Mozilla's Boot to Gecko Mobile OS Concept: One to Watch in 2012

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 26, 2011

In the summer of this year, we considered the question, "Could Mozilla Pull Off a Firefox OS?" If it seems like a far-fetched idea for Mozilla to consider developing an operating system, just consider what Google has done with Chrome OS. Chrome OS is a reinvention of what an operating system does, and uses the Chrome browser's interface as the central part of its environment. Later in the summer of 2011, Mozilla announced its Boot to Gecko platform, which is indeed its own operating system, though it isn't exactly a Firefox OS.

Based on the Gecko rendering engine, Boot to Gecko will be squarely web-centric, and fully open. Recently this effort has arrived in the news again, for good reasons.

Mozilla's David Ascher discusses the Boot to Gecko mobile OS project here:

"...the verticalization of the internet means that we’re heading towards a world where who you get your phone from will determine way too much about how you can experience the internet. B2G is a bold exploration tackling the operating system layer of that world."

According to Mozilla's original announcment:

 "Mozilla believes that the web can displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development. To make open web technologies a better basis for future applications on mobile and desktop alike, we need to keep pushing the envelope of the web to include --- and in places exceed --- the capabilities of the competing stacks in question.  To that end, we propose a project we’re calling Boot to Gecko (B2G) to pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web. It’s going to require work in a number of areas."

And, as Savio Rodrigues clarifies:

"If this sounds like Android or Chrome OS, it should. Boot to Gecko uses some of the same lower-level building blocks as Android, such as the Linux kernel and libusb. The team says this choice was made to reduce the burden on device makers that will be faced with certifying Boot to Gecko on new hardware. Although some building blocks are shared, Boot to Gecko is not based on Android and will not run Android applications."

Indeed, Mozilla's mobile OS, although still mostly conceptual, resembles Android and even Linux itself in a number of ways. Since announcing Boot to Gecko, Mozilla has been adamant that it will be an open operating system right down to the components in the stack. And if the OS takes off, it could work within an open ecosystem that improves on the one surrounding Android. 

Mozilla is pledging to do all the work on this new OS "out in the open," including releasing source code regularly and dependably. The OS is squarely focused on facilitating mobile web applications, which is the primary focus of Google's Chrome OS. In the long run, Mozilla's OS could create significant competition with Google's, just as Mozilla and Google compete closely in the browser space.  This is one to watch in 2012.