Google and Mozilla have been allies for some time (Mozilla has historically received significant funding from Google, for one thing), but recent developments have indicated a major change in that relationship. In just the last few days, we’ve discovered that Google is discontinuing support for its toolbar in Firefox, and Mozilla is building a web OS to battle Chrome.
Google announced their decision concerning the Firefox add-on without providing too much in the way of explanation. On the official Google Toolbar help blog, user Brittney posted that “many features that were once offered by Google Toolbar for Firefox are now already built right into the browser. Therefore, while Google Toolbar for Firefox works on versions up to and including Firefox 4 only, it will not be supported on Firefox 5 and future versions.”
Almost immediately, a flurry of complaints began filling the comments. Most involved disappointed users who were going to miss features such as in-site search and easy access to bookmarks, and many of those had very hard words to say about Google -- including the opinion that the company was purposely trying to coerce Firefox users to adopt Google’s Chrome browser instead.
Mozilla itself had no direct official response to the announcement, but internal communications reflect the seriousness with which Mozilla support regards this move. "We know that a large amount of users are not taking update offers to 5+ due to Google Toolbar incompatibility," stated the notes from a meeting held for just this topic.
Meanwhile, word came out almost simultaneously that Mozilla was at work creating its own web-based operating system based on the same Gecko engine that powers Firefox. Called “Boot to Gecko”, there is more than a passing similarity to Google’s own Chrome OS, which Google has pushed recently (for example, with the release of various manufacturers’ thin-client low-cost ‘Chromebook’ laptops).
Mozilla’s Andreas Gal did not name any names, but his stated goals seem to criticize Google’s Chrome and Android for a failure of open source development. "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,” said Gal, who also seemed to take a shot at Google’s tight integration between browser and web OS. “We aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run on the web."
However, Boot to Gecko may be far more than the Chrome-killer that some are depicting. The Mozilla web OS may ultimately be the solution to a fragmented, divisive smartphone market as well -- or as Gal puts it, “breaking the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world."
[MUST READ] No Google Toolbar for Mozilla Firefox 5
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