Mozilla has unveiled details of the first smartphones to be powered by its Firefox operating system.
Two handsets are to be made by a small Spanish firm called Geeksphone and will be targeted at developers ahead of the system’s formal launch.
The platform is based on the HTML5 web programming language and is being marketed as offering software writers more “freedom” than alternatives.
However, it faces competition from other soon-to-be-released systems.
Blackberry 10, Ubuntu, Tizen and Sailfish are all due for release for smartphones before the end of 2013, joining a market already occupied by Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry 7 and Symbian among others.
One analyst said he did not believe there was enough room in the market for all to survive.
The two new handsets are codenamed Keon and Peak.
Keon is the more basic model, including a 3.5in (8.9 cm) screen, a 3MP (megapixel) camera and Qualcomm’s low-end Snapdragon S1 processor.
Peak has a bigger 4.3in display, an 8MP camera and a more powerful Snapdragon S4. Mozilla noted this was probably “slightly faster” than the first generation devices that would be marketed to the public.
It added that Geeksphone’s phones would be made available for sale next month, but did not provide a price.
It said that when devices went on general sale they would be cheaper than many alternatives and would be targeted at emerging markets.
Mozilla has unveiled details of the first smartphones to be powered by its Firefox operating system that will be developed by Geeksphone
The Mozilla Foundation already uses the Firefox brand for its web browser – an offshoot of the 1990’s Netscape Navigator product. The software is developed by a community of volunteers and is run as an open source project, meaning its code is accessible to others allowing them to make their own modifications.
The same principles are applied to the operating system and Mozilla highlights the fact that coders can market their apps through their own websites or any store they wish in addition to the organization’s own marketplace.
It adds that the lightweight nature of the system means that apps should run smoothly and offer “optimal battery life” on low-end devices.
However, one analyst questioned whether this would make Firefox OS stand out, bearing in mind developers were already free to offer web apps for most other devices, and in the case of Android could also sell native apps outside Google’s own Play store if the user adjusted their settings to accept them.
“What Firefox is trying to do is make the web the app store and bring the openness of the web to phones,” said Nick Dillon, senior analyst at the consultants Ovum.
“But the question is what does this offer over a cheap Android phone to a consumer looking to buy a low-end handset?
“On Android you got Google services pre-installed and the 700,000 apps in its store but Firefox OS isn’t going to have these so will have reduced functionality.”
If Firefox OS is a success it should help drive the creation of HTML5 apps, which by their nature should work on any smartphone.
In theory this works to developers’ advantage as they can write a single program and then offer it across a range of platforms.
However, many view the language as a “work in progress” when it comes to mobile and believe that for the time being native apps – those coded for a specific platform – offer advantages.
“Applications that require more processing power and the full capabilities of a phone – games for example – lend themselves more to native applications,” said Nick Dillon.
“Although HTML5 has come a long way there are still gaps, like for notifications, that have not been fully standardized across all browsers – so if you are building an app that can alert users to the fact they have received a new message, it’s easier to do in a native app if you want to ensure a consistent experience.
“The trade-off, of course, is that it will take more time and effort to make the app for each platform.”
Mozilla has unveiled a new add-on for the popular web browser that gives web users an instant view of which companies are “watching” them as they browse.
The Collusion add-on will allow users to “pull back the curtain” on web advertising firms and other third parties that track people’s online movements, says Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs.
Google’s business is built on advertising – the company earned $28 billion from its AdWords service in 2010.
Mozilla’s Firefox is the world’s second most popular web browser, a position under threat from Google’s own Chrome browser.
The Collusion add-on is an official Mozilla product, and was unveiled at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference this week by Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs.
It creates a “web” showing web users exactly which advertising firms are watching as they browse.
“Collusion is an experimental add-on for Firefox and allows you to see all the third parties that are tracking your movements across the Web,” Mozilla said.
“It will show, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers.”
“Collusion will allow us to pull back the curtain and provide users with more information about the growing role of third parties, how data drives most Web experiences, and ultimately how little control we have over that experience and our loss of data,” said Gary Kovacs.
