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18 June 2012, 15:32

Mozilla working on WebKit-based "Junior" browser for iPad

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The full screen browser has a minimal user interface, here showing only two buttons

Mozilla is developing a new mobile web browser called "Junior" to compete with the built-in Safari browser on Apple's iPad tablet. In a recent presentation, Mozilla Product Design and Strategy Team members Alex Limi and Trond Werner Hansen showed off a working prototype of "Junior", which is described as "an iPad browser that makes browsing more fun, more ergonomic and re-thinks browser user experience from the ground up".

Unlike the desktop version of Firefox, which is based on the Gecko layout engine, "Junior" uses the same WebKit rendering engine as mobile Safari; restrictions placed on iOS applications by Apple require browsers to render content using WebKit in order to control the execution of downloaded code. Limi says that one of the most important aims of "Junior" is to provide a simple full screen browser experience that can take advantage of the iPad's high resolution Retina display. To help achieve this, the user interface is very minimal: by default only two buttons are visible when viewing a page.

When clicking the plus button, users can type in a URL or select from favourites or previously visited sites
The first of these is the transparent "back button" on the left side of the screen where a user's thumb would be when holding the tablet, the other is a "plus button" on the right-hand side that launches new pages. When a user taps the plus button, previously visited pages are displayed at the top of the window, quick link buttons to favourites are shown below that, and users can also type in the URL of a new site or conduct a search. Each of the two buttons can be "pulled" to the side to reveal additional options, such as reload and forward, as well as share and print actions.

Junior supports multiple user accounts
For families and others who share a single iPad, support for multiple user accounts is built in. Instead of using a log out button, users can drag the window to the right-hand side to display a list of user accounts.

According to Hansen, the "Junior" prototype was coded in JavaScript using Appcelerator's Titanium rapid application development framework, but, due to its limitations, future versions will need to be ported to native Objective-C code by iOS developers. Some features, such as a progress indicator, are also currently missing but, Limi says, will be added in a future version. Specific release plans and dates for Firefox Junior were not disclosed.

Mozilla currently offers an app called Firefox Home for iOS devices including the iPhone and iPod Touch. The free app allows Firefox users to access their bookmarks, history and open tabs from their most recent browser session on the desktop using Firefox Sync, but it hasn't been updated since February 2011. Google is also reportedly working on a mobile version of its Chrome browser for iOS.

Mozilla developers presenting Junior, a prototype version of Firefox for Apple's iPad


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