Mobile mobile 2.0 mobileweb Technology web 2.0

Why Mozilla Firefox is so popular

I’ve been thinking a lot about how web browsers have become the central strategy for much of Web 2.0 and the Mobile 2.0.  Cloud computing is the next major step for many tech companies’ strategic roadmap including IBM. One of the biggest contributors to this surge is Mozilla’s Firefox web browser.

Why has Firefox surged to  the top?  Two things. Add-ons/extensions, and tabbed browsing.  I cannot even imagine browsing the web without these innovations.  Those two simple ideas have made my online experience a sheer joy.  My top ten add-ons include:, Foxmarks, Adblock, Google Browser Sync, Google Gears, Google Notebook, Operator, Greasemonkey, Firebug, and User Agent Switcher.

The upcoming FIrefox 3 also promises new innovations to make browsing even more simpler and useful. The aptly named “Awesome Bar” is indeed awesome.  You just start typing in anything that you’ve accessed in your browser URL, and it comes up with possible suggestions.  Unlike type-ahead, the suggestions you get can come from any position in the URL (not just the first n characters). Also, the performance and security enhancements are much needed as pre-Firefox-3 browsers had started to become slow.  I remembered the primary reason that I had switched from IE to Firefox back in the day was because Firefox 1.0 was so much faster than IE 6.0.  Performance is as much part of the user experience as UI. You can have the prettiest user interface, but if the user has to wait longer to get their information, they will perceive the product as crap.

Mozilla’s next phase is to rule the mobile browser space. The space is already crowded with the likes of Webkit, Opera, Pocket IE, etc. How awesome will it be to be able to keep those Add-Ons while surfing the mobile web on any smartphone platform. That’s Firefox’s bread and butter.  That’s what will make them successful in the mobile web 2.0.

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Mobile Web Future Roadmap

I firmly believe that the roadmap for mobile web applications has been laid out for us by the likes of the Apple’s iPhone, Nokia’s N95, Google’s Android, Mozilla’s Fennec, and more others to follow.  Currently, designing for the mobile web is quite a chore. If you thought browser fragmentation was bad in the PC world, then the mobile browser space is quadruple that!  As mobile devices get better and the data plans get cheaper, and the browsers start to come together with the same feature set and compatible languages, the less headache it will become for web developers to transition toward the mobile web.

The iPhone Safari browser, Nokia, and Android all use the same web browser engine called Webkit.  Webkit is a revelation in itself. The full web browsing experience on the desktop now available on the mobile device. Mozilla’s Fennec is based on the same Mozilla Firefox engine and also allows for the full browsing experience.  Windows Mobile has Internet Explorer and its also starting to move in this direction. See a trend?  Yep. The days of WAP browsing are slowing being numbered. Its not going away anytime soon, but it eventually will.

Of course, as a developer, you will also be faced with a choice of developing a mobile native application vs mobile web application. That decision is not an easy one to make. There are so many platforms to choose from. iPhone, Windows Mobile, Palm, BlackBerry, Java ME, Flash Lite, Symbian, and the list goes on. This tells me that in order to get the most market penetration for your application, targeting the mobile web is the logical choice. However, there are exceptions. Gaming apps, off-line storage, and integration with phone hardware feature set are all compelling reasons to target your application to a platform as opposed to the mobile web.  What Apple should have done to make this decision easier was to integrate phone APIs into the Safari Webkit engine. Create a subset of XHTML tags or JavaScript objects that allow the mobile web app to tap into the PIM, camera, or other mobile device native function.

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Free! Mozilla Sunbird syncs with gCal

I just downloaded and installed the Mozilla Sunbird desktop calendar application and tried out the Google Calendar add-on. It appears to be working. It allows you to read, write, and delete calendar events both locally and when you are online with Google Calendar. Pretty neat. Until now, there have been paid-for solutions to sync your desktop calendars with gCal. Now, we have a free alternative. If only we could write one for Lotus Notes. Hmmm. Not a bad idea.