Mozilla Has No Plans to Release Firefox for iOS, Cites Apple’s to Blame

Posted on March 11, 2013 12:10 PM by Rob Williams

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.

Mozilla Firefox 19 Android Theme

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?

  • Marfig

    EU measures are an answer to Microsoft’s monopoly in Europe and fall within that context only. Because Apple doesn’t have an operating system monopoly, it does not need to answer the same rules as Microsoft. Seems a bit unfair at first, but it’s actually a way to balance the market, curbing down growth of an obvious monopoly, while offering the others a chance to come close.

    I have trouble understanding the efficacy of these fines though. There’s a reason why Microsoft has happily decided to pay what’s is apparently a huge fine. It’s nowhere near close the 10% of the annual revenue mark that marks the maximum possible fine (it’s actually just short of 1%) and it allows Microsoft to tap into the 53 billion currently it’s holding on European accounts and that it doesn’t wish to move back to USA on account of the 35% tax it would have to pay European governments.

  • e550mercedes

    Who cares? Not me, as I’ve giving up on Firefox ages ago. At one time it ruled, but both Safari and Chrome are now better. Even Opera I find is better, as Firefox has become slow, buggy and out of date. It’s on my Windows machine, but hell if I ever use it. In fact, I probably used it no more than three times in the past year!

    I agree, as you do, it seems strange that you can’t use another browser as a default as it would be another plus for iOS. Of course, Apple does allow you to use another browser as a default on Mac computers, but, oddly, you have to use Safari in order to set, let’s say Firefox as the default. Since I don’t have an iPhone I’m not sure about their mobile devices.

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