At a “Browser Wars” panel held at this weekend’s South by Southwest, Mozilla’s Senior VP of Products Jay Sullivan stated that his company is not currently working on an iOS variant of Firefox, and has no immediate plans to rectify that. The reason, not surprisingly, boils down to Apple’s attitude towards third-party developers – especially those that build competing products.
The browser has existed on iOS before, however, but it was pulled this past fall after Mozilla had enough. One of the biggest challenges of porting a browser to iOS is dealing with a rendering engine change – Apple says “no” to Mozilla’s Gecko choice while it says “yes” to WebKit – a technology it has had a large part in developing. This makes porting a frustrating effort for developers because it can’t develop every single variant to use the same core technologies. This is akin to doing most of your grocery shopping at one supermarket and about 10% at another. You really have to go out of your way, and the result is something less-than-ideal.
Another significant issue is that Apple doesn’t allow its users to choose a default for most application-types. Essentially, if Apple itself develops an app for a given purpose, then the third-party option will have to be launched manually.
What strikes me most about all of this is, Microsoft was just last week fined a staggering $732 million by the EU for failing to deliver its “Browser Wheel” to users in Windows 7 SP1. This, despite the fact that anyone can download and install any other browser without issue – it’s not as though Microsoft prevents that.
By contrast, we have Apple which deliberately stifles the competition on its platform, and goes as far as to not even allow its own users to choose a default browser. Like Chrome more than Safari? That’s fine – but it’s not becoming the default. Dear EU: Are you blind?