The developers at Mozilla have been busy; Firefox 8 is just around the corner and now they seem to be developing an experimental mobile operating system. They're calling it Boot 2 Gecko, or B2G for short. The most interesting idea that seems to run through the core of the project is to base the OS on the open web in lieu of the traditional proprietary vendor strategy.

Mozilla seems to be very serious about using open technologies and services for their OS. This should come as no surprise however, as Mozilla stands for open-source and the open web. In following that dictum, Mozilla has elected to use both the Android and Reliance Industries Limited backend to implement messaging. Telephony is the same, but also uses libaudio which is derived from Linux. Battery functions will be processed mostly via the Linux functions upower and sysfs, but with some Android elements as well. Contacts is derived from Android and also uses HTML5's IndexedDB. All of these functions are set to be powered by the Gecko rendering engine, tying into the Open Web mission.

The system platform will be something Mozilla is calling "Gonk". Gonk will be comprised of the linux kernel and some low-level userspace libraries derived from Android. It will not have any of Android's Java libraries or stacks.

For this platform, Mozilla seeks to build a new HTML5 WebAPI to power most of the functions of the phone over the next 3-6 months. They're choosing to incorporate elements of other open mobile operating systems, but at the heart of this project is their new HTML5 WebAPI. Mozilla is going to be using JavaScript API’s for real-time communication capabilities in order to enable applications to render in the browser.

Perhaps one of the most noteworthy ambitions of this project is that Mozilla intends on creating an Open Web App Store. They’ve got an HTML5 based prototype for testing, and hint at the possibility that by purely using HTML5 users could demo open web apps without any sort of installation or software upgrades.

This is a very apt undertaking by Mozilla as they’ve always been heavy proponents of Open Web, but whether or not they’ve got the ability to turn that passion into a functional mobile OS remains to be seen.

Milestone 1 - Developer Phone Features

Gecko Based Features

  • Messaging:
    • Android Backend
    • RIL Backend
    • SMS IndexedDB Database
  • Telephony:
    • Outgoing calls on Android
    • RIL backend
    • Mute and speakerphone-toggle through libaudio
  • Battery:
    • Android Backend
    • Linux upower Backend
    • Sysfs Backend
  • Contacts:
    • Android Backend
    • Native IndexedDB Backend
  • Open Web Apps and Store

System (Gonk):

  • Dalvik Cache Removal
  • Developer tools
    • Valgrind
    • OpenGL debugger
    • OpenGL profiler

User Interface:

  • Full- featured web browser
  • Settings manager
  • Apps store
  • eBook reader
  • Camera
  • Gallery
  • Media player
  • Distinct look-and-feel

Source: Mozilla Wiki

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  • s44 - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Chrome for phones?
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Thus would be way more interesting if their mobile version of Firefox would crash and gang on me all the time. In fact, FF is the only desktop browser to crash on me--ever. Fans will tell me it's extensions or some other reason, but Chrome, IE, and Opera don't have these problems at all. Ever since FF went passed 3.6, it's been a rough go. I could care less how many versions come out if none of them work.
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Sorry for the language fail. Phone thumbs. :(
  • espaghetti - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    "- Whose hardware will you support?

    We’ll be selecting initial hardware for hackability and general availability, but we haven’t settled on that yet. A Tegra 2 device is likely to be selected, due to its support for VP8 hardware acceleration. Over time we expect that B2G will work on the majority of devices that support modern Android versions. "

    Just in case anyone else cared.
  • wocanak - Monday, November 7, 2011 - link

    Looks like RIL got expanded to Reliance Industries Limited in "Mozilla has elected to use both the Android and Reliance Industries Limited backend to implement messaging"

    I guess you meant Android Radio Interface Layer (RIL)
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    I applaud Mozilla for picking this up!

    I quite appreciate the way Palm had implemented WebOS namely by using a Linux kernel, having some basic system services all communicating via DBus and providing an abstraction layer that would allow the use of C++ components and DBus calls via HTML or rather JS code within HTML pages.

    What Palm (and later HP) didn't get right though was the performance of the whole thing which really sucks (and still does). Let's hope Mozilla can do better (and also get that nasty ressource footprint of their browser down...).
  • greg451 - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    Err, its called linux. I want fucking nothing but goddamned linux on my fucking hardware. I want hardware I can install myself. I don't give a fuck about android or chrome or any fucking thing else. I want linux running my phone and my tablet just like my fucking laptop. I refuse to be assraped by vendor lock-in and other incompatibilities and proprietary bullshit.
  • mghola - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Gnome Sayin?

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