Web 2.0 Expo: Beyond the Browser

by October 15, 2011

In his Beyond The Browser talk at Web 2.0 Expo in New York, Brendan Eich walked through what the Mozilla Foundation is up to now. Here’s my notes from his talk:

  • Some History: In 1998, Netscape open-sourced their Web rendering engine. Then it took some time to develop a rewrite, which became Gecko & XML UI. In 2002, Mozilla 1 milestone was reached and in 2003 the Mozilla foundation was set up. In 2004, Mozilla founded the WHATWG with Apple and Opera to do HTML5. Firefox 1 was released in November.
  • Firefox was created to restart the browser market not to win in the market. This mission was accomplished: standards are integrated into Web browsers today and there is competition. Mozilla remains involved in the evolution of Web standards: Javascript, HTML, and CSS.
  • The new browser war is between the Web and new walled gardens of native networked apps.
  • The cost of developing smartphones is high so companies need to lock customers into their app stores in order to make up costs.
  • Proprietary stacks in native apps include the Web and are built like it. Many apps end up using HTML for markup.
  • But a lot still can’t be done in Web browsers is device access: NFC, Vibration, USB Access, Bluetooth, Proximity Sensors, Light Sensors, Hardware Keys. Mozilla wants to change this. It’s a no-brainer to turn this on for the Web.
  • In addition to convincing platforms to give Web browsers access to device APIs, a security model needs to be established. For example, asking people to use their current location. Aggressive permission models, however, won’t help users. We need a better way.

New Initiatives at Mozilla

  • Mozilla is putting Firefox on Android phones & tablets –making it very fast to start up and browse the Web.
  • BrowserID takes email and adds secure public keys to allow people to log in to sites without a password. This is the lynchpin for Open Web Apps.
  • Open Web Apps: work in modern browsers and integrate with BrowserID. These applications can run on any device, and can be distributed through any store or directly by the developer.
  • Boot to Gecko: want to place a thin layer on top of Android to provide access to native APIs and pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web.
  • Are we Mobile Yet? Is a site created by Mozilla to push Device API access.
  • Focusing Mozilla community attention on mobile.