TR: Why does a mobile Firefox matter? There are plenty of other browsers out there, including Safari, that have done wonders for the mobile Web.
MB: Safari makes it clear that you can have a browser on a phone and that you can see the Web on a phone. Good for Apple. The iPhone is a phenomenal tool for demonstrating the promise of the kinds of things we can have. Safari and the iPhone also demonstrate the closed nature of the Apple world and the limitations of the closed, vending-machine kind of approach. With Safari, you get Safari; you don’t get the extensions or the compatibility. You don’t get a range of things, and under their licensing terms it’s illegal to try to change that.
What Firefox brings is the opportunity for choice for consumers, innovation for developers, businesses for developers, and the kind of explosion of possibilities like what we’ve seen in the Web in the last few years. So yes, there are other browsers out there. They’re all closed, not open.
TR: What sorts of innovations do you expect to see with a mobile Firefox? What sort of crazy ideas are people floating out there that you know about?
MB: There’s a convenience feature that mobile devices demand that we’re currently living without even on the desktop. That will happen before we can even get into the crazy ideas I think we’ll see … It shouldn’t take me five times to find a site I’ve been to before. It should be easy. We actually know how to make it easy in Firefox, and it’s really useful. I think the first thing we’ll see is just convenience features driven by the constraints of the device, making their way back to the desktop.
TR: The mobile industry is such a challenging place to play because carriers and device makers, for the most part, keep outside developers from changing or adding unauthorized software. How will Mozilla deal with this?
MB: I think the hardware manufacturers are increasingly interested in providing the experience that people want. The harder part, of course, is [dealing with] the carriers. Sometimes I think we forget that the world is not all like it is in the U.S. There are parts of the world that are much more open than we are now. I’m not convinced the U.S. is going to lead [in mobile innovation], and when we travel, we’ll be shocked at what’s actually possible.
But I think the overall environment will change, and that either cracks will appear or there will be a place to demonstrate what’s really possible. Those demonstrations are more powerful than people think, even if they’re small. If you actually show consumers what’s possible, then you start to build an understanding and a demand.
TR: What do you expect your cell phone to look and feel like in three years?
MB: I’m not sure I’m going to think of it as a phone. Sometimes being able to talk to someone voice to voice is what I want. Other times it’s really not. A device that I carry with me will be a device that’s not just a cell phone with other stuff attached to it. I want it to be pretty flexible.