Mozilla previews next-gen mobile Firefox for Android

Mozilla has released a preview of its next-generation browser for Android. The new browser is twice as fast at rendering pages as Android Firefox and has anti-ad tracking turned on by default.

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Magdalena Petrova

Mozilla on Thursday released a preview of its next-generation browser for Android, prosaically naming it Firefox Preview.

The browser, which ultimately will replace the current Firefox for Android browser - nicknamed "Fennec" - is powered by a new mobile engine, labeled "GeckoView." Modular in nature, GeckoView is a combination of Mozilla-made Android components and the latest Gecko rendering engine cribbed from desktop's Firefox Quantum, all packaged as a reusable Android library that can be plugged into other apps.

By detaching Gecko from Firefox, Mozilla will be able to almost totally secede from Google's control and influence on Android. Not only does Mozilla not rely on Blink - the Google-made engine that other Android browsers use - but it won't have to use WebView, the operating system's built-in, bare-bones web page renderer for other non-browser apps.

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Firefox Preview – probably under a different name when it reaches final form this fall – uses a more powerful rendering engine than Firefox for Android, which it will eventually supplant.

"While all other major Android browsers today are based on Blink and therefore reflective of Google's decisions about mobile, Firefox's GeckoView engine ensures us and our users independence," asserted Vesta Zare, senior project manager for Firefox mobile, in a June 27 post to a company blog.

Zare claimed that Firefox Preview is twice as fast at rendering pages as the current Android Firefox and like its bigger sibling on the desktop, has anti-ad tracking turned on by default.

Although the transition from Firefox for Android to Firefox Preview - which would presumably be renamed when it is production quality - was not laid out by Mozilla, Zare said that a "feature-rich, polished version of this ((Preview-based)) flagship" would be available in the fall. When that happens, there would seem to be no reason for Mozilla to keep supporting the then-outdated Firefox for Android browser.

Nor will Mozilla spend more development time and resources on Firefox Focus - the no-tracking-allowed browser for iOS (2015) and Android (2017) that also uses GeckoView - said Zare. "In order to ... put all our efforts and resources in GeckoView, work on Firefox Focus will currently be on hold," she wrote. Computerworld would be surprised if Focus is long for the world, what with Firefox Preview's emphasis on anti-tracking.

Firefox Preview can be downloaded from Google Play, the Android official app mart.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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