Shades of Chrome OS: Mozilla to Produce a Web-centric Operating System

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 26, 2011

It was only in late June that we asked the question "Could Mozilla Pull Off a Firefox OS?" If it seems like a far-fetched idea for Mozilla to consider expanding the Firefox browser's scope more in the direction of what an operating system does, 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. It replaces many functions that were previously associated with file systems and local storage with cloud-based analogs to these concepts. Now, Mozilla has announced that it is prepping its own operating system, which isn't exactly a Firefox OS, but is based on the Gecko rendering engine. The new OS will be squarely web-centric, as Chrome OS is.

Mozilla's newly announced Boot to Gecko platform is getting surprisingly little notice, but makes lots of sense for the company. According to Mozilla's announcement:

"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."

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.

At the same time, such increasing competition raises questions about the financing that Mozilla receives from Google, with that deal coming up for evaluation at the end of this year. Mozilla's entry into the OS arena will be interesting to watch indeed.