From Firefox to Fennec: Mozilla Has Surprises In Store

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 07, 2008

Yesterday, on WebWorkerDaily, I noted in a post that the first extension has been created for Mozilla's Fennec mobile browser (Fennec means small fox). Mozilla quietly reported this news in a blog post. With this in mind, and for several other reasons, I think many people are underestimating the impact Fennec will have as a mobile browser. Here is why.

Back in April, when Mozilla provided encouraging news about its progress in developing a mobile browser, there were still many naysayers. A lot of people felt that Mozilla's code base was bloated, and that it would have trouble delivering a sleek, innovative mobile application. Since then, though, the company has put increasing emphasis on its plans for Fennec.

While Fennec is available for use on some Nokia devices in an early alpha version, and there is a PC emulation version available for very early tests, it has not been released in a final, open source version for widespread use on various mobile platforms. As Mozilla confirmed this week, Chris Finke has added Fennec compatibility to his URL Fixer extension. At first glance, that may not seem like earth-shaking news, but the important thing to note is that URL Fixer was a Firefox extension. Henke forked it so that it works with Fennec.

As Fennec progresses and becomes available for use on mobile open source platforms, and potentially other platforms, I expect that Mozilla will fully leverage one of the biggest advantages that the Firefox browser has: the availability of incredibly useful extensions. They will encourage and maybe even subsidize the delivery of useful extensions for Fennec, making it easy to port existing Firefox extensions over.

Does the browser in the iPhone have this advantage available? No. If Google delivers a mobile version of Chrome, does Chrome have the extension advantage? No. I'm not surprised that Mozilla continues to talk Fennec up, including its efforts to get the TraceMonkey engine working with ARM processors (found in many mobile devices). The company has worked doggedly to make it a browser that performs well, has been working on touchscreen interfaces,  and as Fennec is finalized, I expect extensions for it to be what really puts the wind at its back, relative to the competition.