HAVING GIVEN UP on getting Firefox onto the Iphone, Mozilla has released the first beta of Firefox 4 for the Android and Maemo mobile operating systems.
The mobile browser is based on the code present on the full desktop version, though the outfit is saying that it has been optimised for use on mobiles. The primary aim for this release was to improve performance and responsiveness, said the developers.
In order to do this Mozilla has separated the rendering and browser interface processes and created "Layers", a technology that allows hardware acceleration and the ability to share parts of the user interface process with the rendering one. Mozilla says that it will, for instance, allow users to scroll webpages smoothly even if the rendering process hasn't finished generating the page.
The beta also includes Firefox Sync, a way of synchronising bookmarks, history, browser tabs, form-filled data and even passwords between Firefox instances. Mozilla insist that all data is encrypted during synchronisation.
While Firefox has had tremendous success on the desktop, with smartphones it has been a different story. With Apple making it tough for other browser developers to get on the App Store and Google's Android shipping with Chrome, Mozilla is under pressure to release something in the growing mobile market if it wants to remain the leader of the credible web browsers. The question is, even with its presence on the desktop, will smartphone users go to the trouble of installing another browser on their phones?
Mozilla will be hoping that enough people want to have a seamless Firefox experience between their desktop and smartphone to make its effort worthwhile. µ
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