Firefox On The iPhone? No (Though It Is Being Worked On). Another Mozilla Browser? Maybe.

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Continuing today’s theme of scouring Quora for interesting nuggets of information, a Q&A about Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile browser is of some interest. In response to the question: Will Firefox Mobile ever be released for iOS devices?, Mobile Firefox developer, Matt Brubeck, this morning gave his answer.

First, he gave the obvious and fairly well-known official answer, “We have no plans to release the full Firefox browser for Apple iOS devices,” Brubeck wrote. Why? Because the current iOS SDK agreement forbids apps like Firefox from including their own compilers and interpreters, Brubeck explains.

But he continues on to note that there are a couple of ways to work within Apple’s system, notably what Skyfire is doing (using Apple’s own build-in WebKit libraries) or what Opera Mini is doing (using a proxy server to execute their JavaScript). “Mozilla could create a browser that did one of those things, but it wouldn’t be related to Firefox in any way,” Brubeck explains.

Mozilla does currently have a Firefox iPhone app, Home, but it does not include a browser for the reasons listed above. Instead, it lets you sync bookmarks and open tabs between your iPhone and the home computer. But Mozilla is also in charge of other browsers, notably Camino, which has long been a Safari and Firefox alternative on Mac machines. Might Mozilla consider releasing it as an iPhone app? If they did, it would have to be altered from its current state as it’s not WebKit-based (it, like Firefox, is Gecko-based).

Or could Mozilla come up with an entirely new WebKit-friendly browser for the iPhone? It’s certainly possible, though it would still have to use the specific WebKit framework that Apple has built-in to iOS.

Or, there’s always the jailbreak route. As Brubeck notes, some people have been doing work to port Firefox to iOS. Interestingly enough, his wording seems to imply that it actually might be Mozilla employees working on this. But as he continues, “unless Apple removes these restrictions, Mozilla will not spend time and money on this project.” So if they are working on it, they’re doing so off-reservation.

The development would likely violate the SDK agreement, and it would not be distributable to non-jailbreak iOS users,” Brubeck conclues.

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