Feeds

Firefox preps native Android interface

Web beast promises snappy response

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

The Firefox interface on Android is going native – for snappier performance and to gobble less memory.

Mozilla has decided the Firefox UI for Android will be built using native code instead of the XML-based language Mozilla had used, called XUL. It seems Firefox will continue to use the Gecko layout engine.

Director of Firefox engineering Johnathan Nightingale wrote: "Firefox on Android is a critical part of supporting the open web, and this decision puts us in a position to build the best Firefox possible."

The change is not expected to take effect in Firefox 8 or 9 – to be released in November and December respectively – but will kick in afterwards.

A native Firefox UI will mean start-up times of fractions of a second compared to several seconds for a XUL user interface on certain Android-powered phones.

Using native code will also mean greater responsiveness and should lead to "significantly" less consumption of a phone's memory, Nightingale said.

The changes seem to fit into what is emerging as an across-the-board refresh of Firefox. This includes making the browser work better for different categories of users through code changes to making updates, which have become more frequent and less of a chore to install.

The move to a native UI comes as Firefox begins to feel pressure from Google's Chrome: FFox's market-share growth has plateaued while that of the Google browser continues. Google's Android, meanwhile, represents a growth opportunity thanks to the mobile operating system's growth in devices.

Google opened Android to native development in June 2009 with the Android 1.5 Native Development Kit (NDK). The NDK lets you build apps using native languages such as C and C++, which is compiled to run with a particular processor and instructions for greater speed and improved performance.

XUL is Mozilla's XML-based language that was conceived to let you build feature-rich apps capable of running on different platforms or in disconnected mode.

A native browser for Android could prove a headache for Firefox plug-in developers, who'll have to straddle different coding platforms. Aware of this, Nightingale said: "It's still early days, so we have a lot of questions to answer. We're talking with the Add-on SDK team about the best way to support extensions.

The Firefox team is meeting in Toronto, Canada, next week to break down and prioritise the work. "By the end of next week, we will have a clearer outline of the work ahead, and we'll update this list with those detail," Nightingale said. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Time to move away from Windows 7 ... whoa, whoa, who said anything about Windows 8?
Start migrating now to avoid another XPocalypse – Gartner
You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference
The piss always taking is he. Bastard the.
HANA has SAP cuddling up to 'smaller partners'
Wanted: algorithm wranglers, not systems giants
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.