookmarks to Windows, but if I could sync FF for Windows and Safari for Mac I'd switch back tomorrow. Not so keen on Safari for Windows or iCloud sync.

I've also found that it is smoother as relates to scrolling etc. Chrome will sometimes lock the screen during memory intensive stuff, Firefox will do it a little, and Safari is buttery smooth.

Not the finest of solutions, but it does work Xmarks: http://www.xmarks.com

If they had used Safari on Windows, I am sure they would have stayed away from the Mac version because I recall the Windows one being crashy and buggy.

Ah, those days of young browsers when Firefox was called Firebird and Chrome version numbers went up by dot increments, not integer jumps. It isn't that long ago either!

According to the Play Store, mobile Firefox is in the "50,000,000 - 100,000,000" installs category. For a platform where Chrome is the default browser (as opposed to Windows and IE), that ain't too shabby.


strictly speaking, Chrome isn't necessarily the default - Chrome mobile isn't the same app as the "Internet" browser included in Android. (though it's included in newer phones - my shiny new S5 lets me pick the default as it appears to not be set yet)

For users that may still have the "Internet" app as their web default, I imagine Firefox is a better experience.

I'm curious how many of those installations actually see much use, especially on an ongoing basis.

I know several people who have all sorts of browsers installed on their Android devices, but only end up using one of them frequently. The others are used for the rare site that doesn't work well in the preferred browser, but these other browsers don't see much, if any, use beyond that.

Well it'd be good if the HTML5/H264 video player wasn't a piece of crap and it integrated with Android intents etc properly...

Would you mind be more precise so we can fix it?


steps: Open mp4 file in Firefox 28 on Android.

actual behaviour: Shows in tiny partial window inside browser. Content is small, laggy, impossible to control, cannot be made full screen.

expected behaviour: opens with default android media player interface or asks which interface to use as per intents system.

Ff on Android is, ironically, years ahead of ffos.

As someone has used Firefox on desktop since it was called Pheonix, the Android Firefox app is just bad. It consistently renders pages worse than Chrome, will show desktop pages when it should be showing mobile, has frustrating address bar behavior, and just generally makes me want to throw my phone at the wall. I want to love it - and I try it every couple of months - but it's just no good.

I don't think it's bad, especially recently.

The interface is rougher than Chrome, but it has the benefit of Sync and AdBlock.

It's the only mobile browser with any kind of extension support, I believe.

I also like the tab-switching view better than chrome's - however, it's hard to access, which is a shame.

Really? I use it every day and have none of these problems. I love the thing.

I'm not sure why, exactly, but a few months ago it took a notable leap in usability. Today, I use it for everything, and it works superbly.

I'm really excited about this. I recently installed Firefox OS 1.4 on my cheapo ZTE Open (it came with 1.0), and the difference is huge. I thought I heard somewhere that they are shooting for 2.0 in July.

Ignore everything this article says about the Geeksphone Revolution, though. Geeksphone has dropped the ball so many times with that device; they seem to be pretty incompetent, to be honest. Some owners have said that the Revolution's build of Firefox OS deviates pretty far from the official one -- who knows if you'll be able to get 2.0 on it easily.

I'm excited by this too. I really hope Firefox OS gains traction. And the new screenshots look quite attractive. I just hope the Firefox OS team can deliver a unique OS with it's own distinctive design and interaction behaviour. One that doesn't clone behaviour from the existing (dominant) mobile OSes. Obviously there will be similarities with the other mobile OSes, but I think there is still scope for new ideas or even just simpler, easier implementations of common tasks.

Of course you can run 2.0 on it. You'll have to build Gecko with the Revolution patches for now, but they're open source.

Other than that, the Keon and Peak (previous generation GeeksPhones) are the most hackable phones I ever had. Daily new builds of all versions, and easy to build custom Gecko for it. Guess they will do the same for the Revolution.

(I have Keon, Peak and Revolution)

I found it too difficult to figure out how to install updates on the ZTE Open, so I have only installed the official 1.1 update.

> I thought I heard somewhere that they are shooting for 2.0 in July.

