Mozilla revealed preliminary plans to take the Gecko engine that drives its Firefox browser and turn it into an open-source operating system that will eventually work on phones and tablets. Called Boot to Gecko, it is known that the source code will be released to the public "in real-time," wrote Andreas Gal, a Mozilla researcher.
Mozilla Building Mobile OS to Battle Chrome
Gecko is the rendering engine that powers Firefox and the e-mail client Thunderbird. By contrast, while Google's Android mobile operating system is open source, the main development work on it does not become available until after Google has green-lit its publication--sometimes not until months afterward.
"We will do this work in the open, we will release the source in real-time, we will take all successful additions to an appropriate standards group, and we will track changes that come out of that process. We aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run on the web," Gal said in a forum post. Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of technical strategy, said that the Boot to Gecko apps won't use the Android SDK but instead run new and current Web app APIs.
Four Areas for Development
He also identified four areas for development. One is new Web APIs, which means building "prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content." This is how the operating system would support current essential mobile features such as telephony, SMS, cameras, USB, Bluetooth, and near-field chips. A second area for development is to build a privilege model, which is a key security feature for ensuring that new features are "safely exposed to pages and applications," he said.