Mozilla ends support for Firefox OS despite hope it could be used for smart TVs and reborn for connected devices
Mozilla’s ambitions of creating an open web-based mobile operating system appear to be at an end with the news that development of Firefox OS is to end.
The non-profit organisation confirmed it would stop developing Firefox OS smartphones last December, but it had been hoped the platform would find a new lease of life on smart TVs.
Work on Firefox OS 2.6 therefore continued, as did a parallel mission to tidy up the code so an open source community could create an operating system for connected devices.
End of Firefox OS
“In the spring and summer of 2016 the Connected Devices team dug deeper into opportunities for Firefox OS,” they said. “They concluded that Firefox OS TV was a project to be run by our commercial partner and not a project to be led by Mozilla. Further, Firefox OS was determined to not be sufficiently useful for ongoing Connected Devices work to justify the effort to maintain it.
“This meant that development of the Firefox OS stack was no longer a part of Connected Devices, or Mozilla at all. Firefox OS 2.6 would be the last release from Mozilla.”
However any community wishing to fulfill Mozilla’s vision will have to fork Gecko, Mozilla’s underlying web platform engine, as the organisation needs that for Firefox.
“In order to evolve quickly and enable substantial new architectural changes in Gecko, Mozilla’s Platform Engineering organization needs to remove all B2G-related code from Mozilla-central. This certainly has consequences for [Firefox OS]. For the community to continue working on [Firefox OS] they will have to maintain a code base that includes a full version of Gecko, so will need to fork Gecko and proceed with development on their own, separate branch.
“We realise that these decisions are painful for those of us who had high hopes and dreams and work tied up in Firefox OS — in the idea of an open source, user-centric, Mozilla mission-based operating system for the mobile space. We also recognize that this decision makes it much harder for the b2g community to continue its work. We wish we could have found another way. However, we believe that these have been necessary decisions and the best possible way for Mozilla to continue on its mission.”
The first Firefox OS devices launched in 2013 and as of March 2015 had been available in 40 countries, with 17 created by the likes of Alcatel and ZTE, and operator partners including Telefonica and Verizon Wireless.
It was hoped the platform would emerge as a genuine alternative to Android and iOS, allowing more people to enjoy smartphones with web-based applications making it easier and more open to develop upon.
Firefox OS was just one of four open source operating systems hoping to make an impact on the smartphone market, along with Ubuntu Mobile, Sailfish OS and Tizen. However all four have struggled.
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