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Mobile/Fennec/Vision

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Purpose of this document

This document describes the vision for Firefox on mobile devices; code name Fennec and the key release themes that flow from that vision, in order of priority. Then, it proposes a guiding principle: that we leverage our unique assets to create experiences -- for users and developers -- that haven't been possible to date. We're not out to create a me-too browser, we're out to bring the Web to mobile phones in a richer, broader way than has been achieved before, and to make the Web a rich platform for developers who want to create compelling content and applications for mobile phones.

Vision statement

Firefox will bring a true Web experience to mobile devices, yet take advantage of the specific opportunities for new and useful user experiences enabled by mobility and telephony. Firefox mobile will do what users need out of the box, enabling access to their favorite content and rich internet applications. It will integrate smoothly with device features, including easy initiation of phone calls from Web pages, access to local search, maps and directions. It will solve basic usability challenges have generally prevented the mobile Web experience from being pleasant and enjoyable, even though people have a critical need for data when on the go.

Firefox will be the mobile Web browser that content and application developers can target to create great software for mobile phones, rather than the plethora of native platforms and programming languages required to reach people in a mobile environment today. Firefox provides a platform for creating rich mobile applications. Using the latest Web technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript developers can innovate faster, more easily and extend their reach. Developers can build great sites and apps by tapping into the device capabilities of the phone, as well as create game changing add-ons for the first mobile Web browser to support them.

Key themes

The purpose of defining a set of release themes is to guide our development, and specifically to help us set release criteria and to make trade-offs where two things we value come in conflict with each other and we need to pick one.

We aim to embody the values and design principles that make the desktop version of Firefox successful, but with an implementation appropriate to the mobile environment.

In priority order, here are the key themes of the first Fennec release:

1. Simple, fast navigation to Web content - We need to pay close attention to very basic operations that are still hard to accomplish on most mobile phones, like entering URLs, managing bookmarks, providing an equivalent to multiple windows/tabs, designing zooming and scrolling to achieve readability; we will need to question assumptions about how people use the Web when they're on the go, and not view the UI as a "port" of desktop Firefox.

2. Compatibility with the Web - Fennec will provide access to the "full" Web, including rich internet applications developed using AJAX. Web content developers should be able to optimize to smaller screen sizes, etc., but not be required to adopt alternate technologies.

3. Secure - Providing a powerful desktop browser engine with full implementation of JavaScript, AJAX, and other advanced web technologies could open a phone up to exploits which could be more costly and more invasive than PC exploits; security will need to be a key consideration from day one.

4. A "whole product" for mobile - Subject to the security constraints above, Fennec should strive to integrate as much as possible with a phone's mapping application, have the ability to initiate phone calls from phone numbers in Web pages, have access to location information through, and integrate with contacts, calendar items and camera. We should work to ensure that critical necessary plug-ins work out of the box.

5. A platform for innovation on mobile - A key strength of Firefox is its support for third-party innovation through full support for rich internet applications and for Add-ons. By providing full support for JavaScript, AJAX, offline storage and other key ingredients of RIAs, as well as JavaScript access to native phone features, Fennec will enable a whole new wave of mobile application development. Fennec will support Add-ons as well, so that the mobile browsing experience can be augmented and improved by anyone.

The rationale behind the prioritization is this: If we have addressed themes 1-3, and created a super easy-to-use browser that works on a majority of Web sites and is secure, a case could be made to ship without all of the phone hooks and Add-on support exemplified by items 4 and 5, and add those in a follow-on release.

Leveraging the strengths of Mozilla and Firefox

Just as they did with Firefox on the desktop, people will need compelling reasons to go out of their way to install Fennec, when their phones already have a browser or two on them already. (Don't take this to mean that we won't attempt to work with manufacturers and carriers to get pre-installed on devices, but let's assume that we're mainly installed by users themselves.)

We have unique assets that we can leverage to deliver on our key themes and to achieve distribution of Fennec. For example:

  • We can improve the usefulness of Firefox for mobile for each desktop Firefox user, especially if we adopt an online "bridge" to enable a mobile user to easily access bookmarks, history, form-fill data, and other browser metadata from his/her desktop PC.
  • We can take advantage of our desktop footprint to make Firefox users aware of Firefox mobile, and make it easy for them to send an installer (or installer link) to their devices
  • We can use our position of authority in the realm of Web standards to play a key role in defining and driving standards that would benefit the mobile Web as a whole, for example, a standard approach to making location information accessible in the DOM with appropriate security; gaining broader acceptance of microformats acceptance and broad implementation on phones of links that can initiate phone calls; and many more
  • We can leverage our position as the preferred browser of developers by making it a natural extension of their current development process to develop, test and debug Web apps for mobile devices

Firefox for mobile devices will provide users and developers with a better experience by leveraging our unique technology, developer community and user community.