This CNET article says testing is "due to begin in late July":


1.0 to 1.4 and the diff is huge? cmon!

The browser still have One option on the settings screen: clear cache. That's it.

No extensions, no block js, no block or allow sites opening new windows... No

Those options are confusing for users and can break sites and then users wonder "where is grumpy cat?" :^).

if i wanted to be dumbed down i'd use google chorme :)

now really, those options are not useless and just for confusion, and i will argue anyone who says otherwise. most options there are for usability. Yeah, for you being able to run add-ons is just a convenient way to download movies from streaming porn sites... but for me it may be a way to run stylish and use a high contrast theme so i can actually read the sites! ...and just the fact that i have to use add-ons+stylish instead of a simple user style file like most old browsers allowed is already absurd enough.

So what is the best phone to get with Firefox OS then? Even if that means flashing it yourself? Galaxy S 3 maybe? Nexus 4 or 5?

Depending on your needs, there's a developer/reference device coming out soon:


If you are not in a hurry, I would wait for the reference device (codename 'Flame') that will ship in the coming months. It's not as high end as a Nexus 5 but FxOS runs superbly there (it's a dual core with 4.5" screen).

Sweet, I've waited for 2 years so I can wait a bit longer.

A little context next time, please.

Link is to a video of Firefox OS running on a Nexus 4.

The mobile ecosystem could really use a platform that is web friendlier. Firefox OS will have web developers becoming mobile developers overnight. That said, I wonder if those developers will understand the performance differences of a desktop vs a mobile device. If they don't, the performance of Firefox OS apps will be awful and Firefox will be blamed by the end user.

I'm having more and more doubts about mobile operating systems, or perhaps mobile UI paradigms where the user has unlimited freedom.

I just tried, for experiment's sake, a dumbphone (Nokia 515) instead of my high-end large screen Android phone. And somehow I like it, not because of what it can do but mostly because what it cannot, and what kind of shackles it imposes on me.

Is there any likelihood that FFOS will ever be more than a niche player? From where I'm sitting it looks like Android & iOS are the big players, Windows Phone is the plucky upstart, and then there's dark horses and complementary products like Tizen and so on. With all of the big brands out there, where does FFOS propose to carve out a niche?

The same question probably was asked when IE had >90% of the browser market, Microsoft controlled the distribution channel of the default desktop icons for >90% of computers, nobody (except people reading this) had heard of "Mozilla" or "Firefox", and Mozilla had many fewer resources.

At least now the public has heard of Mozilla and Firefox, they have hundreds of millions of users, and they have some resources.

They still have a tough road ahead. If you are reading this, and you care about the open Internet and end user control, consider helping out.

They've always said they are aiming to target cheaper less powerful phones. Right now the bulk of the world is using cheap phones probably running Symbian or something similar. Whether they actually will be able to target that group is up for debate, but that's been their (stated) plan.

They're serious about it, too. They're getting it to work under 128MB:


<disclaimer>I work for mozilla on fxos</disclaimer> And that works really well considering the price point and the hardware. Another benefit of working to make things good on this very low end device is that we made a number of performance improvements that benefit also other devices.

Something important to note compared to android is that android phones in this range are stuck with gingerbread and no official play store.

I don't think it's a good idea. Even with 256 MB FFOS is sluggish...

Replace all structs with unions and hope nobody ever uses the other parts of the data structure!

"They've always said they are aiming to target cheaper less powerful phones"

Android can increasingly be found on a lot of cheap, low-cost smartphones too - and there's a large established app marketplace. Firefox OS has a couple of potential advantages though. If the Firefox team can deliver on fast native performance for HTML apps, then development for the OS will be magnitudes easier (potentially) than developing for rival OSes.

User privacy is another feature where Firefox OS could easily outshine its rivals. I'd love to see a Firefox OS laptop that goes head to head with ChromeOS for example (Google's OS tracks everything you do - even printing to your desktop printer).

I Think WP and FirefoxOS are the two big players in the low-end smartphone market, and the victory of one of those depends on that segment of phones.

