Mozilla to build mobile OS for the Web

The project, called Boot to Gecko, will use some code from Android

Mozilla has launched a new project to build an operating system for mobile devices that will run applications primarily on the Web.

"We want to ... find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are --- in every way --- the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7," a group of Mozilla developers wrote on a new wiki page about the project.

They call the project Boot to Gecko (B2G) and say the plan is to build a "complete, standalone operating system for the open web."

The goal appears similar to one that Google cited when it initially started work on Android. In an online discussion about B2G, Andreas Gal, one of its lead developers, said the ultimate goal was "breaking the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile devices world."

Developers today must re-write their applications to run on the various mobile-phone platforms. There have been many attempts over the past decade to build technologies that would let developers write an application once and have it run on multiple phone operating systems, but none has worked well.

With the advent of HTML5, some have suggested that an increasing number of mobile apps can run in a browser but still look and feel like a native app. But most agree that HTML5 so far falls a bit short of that goal.

The idea isn't to have apps run only in Firefox, the developers said. "We aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run on the web," they wrote on the B2G Web page.

They expect to use parts of Android to accomplish their goals. "We intend to use as little of Android as possible," Mike Shaver, one of the lead developers, wrote in the forum. They will likely use the Android kernel and drivers because they offer a starting point that can already boot, he said.

The developers said they will work "in the open," releasing the source code in real time, and working through standards groups for relevant pieces.

"This project is in its infancy; some pieces of it are only captured in our heads today, others aren't fully explored," they wrote.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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