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Is Mozilla Abandoning Open Source Gecko for Apple iPad? WebKit Wins.

Mozilla FirefoxFrom the 'Fennec Fail' files:

For the last four years, every time I've asked a Mozilla person if Firefox was going to come to Apple iOS, the answer has always been no.

Apple's own restrictive policies will not allow another rendering engine and that means that Mozilla's core Gecko rendering engine is not an easy option. Mozilla is now investigating another route, by building a new browser - codenamed junior.

Since Marc Andreeson and Netscape, Mozilla and its forebears have always been Gecko based. Junior will be the first Mozilla browser tech to use WebKit.

I'm not surprised.

WebKit dominates the mobile landscape as the default rendering engine on iOS, Android and even Blackberry. Mozilla's move to WebKit means they have finally admitted that Gecko (alone) cannot win mobile.

Will Firefox for Android suffer?

Of course it will. It stands to reason that a 'native' Mozilla browser tech that uses WebKit would also be faster on Android too. So in time, if Junior turns out to be a real effort, the core base on which Firefox and indeed all of Mozilla's success has been built could be left behind for the mobile world.

As Mozilla itself is now clearly focused on Mobile, its new CEO is from mobile and its new head of PR is too, it also stands to reason that Junior is a serious effort too. A split Gecko/WebKit effort would not be a good thing initially for Firefox, though it is the right decision for Mozilla's mobile aspirations. Mozilla could end up with a two track development cycle, but then again that's not that strange.

The core rendering engine development can potentially be carved out from the interface development - sure it's not the same type of control that Mozilla is used too -- and sure they'd be tied very closely to Google and Apple's WebKit development efforts, but hey that just might be a good thing too.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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