Mozilla says no plans to return to iOS

During a SXSW talk, the not-for-profit's vice president of product says the organization won't build a version of its Firefox browser for iOS devices until Apple changes its ways.

The mobile browser wars panel at SXSW Interactive. From left: Mike Taylor, Jay Sullivan, David Dehghan, and Seth Rosenblatt. James Martin/CNET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mozilla's Firefox browser will have no place on Apple devices so long as Apple continues its unfriendly attitude toward third-party browsers, Jay Sullivan, vice president of product at Mozilla, said today.

The nonprofit Mozilla, which pulled Mozilla Firefox Home from Apple's App Store in September 2012, is not currently building a version of its Firefox browser for iOS, nor does the company plan to, said Sullivan, speaking on a mobile browser wars panel at South by Southwest Interactive moderated by CNET Senior Reporter Seth Rosenblatt.

The sticking point for Mozilla is not being able to carry over its sophisticated rendering and javascript engines to iOS. Essentially, the organization doesn't feel like it can build the browser it wants to for Apple's platform, Sullivan told CNET.

The decision is a risky one. Sure, Mozilla now has Firefox OS and can attack the mobile browser market with low-end smartphones equipped with its browser, but as it stands, Mozilla holds less than 1 percent of the market, according to NetMarketShare. Apple, meanwhile, commands more than 55 percent of the mobile browser market with Safari.

Of course, Apple's environment isn't all that welcoming a place for third-party browsers. The company prevents its users from making any other application the default browser, which makes moving beyond Safari for all of one's browsing needs nearly impossible.

Still, other mobile browser makers seem to embrace their underdog status and maintain the lofty, altruistic position that they can push the industry forward.

"Competition is critical to our survival," Dolphin Browser Chief Software Architect David Dehgahn said during the panel.

Sullivan and Opera Software's Mike Taylor, also on the panel, shared the same viewpoint. They all argued that giving consumers browser choice was essential to making browsers, and the Web in general, great.

And, Sullivan argued, Apple's closed environment means users suffer.

It's a viewpoint that the general public might not share. Rosenblatt queried the audience to find out how many people were iOS users, and a majority of hands went up. By contrast, when he asked how many of them were suffering, just a few hands surfaced.

 

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