Mozilla aims to build up a database of the worst offenders – and make the data available to privacy campaigners.
“When we launch the full version of Collusion, it will allow you to opt-in to sharing your anonymous data in a global database of web tracker data,” says the company.
“We’ll combine all that information and make it available to help researchers, journalists, and others analyze and explain how data is tracked on the web.”
Mozilla has unveiled Collusion, a new add-on for the popular web browser that gives web users an instant view of which companies are “watching” them as they browse
Vivian Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship said: “Any company which wants to utilize the European market of 500 million citizens – which we’ve made borderless, a golden opportunity – then the European rules apply.”
“Citizens should have the possibility of buying into more extensive use of their data – but that should be their freedom to choose, not done by a sneaking way of taking the freedom away from the citizens,” said Vivian Reding in an interview with The Guardian.
CNIL, the French privacy agency in charge of the investigation, said Google’s explanation of how it will use the data was too vague and difficult to understand “even for trained privacy professionals”.
A coalition of 50 consumer groups in Europe and the U.S. also sent a letter to Larry Page in a last ditch attempt to make the search giant rethink saying the controversial new policy is “unfair and unwise”.
Their condemnation came after concerns from the European Union, Japan and Korea among others that the policy may actually be illegal.
But it came into force on March 1 at midnight local time yesterday across the world regardless, with Google claiming that “to pause, would cause confusion”.
Data from 60 of Google’s services will be shared between them – meaning Google account users, owners of Android phones and YouTube viewers will be subjected to even more intrusive “personalized” adverts from now on.
Worried users are trading guides about how to protect sensitive private data such as search histories and the content of emails from Google’s new all-encompassing advertising profiles.
Google said in a blog post: “Our privacy policies have always allowed us to combine information from different products with your account – effectively using your data to provide you with a better service. However, we’ve been restricted in our ability to combine your YouTube and Search histories with other information in your account.
A British privacy campaigner, Alex Hanff is suing Google for a refund on his Android phone, claiming that the changes to how Android data could be used amount to a change in the terms of his contract.
Some Android users claim that they are hardest hit by the policy changes, as they have no way to “opt out” of mobile phone contracts.
“The changes are a significant infringement of my right to privacy and I do not consent to Google being able to use my data in such a way,” says Alex Hanff.
The Japanese government said on Thursday it will investigate whether the new policy breaches Japanese privacy laws, according to a report in the Tokyo Times.
The EU’s data protection authorities asked French regulator CNIL to investigate the new policy in January.
“Our preliminary analysis shows that Google’s new policy does not meet the requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection,” CNIL said in a letter to Google Chief Executive Larry Page, which was posted on CNIL’s website this week.
The new policy makes it easier for Google to combine the data of one person using different services such as the search engine, YouTube or Gmail if he is logged into his Google account.
That allows Google to create a broader profile of that user and target advertising based on that person’s interests and search history more accurately. Advertising is the main way Google makes its money.
CNIL said data protection authorities in the EU “are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services”, adding they had “strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing”.
Vivian Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner who oversees the bloc’s data protection rules, said she welcomed CNIL’s letter and called on Google to delay its new policy.
Google argues that combining the data into one profile makes search results more relevant and allows a user to cross-navigate between different services more easily. It says the main purpose of the new policy is to combine the more than 70 different rules for Google’s wide-ranging services into one that is simpler and more readable.
The policy change has horrified privacy advocates and bloggers – tech site ZDNet said that Google would “know more about you than your wife does” and said the policy was “Big Brother-ish”.
The EU working party earlier asked for Google to stop the new policy while the working group investigated whether personal data is protected.
“We call for a pause to ensure that there can be no misunderstanding about Google’s commitments to information rights of EU citizens.”
“We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of citizens,” it said.
“If you’re signed into Google, we can do things like suggest search queries – or tailor your search results – based on the interests you’ve expressed in Google Plus, Gmail and YouTube,” Google said a new overview page for its privacy policies.
“We’ll better understand (what) you’re searching for and get you those results faster.”