Firefox Comes 'Home' to the iPhone

A Firefox sync app gets Apple's OK, enabling users to continue their desktop browsing sessions on the iPhone or iPad. But it's not a new browser.

Seven weeks after Mozilla first announced Firefox Home for the iPhone, the open source browser maker has made good on its pledge to deliver a Firefox-synchronization app for the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users.

The free Firefox Home app isn't a browser; instead, it's intended to enable Apple mobile device users to pick up where their PC browsing activities left off. As a result, open tabs, bookmarks and browser histories from a user's desktop version of Firefox will be carried over onto their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, where they will be able to continue surfing the Web using Apple's Safari browser.

But while Firefox Home will synchronize Firefox browsing activities from the desktop to the iPhone, it won't work in reverse: Apple iOS device users will not be able to synchronize their browsing activities back to their Windows, Linux and Mac desktops.

The Firefox Home application will work on Apple iOS versions 3.1 or higher and weighs in as a 2.4 MB download.

Mozilla also has no plans to make a complete browser for Apple iOS, either. The company said previously that it opted not to port Firefox to the iOS platform due to limitations it said had been imposed on iPhone applications by Apple. Still, Firefox Home does work in concert with some Apple technology: Back in May, a Mozilla spokesperson explained to InternetNews.com that the Firefox Home viewer uses the iPhone's native WebKit rendering engine, and link information is then viewed with the Safari browser.

A Mozilla spokesperson also told InternetNews.com that the actual approval process from Apple for Firefox Home took just over two weeks.

From the desktop side of the equation, users of Mozilla's Firefox 3.x series browser will need to install the Firefox Sync add-on to be able to use Firefox Home. Firefox Sync, which recently hit its 1.4 release, enables Firefox desktop installations to synchronize browsing data with other Firefox Sync-enabled browsers as well as Firefox Home. The add-on relies on a Mozilla-provided cloud-based Firefox sync server, where users' individual browsers connect and send data securely.

The Firefox Sync add-on is an evolution of the Mozilla Weave project which began as an experimental Mozilla Labs effort in 2007.

Moving forward, Mozilla is planning on directly integrating the Firefox Sync add-on with its currently in-development Firefox 4 Web browser. The first beta of Firefox 4 was released earlier this month and a second beta is set to debut before the end of the month.

Additionally, while Mozilla is not pursuing a version of Firefox for the iPad and iPhone, it does have a mobile browser effort called Firefox Mobile, which is currently available for Nokia Maemo devices and in development for the Android platform

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




Tags: open source, Firefox, iPhone, iphone apps, firefox mobile


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