Fennec – mobile Firefox with big ears

fennec_icon Some time ago new round of news about Fennec briefly hit blogosphere. Those “I don’t have compatible device but it must be probably cool ” news.

Since I do have a single (for now) compatible mobile device (Nokia N810 ) I’ve decided to add some fact to the hype.

What it does

Fennec is browser based on Firefox for mobile devices. It aims for:

  • same level compatibility with sites as desktop Firefox;
  • support for plugins in the same way as desktop Firefox;
  • additional support for touch screens and other mobile-specific hardware;
  • world domination. Ok, not really, but Firefox does seem like that a bit.

Current state

Fennec reached Alpha 2 release at moment. It’s not really usable for daily tasks but gives good impression of initial interface and usage process. It opens pages and has impressive support of eye-candy including dynamic JavaScript stuff and Flash.

Interface

fennec_start

Working with browser is very focused on touch screen. Initial view is page overview.

fennec_page

From there you can tap to enlarge parts of page or drag screen around to scroll and reveal part of interface to the sides.

fennec_controls

What I find weird – Fennec is ignoring actual device features and interface options:

  • no support for Maemo task-switcher (it’s good with dedicated hardware key);
  • no support for context menu;
  • very little attention to keyboard.

In my opinion one of the most important things in microbrowsers is how well they adapt to specific devices and every piece of hardware available to them. That may change but for now Fennec looks very egocentric – doing thing in its own way.

N810 seems like a natural device for Fennec. Maemo OS is closer to desktop Linux than pure mobile platforms and native MicroB browser is also based on Firefox. However while device packs relatively powerful hardware MicroB still has large parts of Firefox omitted and using Hildon instead of XUL. Translation for non-techies – it had to be scaled down to deliver tolerable performance. And is still pretty slow.

Fennec aims to deliver full package on range of devices and many of those use weaker hardware. Can it?

Overall

Mozilla has lots of reasons to be optimistic. They have gained considerable market share on desktop, chipping it from Internet Explorer. But on mobile there is no Internet Explorer to prey on.

Support from Google (promotional and financial) did wonders for Firefox. Google has Chrome now. Nokia is yet to declare priorities but their Symbian OSS Browser naturally has huge market share. Curiously both use WebKit . Even excluding Opera going strong on phones with Opera Mini browser…

Fennec is not facing bloated outdated prey. It is facing two giant companies with huge interest in mobile segment. It is going to be fun. :)

Home https://wiki.mozilla.org/Fennec

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5 Comments

  • @Donace

    They are planning Symbian and Windows Mobile support. I somewhat doubt that it would run on current Symbian devices, maybe on latest touch screen ones – there will be plenty by the time Fennec reaches release.

    And that it runs on Maemo means it will most probably run on mobile version of Ubuntu so on MID devices.

    As I wrote in post lots of functions sounds nice but mobile hardware is limited. I think Mozilla devs are taking their time and aiming for upcoming Internet-centric devices – tablets and MIDs, rather than mobile phones only.

  • @Donace

    Android might be interesting (for me), too early to tell. Mobile future is likely to be decided by Android vs open source Symbian clash. Unless Microsoft produces something good and fast.

  • Looks very interesting indeed; but what other phones would be compatible?

    Right not I have the HTC Kaiser and using a mixture of opera/and IE browser. However Fennec with its plugin support would be a lot more beneficial; especially if it can sync with my firefox settings and plugins.

  • Well I can wait :p New HTC (best pda/phones in my opinion) built on Andriod is due in the future :p

    Though I’ll wait for the beta and see if it works on Windows OS on the HTC.

  • Opera mini now has a competitor. I agree, this should be fun. Curious to see what’s gonna come next. Great name for a product, by the way.

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