Mozilla, the nonprofit group that builds the hugely popular Firefox Web browser, has proposed a new operating system for smartphones called Boot to Gecko or B2G.
The mobile OS, which ideally would make its way to tablets as well, is still years away from completion, if it's ever completed at all. But the concept -- which falls in line with Mozilla's ethos of an open-source Web built by many -- was laid out by a group of four Mozilla developers in a webpage on the group's MozillaWiki site.
"We propose a project we're calling Boot to Gecko (B2G) to pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web," said the wiki entry.
The goal with B2G is to "find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are -- in every way -- the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7."
In order to build an operating system, essentially from scratch and running on Web-based apps (in the cloud), it'll "require work in a number of areas," the entry said.
Contributors to the project will have to build entirely new APIs (developer tools) that will allow B2G users to be able to (of course) make a phone call, send a text message, snap a photo, transfer data, connect to bluetooth devices and yes, even possibly purchase goods using near-field communications technology.
B2G would be entirely open-sourced, but would start with a few bits from another open sourced OS -- Google's Android, the wiki entry said. Android is not only the most popular mobile OS in the world right now, but it's also proven as a working and efficient OS, so this is probably a good place to start -- though B2G (as it's proposed) won't simply be a new Mozilla skin over the top of Android.
"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," Mozilla said. "We aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run on the web.
"This project is in its infancy; some pieces of it are only captured in our heads today, others aren't fully explored. We're talking about it now because we want expertise from all over Mozilla -- and from people who aren't yet part of Mozilla -- to inform and build the project we're outlining here."
Feasible? If it's going to be done fully open-source and community built, there may be no group more capable of pulling something like this off than Mozilla.
Firefox is one of the world's most widely used Web browsers and it's not beyond the many sharp minds who take part in building the nonprofit's free products to be able to create such an OS and improved tools for developers looking to make high-quality Web apps.
And its that idea -- that Web apps can be as good, if not better, than native apps, that is at the core of what B2G is about.
"Mozilla believes that the web can displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development," the wiki entry said. "To make open web technologies a better basis for future applications on mobile and desktop alike, we need to keep pushing the envelope of the web to include --- and in places exceed --- the capabilities of the competing stacks in question."
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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screenshot of the MozillaWiki entry detailing the proposal for the Boot to Gecko mobile OS. Credit: Mozilla