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Mozilla exits iOS as it retires Firefox Home

Ends two-year dalliance with Apple's iPhone

September 4, 2012 11:14 AM ET

Computerworld - Two years after it managed to place a browser-related app on the iOS App Store, Mozilla last week announced it was retiring Firefox Home and yanked it from Apple's market.

The move was only the latest in a string of messages that the open-source company has sent over several years that it is not interested in developing a version of Firefox for the iPhone or iPad.

Firefox Home, which was approved by Apple on July 16, 2010, was not a full-fledged browser, but instead was a spin-off of the bookmark and tab synchronization technology Mozilla offered as an add-on, then later built into the desktop browser. The app gave users access to their browser bookmarks and history, to the open tabs from their most recent Firefox sessions, and to Firefox's "Awesome Bar" -- Mozilla's name for the address bar -- that let users search for previously-visited pages using keywords or characters in the URL or page title.

On Friday, Mozilla, saying Firefox Home had been "an experiment in bringing part of the Firefox experience to iOS," called it quits.

"This project provided valuable insight and experience with the platform, but we have decided to remove Firefox Home from the Apple App Store and focus our resources on other projects," Mike Connor, director of services engineering at Mozilla, said in an Aug. 31 blog post.

Search engine caches show that Firefox Home was pulled from the App Store on or after Aug. 30. With its retirement, Mozilla has abandoned the iOS platform. But it left the door open for a return: "[We] will continue to explore the best ways to provide great experiences to iOS users," Connor said Friday.

Although Mozilla has repeatedly rejected calls to offer Firefox on iOS, rival Google has decided otherwise.

In late June, Google released a preview of Chrome for iOS. Unlike Mozilla, Google was willing to work within Apple's restrictions, which demand that any iOS browser rely on Safari to actually render pages and parse JavaScript. Google last updated Chrome for iOS on Aug. 22.

While Mozilla labeled Firefox Home as an experiment on Friday, it had bigger plans for the app when it launched the synchronization software.

"We are focused on building Firefox Home as a rich, cloud-based application and making it a valuable product that people will continue to love and use," the company said in September 2010.

In the same blog post, Mozilla said it was investigating whether to develop an iPad version of Firefox Home. Mozilla never released a native edition for Apple's tablet.

The last Firefox Home update shipped in February 2011.

Mozilla has published the source code for the iOS-specific synchronization client that was the foundation of Firefox Home on GitHub. Developers are free to use it for their projects, said the company.

Stefan Arentz, a Mozilla developer, has already used the source code to create "Bookmarks On The Go," a free iOS app that was published on the App Store in mid-August.

"This application replaces the recently-pulled Firefox Home application," said Arentz on his consulting company's website.

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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