“But how is it going to beat Android or iOS?”
That’s the reaction many people have when I tell them that I am working on Firefox OS, the new mobile operating system from Mozilla. It is a logical reaction. After all, we live in times where every major software company and its mother is releasing a mobile platform, struggling to lure developers into their new proprietary environment, APIs, libraries, etc. And indeed, many of these companies barely make it or don’t make it at all.
But Firefox OS will not be directly battling against other mobile platforms. Its main objective is to change the way the world develops mobile apps, and even in the unlikely event that Firefox OS itself disappears in the process, if web-apps become mainstream, it will have succeeded.
While some other mobile vendors such as Blackberry also provide ways to develop apps for their systems using HTML5, Mozilla is going one step further by pushing hard to standardize the WebAPI through the W3C, guaranteeing that your app will work in any device that follows the WebAPI standard.
In my humble opinion, this puts some sense into the madness that developing for mobile devices has become, in which the developer has to know several languages, frameworks and APIs, not to mention pay a developer fee in order to build apps in some cases. It really feels like a step from the open web philosophy right back into the 90s, ridden with vendor lock-ins but without the good music.
Mozilla has a good track record of looking after the web, and it is a trusted company by its users. In the past they played a big role in freeing us from browser monopolies and pushing for better web standards, a movement that browsers like Chrome hooked onto, contributing to a better, faster and more accessible web for everybody. We should strive to do the same with our mobile environments. Fewer walled gardens, more standards and openness.
That is the promise of Firefox OS.
* Although hey, it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit of JS to know what’s going on under the hood, after all, it is a powerful language that will only get better with the upcoming ES6.