Mozilla outlines plans for browser-based OS

You know what they say—imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Fresh from espousing a new, quicker release cycle modeled after Chrome, Mozilla is now drawing up plans for a browser-based operating system not unlike Chrome OS.

Mozilla's manifesto can be found here on the Mozilla wiki. The Boot to Gecko project, named after Mozilla's browser engine, will entail "building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web." Mozilla will apparently use Google's open-source Android software as a base, and I'm getting the impression that compatibility with phones is in the cards. Check out Mozilla's to-do list for the project:

  • New web APIs: build prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content (Telephony, SMS, Camera, USB, Bluetooth, NFC, etc.)
  • Privilege model: making sure that these new capabilities are safely exposed to pages and applications
  • Booting: prototype a low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device
  • Applications: choose and port or build apps to prove out and prioritize the power of the system.

Now, we may not see the fruits of Mozilla's labor for a while yet. The Wiki page explains, "This project is in its infancy; some pieces of it are only captured in our heads today, others aren’t fully explored. We’re talking about it now because we want expertise from all over Mozilla -- and from people who aren’t yet part of Mozilla -- to inform and build the project we’re outlining here." The organization has created a discussion thread for that purpose.

Mozilla isn't alone in wanting to replace traditional software with web apps. Google is already heading in that direction with Chrome OS, and Microsoft revealed last month that developers will be able to whip up Windows 8 apps using only HTML5 and JavaScript code. Mozilla might not have as many R&D dollars to throw at the concept as Google and Microsoft, but that hasn't stopped it in the past.

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