The developers at Mozilla have been busy; Firefox 8 is just around the corner and now they seem to be developing an experimental mobile operating system. They're calling it Boot 2 Gecko, or B2G for short. The most interesting idea that seems to run through the core of the project is to base the OS on the open web in lieu of the traditional proprietary vendor strategy.

Mozilla seems to be very serious about using open technologies and services for their OS. This should come as no surprise however, as Mozilla stands for open-source and the open web. In following that dictum, Mozilla has elected to use both the Android and Reliance Industries Limited backend to implement messaging. Telephony is the same, but also uses libaudio which is derived from Linux. Battery functions will be processed mostly via the Linux functions upower and sysfs, but with some Android elements as well. Contacts is derived from Android and also uses HTML5's IndexedDB. All of these functions are set to be powered by the Gecko rendering engine, tying into the Open Web mission.

The system platform will be something Mozilla is calling "Gonk". Gonk will be comprised of the linux kernel and some low-level userspace libraries derived from Android. It will not have any of Android's Java libraries or stacks.

For this platform, Mozilla seeks to build a new HTML5 WebAPI to power most of the functions of the phone over the next 3-6 months. They're choosing to incorporate elements of other open mobile operating systems, but at the heart of this project is their new HTML5 WebAPI. Mozilla is going to be using JavaScript API’s for real-time communication capabilities in order to enable applications to render in the browser.

Perhaps one of the most noteworthy ambitions of this project is that Mozilla intends on creating an Open Web App Store. They’ve got an HTML5 based prototype for testing, and hint at the possibility that by purely using HTML5 users could demo open web apps without any sort of installation or software upgrades.

This is a very apt undertaking by Mozilla as they’ve always been heavy proponents of Open Web, but whether or not they’ve got the ability to turn that passion into a functional mobile OS remains to be seen.

Milestone 1 - Developer Phone Features

Gecko Based Features

  • Messaging:
    • Android Backend
    • RIL Backend
    • SMS IndexedDB Database
  • Telephony:
    • Outgoing calls on Android
    • RIL backend
    • Mute and speakerphone-toggle through libaudio
  • Battery:
    • Android Backend
    • Linux upower Backend
    • Sysfs Backend
  • Contacts:
    • Android Backend
    • Native IndexedDB Backend
  • Open Web Apps and Store

System (Gonk):

  • Dalvik Cache Removal
  • Developer tools
    • Valgrind
    • OpenGL debugger
    • OpenGL profiler

User Interface:

  • Full- featured web browser
  • Settings manager
  • Apps store
  • eBook reader
  • Camera
  • Gallery
  • Media player
  • Distinct look-and-feel

Source: Mozilla Wiki

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  • gevorg - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Will it run Android apps?
  • sjael - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    " It will not have any of Android's Java libraries or stacks." - I'm guessing no.

    From what I gather, it seems to be that they've taken Android for it's hardware management, and stripped away all the front-end and rebuilt it around HTML5 instead of Java.

    I'm actually rather interested, as a web developer I've been waiting eons for a 'native' HTML5 SDK for Android. It seems strange that Google of all companies hasn't jumped on such a thing themselves yet.
  • B3an - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Probably because using HTML5 and JavaScript to power these things is incredibly inefficient and retarded, especially when you want to save as much power and battery as possible as well as having a smooth experience on the device. They should learn from MS or even Apple, but Mozilla would never do that as they want this to be open, but like most open software and platforms it's going to be completely inferior to proprietary alternatives as almost anything open sacrifices efficiency and performance just for the sake of being "open".

    I'm also a web dev but i know just how crap and overrated HTML5 is when it comes to real coding languages which i also use. When it comes to battery life and efficiently this OS is going to suck, in more ways than one.
  • Hrel - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    uh...? what? "Probably because using HTML5 and JavaScript to power these things is incredibly inefficient and retarded, especially when you want to save as much power and battery as possible as well as having a smooth experience on the device"

    That true for JavaScript, but... the whole idea of HTML5 is to solve those problems. HTML5 is the future.
  • rs2 - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Actually he's pretty much correct. HTML5 isn't some end-all be-all technology. It adds some welcome extensions to HTML, but does not come close to approaching the full functionality of other technologies such as Flash or Silverlight (think things like bidirectional client-server RPC calls and integrated network-efficient serialization of data).

    Moreover, HTML5 still requires JavaScript to implement any sort of dynamic behavior, to make use of the fancy new <canvas> element, or to do pretty much any other non-trivial thing. The point about efficiency is well made. Very seldom do you gain efficiency by *adding* a layer of abstraction in between the application code and the hardware that it runs upon.
  • sjael - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    Woah, that got pretty intense coming off a fairly light-hearted comment.

    I'm not saying it would be a great OS - on the contrary, it's by Mozilla so it's probably going to turn into a bloated piece of... stuff.

    Obviously HTML5 apps are never going to be as efficient as native code. However, just about all software seems to be moving towards the web/cloud and webapps, and all hardware is moving towards mobile. With all the developer support, it only makes sense to develop a mobile OS that brings webapps 'out of the browser' so to speak.

    Of course HTML5 isn't there yet, doesn't mean I can't be interested that someone is trying it. And you never know - it could spark an industry drive to make the strides necessary *to* build a viable OS around HTML5 (rather, whatever the next step is.)

    Perhaps I was mistaken in saying I wanted an HTML5 SDK for Android - I don't want to build 'real' world-changing apps with HTML5, I just want to be able to make a custom checklist or whatever without exposing all of my code to end users. :P
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    "Woah, that got pretty intense coming off a fairly light-hearted comment."

    Welcome to Anandtech =)
  • mghola - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    The Nazi's ran a very efficient society. Point being, showing loyalty to the ones who "do it best" doesn't always leave us where we want to be. This may not be the place for a debate between proprietary and open, but I don't think you should discount the "sake of being open". Because you want your stupid android to run a little more efficient, you would yield to the eventual monopolization of all emergent technologies by masters who exploit intellectual property to own what would inevitably be developed by mankind. But hey, what do I care as long as my new iphone made by 13 year olds working 16 hours a day for 75 cents is "sick".
  • mghola - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Look. Open alternatives would be better if there was more emphasis on them and the contributions to them from proprietary companies would be greater. I know many companies need licensing to make a profit, but why do we need them?
  • mghola - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    The real question is why can't a cutting edge alternative to html5 and javascript be developed that is open. Seems like it would be worth it for companies like mozilla to work together on.

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