Web & communication software

Mobile Firefox Enters Testing Next Week

By this time next week, Mozilla will have unveiled the alpha release of its mobile Firefox browser, codenamed Fennec.

But not too many people will be able to make use of it initially: the code will only be available for Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet. The alpha code is aimed at Mozilla community members, specifically to give the innovative touch user interface and the feature set a grueling workout, says Jay Sullivan, Mozilla vice president of mobile.

A release for Windows mobile is in the works, to be released "in the next few months," according to Sullivan. One possible interim option is a version to run on Windows PCs, in effect acting as an emulator.

Sullivan says there will likely be two or three additional alpha releases over the coming months before the beta version is released, presumably sometime in 2009.

Fennec is one of a growing number of full-featured Web browsers designed specifically for mobile devices.

As previously reported, the alpha Firefox for Mobile (it's official title) includes the "awesome bar" first introduced in Version 3.0 of desktop Firefox. The bar is a vastly smarter URL box that can be used to do keyword searches of your URL history and bookmarks. That's also a key innovation to make a mobile browser easier to use, by minimizing manual input.

Fennec uses the same core HTML rendering engine, Gecko, that's found in desktop Firefox, with full JavaScript capability and AJAX (a set of tools and features for building interactive Web applications). Gecko is also used in the ThunderHawk mobile browser, and the browser Nokia developed for the N810 tablet.

The alpha version will support fingertip touch interaction, with the browser designed to use the full device screen for content, with the control buttons and URL bar hidden but easily uncovered with a single swipe of your finger. The Nokia tablet supports direct touch and use of a stylus, according to Sullivan.

A major goal of the alpha release is to encourage developers to check out existing Firefox add-ons and create new ones especially for Fennec. Also new is a geo-location interface exposed via JavaScript. The intent, says Sullivan, is to make it simpler for developers to access various types of location information and incorporate that data into Fennec add-ons.

One add-on that will be introduced shortly is based on Mozilla's Weave project: the goal is to let a user seamlessly move from desktop to mobile Firefox.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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