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Mozilla: rise of HTML5 in mobile 'inevitable'

Mozilla has revealed more details about Firefox OS. Having grown from humble beginnings under two years ago, the mobile operating system is now gaining traction. According to Mozilla, 17 key operators have already committed to the initiative, and Firefox OS devices will soon be available in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.

Ahead of this release, Mozilla previewed the first commercial build of Firefox OS, with SVP of products Jay Sullivan. Sullivan stated the primary goal was to help everyone in the ecosystem, from carriers and developers to end users, to “blaze their own path”. He reiterated that the platform was built entirely on web technologies, but said that just as importantly it’s “built on web principles of openness and the ability for everyone to innovate”.

This means that, although Mozilla will provide Firefox Marketplace as a means of discovering, reviewing and sharing apps, this will be an optional method of providing apps. Other marketplaces will be encouraged and developers will also be able to distribute apps directly to end users.

Additionally, Sullivan stressed it was important to understand that with Firefox OS, “There is no new ecosystem”. He elaborated: “If you’re building for the web today (and most developers are building beautiful, touch-friendly mobile websites to work on modern browsers on smartphones) if you’re building one of those today, you are building a Firefox OS app. You may just not know it yet.”

On other systems, said Sullivan, many apps are in effect web views anyway because development for a number of bespoke platforms is too costly. Mozilla's aim is to approach developers already creating such products and provide them with APIs that enable access to device components such as the camera and geolocation.

For developers, the relative ease in being able to wrap up apps for Firefox Marketplace could prove compelling (indeed, Twitter has already announced a version for Firefox OS), and Mozilla remains committed to working with W3C to standardise any APIs that currently exist ‘above’ the existing HTML5 experience.

“It’s important developers can use these things openly and freely, not just on one OS,” concluded Sullivan, hammering home the distinction between Mozilla’s new product and the rather more proprietary platforms of the competition.