Mozilla has announced that they plan to enter the iOS browser market with Mozilla Junior. Mozilla’s Alex Limi said that with Junior, they set out to “reinvent the browser for a new form factor,” something that “everybody says they do… but nobody’s done.” Despite being the best tablet browsing experience available, Limi said Safari for iPad “is still a pretty miserable experience.” With Junior, Mozilla aims to make radical improvements to the tablet browsing experience.
Junior is meant to provide a much more immersive web browsing experience. It replaces Safari’s tabs and toolbars with a full-screen browsing experience. Recognizing that most tablet users prefer to use apps, viewing browsing as a last resort, Mozilla designed Junior to make the web page feel more like “a native citizen of the tablet.” To that end, browsing in Junior is a full-screen experience. There are no tabs, URL box, search box, or other toolbar at the top. There are only two buttons, both translucent gray and situated about halfway up the iPad’s screen, one on the left and one on the right (think the page turning buttons on an e-reader). One is a back button, the other is a plus button. Tapping the plus button brings up a separate screen where you can see recent pages, currently open pages, type in URLs, and perform searches.
While Junior looks pretty slick, there are a couple of factors working against Mozilla – or any other third-party iOS browser. First, there’s the fact that browsers in the App Store aren’t allowed to use their own rendering engines. Every App Store browser has to be Webkit-based. That means that Safari will always perform at least a little better than any App Store browser at rendering web pages (even if the other browser’s user experience is better). Second, and perhaps most importantly, there is no way to change iOS’s default browser. While you can use any browser you want for your basic browsing needs, you can’t set it as the default browser. That means that home screen bookmarks as well as links in emails, SMS messages, and in other apps will only open in Safari.
For that reason, browsers in the App Store have consistently not performed all that well. While there are several quality alternatives out there, none has managed to enjoy more than modest success. Most iOS users default to Safari because doing otherwise is too difficult. Of course, that could well change in the future, if the government goes after Apple in the same way it went after Microsoft in the 1990s for doing something similar with Internet Explorer. For the moment, though, any browser is going to have a hard time gaining any real traction in the App Store.
Check out the video of Mozilla’s presentation. There’s an interesting little tidbit at the 1:25 mark where Mozilla’s Alex Limi says that “Chrome’s gonna ship Chrome for iOS very soon.” This would seem to confirm rumors that Google was working on a version of Chrome for iPhone. A request for comment from Google has not yet been answered, though something like “we do not comment on rumor or speculation” seems a likely answer.
“Chrome’s gonna ship Chrome for iOS very soon.” (1:25)