Mozilla has announced a new experimental project called Boot to Gecko (B2G) with the aim of developing an operating system that emphasizes standards-based Web technologies. The initial focus will be on delivering a software environment for handheld devices such as smartphones.
The current mobile landscape is heavily fragmented by the lack of interoperability between each of the siloed platforms. Mozilla says that B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems.
The project is still at the earliest stages of planning. Mozilla has some ideas about how it wants to proceed, but seemingly few concrete decisions have been made about where to start and what existing technologies to use. The project was announced now despite the lack of clarity so that contributors will be able to participate in the planning process.
Mozilla also intends to publish the source code as it is developed rather than waiting until it can release a mature product. These characteristics could make the development process a lot more open and inclusive than the practices that Google uses for its Android operating system.
Mozilla’s current tentative plan is to adopt a slim layer of existing code from the lower levels of the Android operating system for hardware enablement purposes and then build a completely custom user interface and application stack around Gecko, the Firefox HTML rendering engine. Android was chosen because it will theoretically offer compatibility with existing hardware, but Mozilla ultimately intends to use “as little of Android as possible.” It will not use Android’s Java-based environment and it will not support programming in native code.