Mozilla Removes Firefox OS Code From Gecko
Written by Ian Elliot   
Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Firefox OS is a lesson in over-reaching. Mozilla thought that open source, real open source not the approximation that Google serves up with Android, could take over the mobile world. It didn't and the slow train-wreck continues. 


There was a brief time when it looked as if Firefox OS could be an alternative to the closed world of iOS and the partly closed world of Android, but this was not to be. There was a time when it seemed that it did have a chance and all of those who claim that its failure was obvious need to remember that it wasn't. It did, however, become clear quite quickly that Mozilla had taken on a bigger project than it could handle.

The problems weren't so much the OS, but that the facilities that needed to be added to Gecko, the rendering engine, were substantial. The idea that there was a web API that would allow apps to be built for the web that would also run on Firefox OS was silly. Add to this the problem of getting things to run fast enough and you can see that what killed Firefox OS was the lack of a good user experience.

It also wasn't much fun trying to create apps for the OS with incomplete and non-standard APIs.You basically had to give up any idea that you were creating web apps and focus on creating Firefox OS apps and just hope that one day the APIs would be accepted as standard.

There was also the small problem of getting Firefox OS running on a phone that you could use. The hardware was specialized and you had to buy one of a small number of possible devices. This would have been fine if the OS had become popular. 

At the end of 2015 it became clear, even to Mozilla, that Firefox OS wasn't going anywhere and it started to unwind the development effort. The big problem is that it wasn't really possible to put out a statement that Firefox OS was dead - because open source projects don't die they just fade away. Some work was done on Firefox OS TV, but this was finally devolved to commercial partners.

Now Mozilla has announced that not only has all work on Firefox OS stopped, but it is going to be removed from Gecko's code base. That is all code that is specific to Firefox OS or Boot 2 Gecko, B2G as the project was originally known, is going to be removed from the on-going Gecko development code. 

What this means is that that Mozilla has gone that extra mile to actually kill B2G as an open source project. If any of the B2G enthusiasts are going to continue to work on the project then they need to fork Gecko and continue its B2G development in isolation. Essentially Firefox Gecko and B2G Gecko would start to diverge and any improvements to Firefox Gecko would have to be ported to B2G Gecko, a process that would become increasingly difficult as the code diverged,  see: Pale Moon Highlight Problems With Following Firefox 

It is difficult to know how much of the B2G code is going to be removed, but the suggestion is anything that is specific to it and not a web standard. This means that support for all of those non-standard app APIs will be gone from the browser version of Gecko.

The freedom to disagree, and so fork code, is part of what open source is all about. In this case, however, removing code that another project depends on seems to be a restriction rather than a freedom.


More Information

B2G OS and Gecko Announcement from Ari Jaaksi & David Bryant

APIs we should plan to remove from mozilla-central and find alternatives outside of Gecko:

Related Articles

Chrome Apps No Longer On Windows,Mac And Linux  

Pale Moon Highlight Problems With Following Firefox 

Mozilla Jumps On IoT Bandwagon 

Mozilla Confirms End of Firefox OS For Smartphones 

Mozilla Gives Up On Firefox OS

The Perils Of Mozilla


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 September 2016 )