Lunascape: A New Browser for the iPhone?

Japanese browser vendor Lunascape develops a unique kind of web browser that contains the Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Gecko and Apple WebKit rending engines. Lunascape calls their browser a triple-engine browser and it's now coming to the iPhone, in a limited capacity.

Officially called the iLunascape Lite for iPhone browser, the app is now available as a free download from Apple's App Store. Don't expect to get three browsing engines on the iPhone though, Apple won't allow it.

Yuki Sekiguchi, Chief Operating Officer of Lunascape, explained to InternetNews.com that Apple's specifications don't allow for the use of other web engines and she doubts that Apple will be changing that policy.

"You might remember that Firefox, which uses Gecko, announced recently that it won't make browser for 'i' devices because of this tight control and their inability to make something Firefox-like in the WebKit platform that meets their standard," Sekiguchi said.

Mozilla does however have the Firefox Home syncing app available on the App Store providing a mechanism for iOS users to synchronize their desktop and mobile browsing. As it turns out, iLunascape Lite is also able to leverage a user's Firefox Sync desktop account to synchronize their mobile browsing with the Lunascape browser.

"We utilize Firefox Sync service, so users can use an existing Firefox Sync account or a newly created account through the Lunascape browser, which in this case acts as third party client to access the Firefox Sync service," Sekiguchi said.

As opposed to Firefox Home which is not a complete browser, Sekiguchi noted that iLunascape Lite for iPhone is a fully featured web browser that can compete with the integrated Safari browser on iOS.

"iLunascape offers real multi-tasking tabs and related tab management features that people are used to in a desktop browser," Sekiguchi said.

In contrast, Sekiguchi noted that Safari uses 'pages', each of which is not active in the background and cannot be flipped through one to the next, like normal tabs.

As to why Lunascape is calling their new iPhone browser a Lite browser it is because the company may have a paid version at some point in the future. That doesn't mean that Lunascape is short changing users with iLunascape Lite.

"We believe iLunascape Lite for iPhone is competitive with any other free or "lite" version of other browsers," Sekiguchi said.

The iPhone version of the Lunascape browser isn't the first time the Japanese vendor has tried to get an app into Apple's App Store. Back in August, Lunascape announced an iPad specific version of their browser. Sekiguchi noted that the new iPhone version is optimized for the smaller screen and has a thumb slide capability allowing users to switch between tabs easily and quickly while holding the device naturally.

"We also added features to hide/show the tabs bar, title bar, and address bar to maximize the screen area and rearranged and consolidated buttons not to clutter the small area," Sekiguchi said.

Getting the new mobile browser approved by Apple was a surprisingly easy and fast process, according to Sekiguchi.

"The difficult part is to implement something in a way that Apple's spec allows," Sekiguchi said."It goes like this, we know how to achieve certain features for WebKit, but we cannot use them because it is not included in the public APIs, so we have to come up with a workaround."

For now the mobile browser plan from Lunascape is to continue to grow their iOS enabled browsers.

"We'd like to achieve more interoperability between devices and desktop," Sekiguchi said. "As for other devices, we don't have a concrete plan yet, but we are certainly thinking about it."

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


Firefox, Safari, Mozilla, WebKit, Lunascape