Just as companies such as the Financial Times and Condé nast are rethinking their app strategies after Apple starting t enforce their new 30% cut of all in-app purchases and subscriptions, open source powerhouse Mozilla have announced plans to create a truly open web-centric operating system to avoid the need for native apps all together.
Mozilla is best known for creating the Firefox web browser that re-ignited the browser wars in 2004 after Microsoft had essentially out-spent and monopolised the market. The rapid rate of progress we see with technologies on the web today is at least in part due to Mozilla pushing the boundaries and disrupting the status-quo. As well as Firefox for desktop and mobile absed on the Gecko rendering engine, Mozilla also currently produces the Thunderbird amongst other smaller projects.
The Mozilla team have noticed that whilst HTML5 apps are improving all the time (see the FT app), they do not have access to some of the APIs of smartphones and tablets that native apps enjoy. Apple’s iOS is notoriously closed with app developers having their apps kicked from the App Store for using undocumented APIs, but even the supposedly open Android OS is not truly open – users cannot currently download the source of the latest Honeycomb build for example. These closed bundles give huge corporations such as Apple and Google control over much of how people use their smart devices – and Mozilla plans to disrupt the market with Boot To Gecko (BTG).
HTML5 apps currently need to run within a web browser, and so have no access to the APIs of the phone stack for telephony, SMS, and other mobile phone technologies. For the seamless integration that users prefer, the HTML5 apps need access to the phone’s base technology APIs, and that is something that BTG is proposed to offer. BTG will make use of many of the technologies developed for Android but will add a more open web-centric wrapper to give web apps the same access that native apps currently offer.
BTG is currently mostly theoretical, with Mozilla publicising the project to encourage the relevant experts within the Mozilla community and elsewhere to get in touch and sign on. They have already developed some of the building blocks needed, but this project is still a good way off from public consumption right now. Nevertheless, pushing Google to be more open and web-centric, something they have always claimed to be, will also be a significant bonus for Android users worldwide.