Metro version of Firefox for Windows 8 due this year

Well, this is a surprise. Stephen Shankland of CNET pokes through some Mozilla planning documents and uncovers the details:

Mozilla plans to release a concept version of Firefox for Windows 8’s new Metro interface in the second quarter with alpha and beta versions to follow in the second half of 2012.


"The feature goal here is a new Gecko-based browser built for and integrated with the Metro environment," Mozilla’s planning document said, referring to the Firefox browser engine. "Firefox on Metro, like all other Metro apps will be full screen, focused on touch interactions, and connected to the rest of the Metro environment through Windows 8 contracts," a mechanism by which one app can hand off tasks–opening a Web page or sharing a photo, for example–to another app.

My two questions are, “Why?” And “Will Google try to do the same with Chrome?”

If you want to read more about the Windows 8 Metro Firefox, the details are here, in what is described as a “Placeholder feature page for all requirements to build a Windows 8 Metro-specific Firefox browser.”

Under the “Open Issues/Risks” heading is this very interesting statement:

This proposal depends on Microsoft providing the same capabilities for Firefox as it does for IE — running at the Medium level integrity process that allows us the full use of the Win32 API and what we need from Metro, or a set of APIs that allow Mozilla to port Gecko to the WinRT. For the purposes of this feature proposal, I’m assuming we’ll get the first and we won’t have to port the bulk of Gecko and instead will use the win32 dlls from within Metro.

That part about “full use of the Win32 API” is a pretty big if for the Metro version. The other big what-if that goes unmentioned is whether (and if so, how) a Metro-styled Firefox can tap into the extensive library of Firefox add-ons.

Asa Dotzler, who’s been with Mozilla for 14 years, is project manager. He’s written a blog post about Mozilla’s plans here. That post in turn links to a roadmap that lowers expectations considerably, calling for a “proof of concept” for Metro Firefox:

Proof of concept for Firefox in Windows 8 Metro: In order to deliver a compelling Firefox for Windows 8 Metro experience, we need to understand what’s possible. A technology proof of concept is the first step. This is not a Alpha or a Beta, but should demonstrate the feasibility of Firefox in Windows 8 Metro. (Timing here is dependent on when Microsoft releases their Windows 8 consumer preview and developer documentation.)

I’ve sent him an e-mail to see if we can talk more about Mozilla’s goals and expectations.

5 thoughts on “Metro version of Firefox for Windows 8 due this year

  1. why a surprise? if Windows 8 is the future, people are going to want multiple browsers. If Firefox wants to be on WOA it has to be Metro. If Metro is any good, other devs are going to want to use it. I was just waiting for the first browser vendor to blink^H^H^H^Hreveal their plans.

    Google though. Um. Windows is no longer an officially allowed OS internally for employees – Chrome, Mac OS and Linux only – but I can’t see Chrome giving up a major chunk of the browser market.

    plus, in the EU, alternative browsers avoid a lot of pain for Ms 😉

  2. I say “why not”. I’m glad there will be someone around to keep IE on its toes – remember what happened last time IE reached a monopoly position.
    Hoping Chrome does the same.

  3. Scott,

    “Still puzzles me why people worry about monopolies with free software”
    In my opinion a company in a monopoly position has less incentive to produce new, better versions of their products. Take the above case in point – Firefox state that they’re going to leverage Windows8 contracts – we don’t know how (or, indeed, if) IE is going to do that.

    I see no reason to assume that IE is going to be the best browser on Win8 so I am glad that Firefox will be around too.


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