Mozilla Testing Firefox for iOS, But Not Where You’d Think

As more and more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, Mozilla is releasing a version of its Firefox Web browser for iPhone and iPad users. It started Thursday with a public preview only for users in New Zealand.

Mozilla, which uses its Gecko rendering engine for Firefox, has long resisted developing an Apple version of its browser in part because iOS is built on a different layout engine, WebKit. However, Mozilla began reconsidering its stance after last year's release of iOS 8, in which Apple loosened previous restrictions on its Nitro JavaScript engine. Before that time, Apple had restricted its improved Nitro JavaScript engine to its own app, leaving third-parties with a slower version.

Those improvements opened up an opportunity "to begin development of a Firefox experience for iOS," Mozilla noted in May. The company said it now expects to make an iOS version of its browser globally available later this year.

Seeking Feedback for Search, Other Features

"Our goal is to create a great browsing experience for iOS with Firefox," Mozilla said Thursday in a blog post. "With this first public preview we will be collecting feedback in one country, before we extend availability to get feedback in a few more countries prior to a full public launch."

Mozilla is looking for feedback on several features of the browser in particular. One of those is Intelligent Search, which not only offers suggested search results but gives users a choice of search providers.

Another feature, Firefox Accounts, will allow users to transfer their Firefox browsing histories, passwords and tabs from their PCs or laptops to their iOS devices. Mozilla will also be seeking feedback on Visual Tabs, which it says offers "an intuitive way to keep track of your open tabs."

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