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Firefox coming to iPhone/iPad after Mozilla climbdown

Mozilla swallows its principles to develop browser for iOS

Mozilla is planning to develop a version of Firefox for Apple’s iOS, in what amounts to something of a climbdown for the browser maker. Mozilla has long refused to support iPhone and iPad, because Apple demands that browser makers use its rendering engine.

Rivals such as Google have been prepared to swallow Apple’s conditions and develop their iOS browsers on top of the same engine used for Apple’s Safari, allowing Chrome users to synchronise their bookmarks and web history across all of their different devices. Although Firefox offers an app that can sync bookmarks to an iOS device, it’s clumsily implemented, and that lack of cross-device support is perhaps one of the reasons Firefox is bleeding market share to Chrome. 

It seems Mozilla – under new CEO Chris Beard – has now decided to take a more pragmatic approach. At an internal Mozilla event in the US yesterday, Mozilla outlined its plans to develop a browser for iOS, admitting that the organisation needed to be where its users are. 

Mozilla is clearly concerned about the sharp drop off in Firefox usage over the past couple of years. Its desktop market share has tumbled from 18.5% a year ago to just 13.3% last month, according to the latest figures from Net Analytics. That puts the browser a distant third behind Internet Explorer and Chrome.

The picture is drastically bleaker on mobile. Although Mozilla does produce a version of Firefox for Android, its market share is risible, commanding just 0.6% of all mobile surfing sessions. Apple’s Safari dominates the market on 45.4%, followed by Chrome on 21.5% and the stock Android browser on 19.2%. 

Mozilla has also developed its own mobile operating system, Firefox OS, which naturally uses the company’s browser. However, Mozilla has struggled to tempt handset manufacturers away from Android, in much the same way Canonical has failed to generate interest in its mobile version of Ubuntu. 

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