Gal, recruited six years ago by former CTO and short-lived CEO Brendan Eich, brings continuity to the nonprofit organization's top techie job.
Andreas Gal, an engineer who helped speed up the Firefox browser at a crucial moment and then helped launch the Firefox OS project, has been promoted to Mozilla's new chief technology officer.
"Andreas is widely recognized as an authority on web technology and as a strong technical leader," said Chris Beard, Mozilla's acting chief executive, in a blog post Thursday. "He will also continue to serve as VP Mobile as we continue to focus our efforts on delivering and scaling Firefox OS."
On his own blog, Gal said his goal is to bring the success of Web programming to mobile devices as well, where developers today chiefly are focused instead on native apps that run atop operating systems like Google's Android and Apple's iOS.
"For me, the open Web is a unique ecosystem because no one controls or owns it...Every browser vendor can prototype new technologies for the Web. Once Mozilla led the way with Firefox, market pressures and open standards quickly forced competitors to implement successful technology as well. The result has been an unprecedented pace of innovation that has already displaced competing proprietary technology ecosystems on the desktop," Gal said. "We are on the cusp of the same open Web revolution happening in mobile as well, and Mozilla's goal is to accelerate the advance of mobile by tirelessly pushing the boundaries of what's possible with the Web."
Gal's appointment means continuity for Mozilla during a period of dramatic, highly public disagreement. He worked closely with Eich, the very person who recruited Gal to Mozilla six years ago.
Gal did a lot more, though, and rose through the ranks to become vice president of Mozilla's all-important mobile efforts, which include Firefox for Android and the Firefox OS operating system project that Gal co-founded. Both of those compete against better established software from market leaders Apple and Google.
Mozilla's goal with Firefox OS is bring the Web's openness to mobile computing, where it can be hard for people to escape the tightly linked ecosystems of devices, operating systems, app stores, and services. To do that, though, Mozilla isn't pitting Firefox directly against Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
"What we're focused on now is not to take on iOS or even Android," Gal told CNET earlier this month. "Seventeen percent of the market has a smartphone. It's the other 83 percent who have some kind of flip phone or feature phone. We're going to a huge market where people are yearning to have their first smartphone experience."
Gal also led Mozilla's research and development, which includes ambitious projects such as Mozilla's new Rust programming language and its Servo browser engine that's designed to provide a new core for Firefox once it's mature enough.
Today's browsers are architecturally all very similar, but Servo is an attempt to start fresh with a design tailored for modern computing devices whose multicore processors can handle many tasks in parallel.
Today's browser architecture was "designed when most devices had a single core. Today's cell phones are headed for eight cores and more. There's a fundamental design disconnect between browser design and where the technology is headed."
As CTO, Gal also will have to wrestle technology issues beyond Mozilla's walls, too. Almost uniquely in the computing industry, browser makers are reliant on cooperation with the closest competitors. That's because new features offer Web programmers more power, but those programmers aren't likely to support the features unless other browsers also support it.
"Three months before the release of Chrome, we had the first public release of TraceMonkey," Gal said. "The performance wars started right after that. That was the starting point of my career at Mozilla."
Updated at 2:25 p.m. PT with detail from Gal's blog post.