Mozilla has announced plans to take the Gecko engine that drives Firefox and build a complete, stand-alone operating system that emphasizes standards-based Web technologies. Dubbed Boot to Gecko, or B2G, the project is still in the early stages of planning but the company is hoping contributors will participate in the process to help break the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over mobile devices.

The idea is to change how developers today must re-write their apps to run on the various mobile-phone platforms available, with mobile apps that can run in a browser but still look and feel like a native app -- a concept that's not entirely new but so far hasn't worked very well. Mozilla's tentative plan is to use parts of Android for hardware enablement purposes and then build a completely custom UI and application stack around Gecko. It will not use Android's Java-based environment or support programming in native code. Some areas of focus will include:

  • New web APIs: build prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content (Telephony, SMS, Camera, USB, Bluetooth, NFC, etc.)
  • Privilege model: making sure that these new capabilities are safely exposed to pages and applications
  • Booting: prototype a low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device
  • Applications: choose and port or build apps to prove out and prioritize the power of the system.

Mozilla says they aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, but rather trying to have them run on the web. The company will publish B2G's source code as it is developed in order to make the process a lot more open and inclusive compared to the process that Google follows for its Android operating system.

There aren't many details at this point but you'll be able to find additional information at the B2G wiki page as it becomes available. A code repository is hosted on GitHub but for now it only contains a Readme file.