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12 March 2012, 16:04

Mozilla starts work porting Firefox to Windows 8's Metro interface

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Firefox Logo Mozilla developer Brian Bondy has announced that the Firefox team has begun working on a Metro-style version of Mozilla Firefox for Windows 8. According to the developer, this project is quite a big undertaking as creating a Metro version of Firefox will mean writing a lot of new code.

Metro is Microsoft's name for the new user interface that will be introduced with Windows 8 and which was originally created for Windows Phone. Applications written in Metro run in full screen mode by default and are characterised by a tile-based appearance. Usually, Metro applications are strictly sandboxed for security reasons, but Bondy says that the Metro version of Firefox will be written as a special class of application, dubbed "Metro style enabled desktop browsers" by Microsoft, which will allow it to have functionality on par with that of the current version of Firefox by running outside of the sandbox.

Bondy says that the Metro-enabled Firefox will be delivered to users in the usual way – as an application downloadable from Mozilla's site – and that he is not sure if it can be distributed via the Windows Store as it is not, strictly speaking, a true Metro application. He also adds the important caveat that "if Firefox is not the default browser on a system, you can't use it in Metro mode" which apparently is a decision that Microsoft has made in creating this mode for Metro applications.

The first goal the team is working on is to get an experimental Metro version of Fennec or Firefox, up and running. As yet there is no indication of when users can expect a first test release of the desktop version of Firefox with Metro mode, but the developers hint that it might be a long process to get there. The // roadmap has a "proof-of-concept" version of the Metro-interfaced Firefox appearing in the second quarter of the year and alpha and beta versions appearing in the second half of the year.

Bondy also expressed frustration with the state of the documentation on porting to this specific type of Metro application: "As a developer, your job gets pretty hard when you do a Google search for topics surrounding this barely supported third Metro application type and consistently get zero, one, or if you are lucky, two search results. All results being only slightly on topic."

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