Mozilla Shows Off Fennec for Android, Nokia N900

Fennec, the long-awaited mobile version of Mozilla's open source Firefox browser, is one step closer to release, marking a new milestone in Mozilla's efforts to parlay its Firefox success into a foothold in smartphones.

Earlier this month, Mozilla announced on its blog that an alpha release of the next major version of Fennec is now available for Google-backed Android and Nokia N900 users to download and test.

Industry watchers have been waiting to see how Mozilla approaches the mobile browser market, where there are already entrenched competitors -- chiefly, the vendors whose browsers ship preinstalled on phones. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), for instance, provides its Browser app for Android devices.

Mozilla, meanwhile, is banking that Fennec's close ties to its popular Firefox browser give it the edge. It said the alpha version of Fennec provides Firefox Sync built into the browser, allowing seamless access to Awesome Bar browsing history, bookmarks, passwords, form-fill data and open tabs.

"The main focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness to user actions," Stuart Parmenter, Mozilla's mobile team technical lead, wrote in the post.

In particular, Parmenter highlighted two technologies being included in Fennec.

"'Electrolysis' ... allows the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content. By doing this, Fennec is able to react much faster to user input while pages are loading or CPU-intensive JavaScript is running," he said. "The upcoming beta release will start taking advantage of Layers to greatly improve performance in graphic-intensive actions like scrolling, zooming, animations and video. We're also working to optimize these actions using the hardware-accelerated graphics rendering capabilities showing up in today's mobile devices."

The road to Fennec has been a long and winding one. Mozilla first announced its Fennec plans in October 2008. It rose from the ashes of a project to develop Minimo, a browser for the Windows Mobile platform that never took off beyond the development stage.

In January of this year, Mozilla released Firefox Mobile 1.0, but only for the Nokia N900 running on the Linux-based Maemo platform.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Firefox, Android, mobile, Mozilla, Fennec