WindowsPhone8.1 already allow developers to use html5/js to create native apps (using winJS or any other framework) and the smartphone that sold most is the lumia520 -> the most low cost of all the wp gamma.

I hope FirefoxOS will succeed, but considering that MS is trowing literally Billions to keep wp alive, I doubt it will be easy.

I very much doubt that Windows Phone will be a player there. The Lumia 520 sells for ~150 USD without contract. That's the lowest WP8 can go. Nokia introduced their Android phones because they'll run on cheaper hardware.

The Lumia 520 actually sells for ~ $50 (or lower if you look around) with no contract[1]. Its the cheapest a phone can get for the given specs: 4" LCD touchscreen, 5MP camera & 13 days standby. Too bad it hasn't been hacked yet.

[1] http://www.walmart.com/ip/27449094

Ok, but in normal[1] place that phone costs ~100 euro. There's also an old price visible - 99.88$

[1] It's not a normal place http://www.walmart.com/ip/Jimmy-Dean-Croissant-Egg-with-Red-...

Fine, is amazon considered a normal place? Because even there its ~ $50. Infact everywhere I have looked it has been around that price.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Nokia-Lumia-520-GoPhone-AT/dp/B00E4504...

They're also targeting low-memory handsets which Android is excluding.

Android is already there, so tough competition for FirefoxOS

Android devices running modern OS version on Jelly Bean or Kit Kat? Many new low-end devices are still shipping with Gingerbread. Gingerbread will be Google's Windows XP.

I don't know about other markets, but here, the majority of the absolutely cheapest Android phones (45€ inc. 23%VAT) run at least 4.1.2 and have 512MB of RAM.

I don't know how lower you can realistically go. Is a 128MB RAM really that much cheaper from a BOM cost perspective? Does it make sense for manufacturers to create a phone equipped with 128MB of RAM?

Also, while getting base FxOS running on 128MB of RAM looks neat this doesn't say much about how the phone actually works on the Web.

Not anytime soon. Until it has a large share of the market, it won't be worth the time for developers to really come aboard, and the only way to get there is to have a large enough sized team driven to be better than iOS and Android, which they don't have yet, and probably won't, sadly. The mobile web trend has started to die back down, too, according to recent stats; writing apps in JavaScript for FFOS would make sense if it were just a matter of reusing the same served content.

But, I'd like to see FFOS do well. David against Goliath(s) sort of thing.

Glad to see Mozilla pushing ahead, putting the Brendan Eich story behind them.

I bought the ZTE Open and am rooting for them.

I bought one as well. Can you root mine too, please?

I bought mine yesterday! It's not my daily driver, but I wanted to to test a few HTML5 Apps and to show my support to Mozilla and Firefox.

at 70 US dollars (950 mexican pesos) it was a steal.

My father needs a phone, (his 'feature' phone went dead a few weeks ago) and that little ZTE Open Firefox OS phone is a perfect replacement.

This is why PhoneGap is relevant. One codebase, many platforms.

... crappy experience everywhere.

There are many apps that have a good UX that use Phone Gap. A good or bad UX has more to do with the programmer. But then...

β€œIt is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

― Upton Sinclair


Edit: I removed by sarcastic response. I sometimes have kneejerk sarcasm to FUD now, since FUD is pretty much BS.

The FUD & BS grows the more unquestioning people become. I believe native vs web is in a context where most people believe native is the only way to have a good UX. I see it as an opportunity to get ahead while the competition is asleep at the wheel. I'm not afraid of saying this because you won't believe me anyways ;-)

I don't know why I'm explaining all of this. I really should just keep my mouth shut.

Would you say that it's ok for it to come out of the closet now that Eich's gone.

Copy-and-paste - great. Now how about reply all to MMS?

I'll just get my Siemens S65 out of the drawer and do that for you. (Yes, that is a phone from 10 years ago . . .)

Seems continued reinvention of the wheel is popular! In fairness, it seems a great effort but I am not sure millions of OSes is a great idea, particularly not for developer effort.

That and

>The ability to dial somebody directly from the call log.

really baffled me.

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