For over four years, Mozilla has expressed that it has no interest in porting its Firefox web browser to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Under the leadership of new chief executive Chris Beard, however, that mindset appears to have changed, as TechCrunch reports that Mozilla has recognized a need to release Firefox for iOS in the future.
With rapidly declining market share in the web browser race since Google Chrome was released in late 2008, Mozilla appears set on capturing the hundreds of millions of iOS users with a Mobile Safari alternative. “We need to be where our users are,” Firefox release manager Lukas Blakk tweeted this afternoon. “So we’re going to get Firefox on iOS.”
Mozilla has routinely expressed disinterest in porting Firefox to the iPhone and iPad because of Apple’s strict requirement that third-party web browsers be based on its own WebKit web engine. Mozilla has its own sophisticated web and rendering engines that it utilizes for Firefox, and felt that its web browser experience would be inadequate on iOS devices.
Apple recently made changes to WebKit on iOS 8 that allow for all web browsers to have the same level of performance as Mobile Safari, although it remains unclear how Mozilla will bring Firefox to iOS. It is likely that the company will be forced to use at least some of Apple’s technologies when developing its web browser.
Additionally, iPhone and iPad users are still unable to set third-party web browsers as default. For this reason, it is hard for existing Mobile Safari competitors like Chrome and Opera to make much of a dent on Apple’s built-in web browser, but Firefox could attract users with features such as seamless bookmark and password syncing.
The report does not outline any specific timeframe for a Firefox for iOS release date.
Mozilla did not provide comment.