Mozilla’s Boot 2 Gecko: Who Wants Another Web-Based OS?

Well it’s been another scorching week here in the Linux blogosphere, where all the vegetation has been baked to oblivion and all the tempers are running hot.

There’s nary a drop of water to be found around here anymore — all the wildlife have packed up and set off in search of more hospitable ground — but at least there’s still the Punchy Penguin blogobar, where the shades remain drawn and the air conditioning stays on High.

Linux Girl was comfortably settled on her favorite barstool for the day, in fact, when a brawl broke out in the pool room in back. Turned out it was over Web-based operating systems, and which one looks the most promising.

It was then that Linux Girl first learned of Mozilla’s crazily named “Boot 2 Gecko” plans, and ever since her head has been ringing with questions. What about Chrome OS? What about Webian Shell? What about Jolicloud, for that matter? And why now?

Linux bloggers seemed to be pondering similar queries.

‘I Don’t Want a Mozilla OS’

“Maybe Mozilla should focus on making a useable Android browser before trying to re-invent the OS,” suggested brunes69 on Slashdot, for example. “Firefox for Android is abhorrent compared to the built-in Webkit browser.”

Similarly, “How about just going back to making a good desktop browser?” agreed Elbereth. “I don’t want a Mozilla operating system, some sort of ‘open web experience,’ a smartphone browser, or anything else that Mozilla is peddling these days.

“I want a browser that’s dedicated to desktop computers, with a UI designed for a big, desktop monitor (not a netbook or a tablet), and I want the browser to render HTML,” Elbereth added. “I don’t need a database in my URL bar; a radical, new UI; an integrated PDF viewer, implemented in Javascript; Harry Potter themes for my browser; or anything else that Mozilla has been advertising (except for the faster Javascript performance, which is pretty nice).”

‘Just Ignore Everything Else’

Then again: “I’m using Firefox 5.0 right now, and it’s probably the best browser they’ve made thus far,” countered derGoldstein.

“They’re already working on future versions,” derGoldstein added. “If they feel they can develop additional software that’s adjacent (or possibly contains overlapping code) to the browser, then why not? If their function, in your eyes, is to make a good desktop browser, then you should be pleased. Just ignore everything else they do if you find it distracting.”

And again: “You gotta realize that with smartphones outselling computers, if Mozilla doesn’t get into mobile web browsers (and yes, Firefox mobile for Android needs A LOT OF WORK), then they won’t have a say in the open web one day,” offered kangsterizer, referring to Boot 2 Gecko’s stated focus on the mobile arena.

‘Very Limited Appeal’

The dusty patrons down at the Punchy Penguin had their own opinions.

“Interesting idea,” opined Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, for example. “I think these approaches have very limited appeal. After all, a lot of people, including me, prefer to have a lot that works on the client even when there is no internet connection.”

And while it is “certainly possible to write word processors and spreadsheets that will do this with boot to gecko, you have a chicken-and-egg problem in that it is hard to justify this without a user community and it is hard to get a user community that needs this without the software,” Travers pointed out. “Java equivalents help, but in a lot of areas there are not a lot of really mature options.”

Travers’ prediction, then, “is that this will become common on internet kiosks and uncommon elsewhere,” he said.

‘A Bad Case of Chrome Envy’

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack took a similar view.

“It is still far too early for a web-based OS, since a lot of the world (and even a lot of the US) don’t have internet connections reliable enough to pull this off,” Mack pointed out.

For Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, Mozilla’s move is a symptom of something bigger.

“If this doesn’t show Mozilla has lost their way, frankly I don’t know what does,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl. “Remember when Firefox was supposed to be the ‘fast, light’ browser? What happened? I’ll tell ya: They got a bad case of Chrome envy and have been shooting themselves in the foot ever since.”

‘The Chromium Engine Is Better’

To wit: “FF sucks memory like there is no tomorrow, slams the CPU, and they expect to use THAT engine on mobile devices, an area that is typically RAM and CPU starved? The Gecko engine simply can’t do what Chromium can, and the sooner Mozilla either accepts that or decides to rewrite Firefox, the better,” hairyfeet opined.

In short, “the Chromium engine is simply the better engine, no doubt about it,” he concluded. “Thinking they can pull a ‘me too!’ and do what Chrome can simply isn’t based in reality.”

Blogger Robert Pogson, however, took a more upbeat view.

‘No One Can Predict the Outcome’

“Innovation is always a good thing,” Pogson told Linux Girl.

“I am not sure we need yet another OS, but who knows? Alibaba, Baidu, Google, Intel, etc., are all doing similar things,” Pogson noted. “No one can predict the outcome.

“We want the world to produce its own software, and everyone needs a focus,” Pogson concluded. “I expect software developers will push for a unified platform like Java or Dalvik to make the multiple OSes less of a problem for them.”

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