Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko: a good thing done too late or too early?

ONE OF THE reasons I support Mozilla is because they are open source. I love open source and, like the other billions of people around the world, I prefer everything free. While that is little more than a dream, I believe things like an ad-free user experience, open availability of code and cross-browser/cross-device integration, and boundless development possibilities are terribly important in a wide variety of instances. In this regard, I could only agree with Firefox Senior Director, Johnathan Nightingale, when he said of mobile operating systems and applications, “When you peel back the covers, most… are actually HTML5 with an added veneer for iOS or Android…”

Getting rid of corporate requirements

While Operating Systems like Android are open-source, they are still governed by the requirements of and rules set by a huge corporate like Google. This naturally introduces certain restrictions to web developers. With Boot to Gecko (B2G for short) Mozilla aims to introduce a new mobile operating system that is entirely on the cloud.


And when I say entirely, I mean absolutely on the cloud. It’s every millimetre!

If, for instance, you download an Android app and then also buy an iPhone, the app may not be on iOS; or it could be vice versa. The point of B2G is simply to make the OS directly HTML5, sans the company-specific overlays, and make it consistent to all phones. So you have one OS, several phones, and necessarily all applications supported on all phones without exception.

B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems: Mozilla

But this is just one face of the new venture. Initiated last year, on July the 25th, with Dr. Andreas Gal’s ((Director of Research at Mozilla Corporation)) disclosure on the mailing list, the Boot to Gecko project was started to “pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web” in order to “find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are — in every way — the equals of those native apps that are built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7.”

What does this mean for B2G?


The announcement meant new Web APIs to expose device and OS capabilities such as telephony and camera, a privilege model to safely expose these to web pages, applications to prove these capabilities, and low-level code to boot an Android-compatible device. As of now, since these already have ASCII-like standardisation boards ruling over them, Mozilla is yet to negotiate its terms of use before incorporating them into its B2G OS.

B2G's incoming call screen

Mozilla says that ‘B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems.’

Is it too late or too early?


The main question bothering me is the absence of a standardisation board in the case of B2G. While it is great to hear that Mozilla — like Google — is standing for the open source-ware, it is also important that we understand that the average user is still unprepared to live in a world of code that is set straight by random people across the world. Personally, I feel a slight regulation is necessary.

This brings us to the hard fact that this is exactly what Android already is! An open-source OS running under the lenient eyes of Google. So is B2G too late? Do we already have a B2G in Android, along with the positive aspects of a controlling authority who, while retaining an eye on security, needs only to cut down on the veneer to infinitely increase developmental possibilities? And if B2G does take centre-stage in the coming days, what about security? How secure will it be?

Take a look at the video below, showcasing the B2G for the first time at the World Mobile Congress (the device used is a Samsung Galaxy II,) and then let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  • What do you think about B2G?
  • Would you switch to B2G if it becomes publicly available, pre-installed?
  • What would you hope to find in B2G that you don’t already find in your mobile OS?
  • How will hardware manufacturers react to the possibility of B2G taking over Android as the crown OS?
  • Will this cause some mobile phone manufacturers to revert to their native OS?

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