Mozilla engineer: Windows 8 Metro will be linchpin of Firefox success

A major key to Firefox regaining significant market share is developing a Windows 8 Metro version of the browser, says a high-level Mozilla engineer working on the project. And it's clear that this is more than talk, because Mozilla already has has a working prototype.

Brian Bondy, Firefox platform engineer, writes on his blog that as of a week ago, Mozilla had a working prototype of a Windows 8 Metro browser. The prototype feels and looks much the same as the Android version, he says. He says that "You can navigate the web, create tabs, bookmark pages, build history, retain cache, adjust preferences, and more."

Although he says that the user interface will be changing, and that there's a lot of platform work still to be done, the browser already includes a variety of Metro features, including Metro snap, the Metro "search contract," which integrates Firefox search with Metro-wide search, and the Metro "share contract," which allows a page opened in Firefox to be shared with other Metro apps, such as ones for Facebook and Twitter.

Bondy made clear that developing a Metro browser is vital to Firefox's future. That's because in Windows 8, the default Metro browser also becomes the default Desktop browser. And that's the key to getting people to use a particular browser, he says:

Even if a user spends most of their time in the Desktop interface, having a really good Metro browser may be enough for the user to change their default browser. A browser with great Metro support can gain significant browser market share for this reason.

It is extremely important that we deliver an awesome Firefox experience on Metro, one that is tightly integrated with the platform, fast, and feature rich. Windows is by far the platform with the most users and which has the biggest effect on market share.

Firefox can use help with market share; it has been on a slow and steady decline after making a great deal of headway against Internet Explorer. In March, Firefox's market share stood at 20.6%, reports Net Applications, which was the browser's lowest share in three years.

When Windows 8 hits, though, there's a good chance that a Metro version of Firefox won't be available. Asa Dotzler, director of Firefox, told Computerworld that he doesn't think that a final version of the Metro version of Firefox will be ready when Windows 8 launches.

That doesn't bode well for Firefox, because you can expect that Google, with its vast resources, will make sure that there's a Metro version of Chrome ready then. So even though it's good that Mozilla recognizes that a Metro version of Firefox is vital to the browser's success, it simply may not have the resources to compete in the long run.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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