Man, WebKit cannot catch a break today, can it? After Samsung announced that it would be teaming up with Mozilla to build their own mobile browser engine called Servo, Google says its planning to fork WebKit to create a new project called Blink. Unlike Servo, this one will still be based on WebKit, but this new fork actually seems to be aimed not at competing with whatever Samsung is putting out, but rather at gaining freedom from another browser: Safari.
You see, Chrome doesn't actually use the entirety of WebKit. It mainly uses what's called WebCore, which handles HTML and CSS rendering.
The Xperia E, Sony's low-end Jelly Bean-powered smartphone which was announced back in December may have another trick up its sleeve yet. The manufacturer is offering owners of the device the chance to test out Mozilla's fledgling Firefox OS on the device via a downloadable ROM. Meant for "advanced developers," the ROM comes with a few warnings from Sony, chiefly that you should know what you're doing before you get started.
The ROM is thus far labeled "experimental," and comes with its own set of limitations: for starters, there's no radio connectivity. This means no cellular, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth capability. Additionally, the SD card "might be unstable" and touch screen sensitivity is not fully calibrated.
I know. You thought Flash was long gone. You mourned the relationship and moved on. Having made peace with the past and exploring a bright future, you were ready to start a new life with HTML5. Now, thanks to Mozilla, your ex has come calling, bringing back all those old memories. But enough with the metaphors. The organization behind Firefox announced Shumway, an open SWF runtime project, today. With this, the company hopes to bring compatibility for Flash content back to the web, particularly on mobile. A lofty goal, given that Adobe, creator of the Flash format, isn't keen on that last part.
The team behind Firefox for Android teased the upcoming release with a tablet-friendly design back in late August, and the final version of FF9 just landed in the Android Market. The update not only features a specialized tablet interface, but also boosts performance and startup speed and brings some HTML5 tweaks to the scene, like camera input support and form validation.
The tablet interface offers some nice features over its phone-centric counterpart, like full-screen browsing in portrait, optimized tabs for easy thumb-switching between open pages, and a quick access buttons on the Action Bar. The overall feel and functionality of the finalized app is definitely a big improvement over the beta version that I tried when it was first announced, but the FF team has made one serious omission in this release: the option to change the user agent.
Firefox for Android has come a long way since the project hatched as "Fennec" many months ago - there is no doubt about that. What started as a bloated, slow, and buggy pile of crap (really, it was bad), is now one of the greatest browsers Android has to offer (add-ons ftw!). Don't get me wrong - it's still lacking quite a few features - notably, Flash support, faster font redraw on zooming, better startup times, etc., but Mozilla knows this and is working hard on the next version - 5.0.
In order to test out new (but potentially buggy) builds, the company decided to introduce a separate Beta app into the Market today.
As a fan of Ubuntu, I really love using Mozilla Firefox. In my opinion, it is the best desktop browser out there (sorry, Chrome). It was because of my love for Firefox that I became elated when I first heard that Mozilla would be developing a browser for the Android platform.
Having followed the development of Firefox for Android from an alpha and now to a beta, I jumped at the chance to interview software engineer Matt Brubeck, one of the lead developers of Firefox for Android. In our time together, I got a chance to ask him about Mozilla's plans for Android, why Firefox for Android seems so slow, and much, much more.
Mozilla's been pretty good about keeping the mobile version of its ever-popular Firefox browser up to date (both with the current beta and with the old Fennec Alpha), and it looks like they have every intention to continue that trend. Just today, the third beta of Firefox 4 went live in the Android Market, bringing a number of minor additions along with it:
Several UI modifications
Easier discovery of add-ons
The ability to save websites as PDFs so you can read them later
Support for complex scripts (i.e. Arabic and Persian) on devices with the appropriate fonts
The ability to copy and paste to and from the URL bar
A simplified setup process for Firefox Sync - less typing is necessary
Additionally, this is the first release of Firefox for Android that's available in the Android Market, indicating that we are now one step closer to the final, non-beta release of the app.
As we've seen in the last few days, The Artist Formerly Known As Fennec has really been hitting its stride lately. Riding on this wave of improvement comes a shiny new Beta status, making Fennec now, officially, Firefox 4 For Android Beta.
We won't labour you with details, as many words have been written before about F4FA's arduous journey towards usability. Just get out there and download it.
You might also want to check out Mozilla's official blog post, and their little promotional video at the source link below. Sadly, our main man Matt Brubeck is not featured, but he's probably too busy making Fen*cough*Firefox 4 for Android Beta even better.
We've seen Fennec (or Firefox for Android as it's now called) gradually progressing over the last few months, reaching a state of real usability in the last couple of weeks. There are many excited by Fennec's journey and the ability have a browser with near-full-desktop functionality, but it seems that even more struggle to see a place for another browser on their phone. After all, the stock Android browser is lightning-quick and works well enough for a pretty satisfying web experience.
Mozilla mobile developer Matt Brubeck recently penned a blog post set to explain the reasoning behind Firefox for Android, and why he believes it is a worthwhile addition to both Android and Mozilla families.
Folks, I wish I could have the pleasure of telling you that what you're about to see is available now or even that it will be available in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, at this stage, this Seabird mobile phone concept, designed by Billy May for Mozilla, is just a dream. A dream, so beautifully projected in this video that it made me feel both sadness and happiness, inspiration and despair, awe and... well, you'll know what I mean after you watch it.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce Seabird:
If you happen to have 3D glasses, Billy May put together a 3D version of this video, available here.