back to article Firefox OS mobilises HTML5, without the added Steve Jobs

Do you want to build applications for Firefox OS? The first step is to head over to the Mozilla website and sign up for a developer kit. Just kidding, there's no developer kit. There are also no developer fees and no new programming languages to learn. You can start building apps for Firefox OS today, using nothing more than …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And how does a developer make money from this?

    And will "Angry Birds" run on it...

    1. M Gale

      Re: And how does a developer make money from this?

      You never paid for an app via someone's website before? Only, this time it could be a far more seamless "like this game? Buy the full and offline version for only £X.YZ. Click [here]!"

      News sites like The Register, except with an article store that'll automatically download today's news so you can read it offline? Full offline functionality enabled via a small subscription.

      That or MMO clients. WebGL exists now, and it's shaders as far as the eye can see. Possible to do a WoW or EVE client? Only Blizzard and CCP know that, but they'd be daft not to be running experiments right now.

      Or even, shock horror, adverts. Must be a reason I'm being told that EE are doing a Blackberry Q10 on a business plan for just £30 a month, in that little box to the right.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And how does a developer make money from this?

      Can you write Angry Birds as an HTML5 applet? If no, then no.

      Forget anything but the simplistic noddy app.

      1. Raumkraut

        Re: And how does a developer make money from this?

        > Can you write Angry Birds as an HTML5 applet?

        Been there, done that. It's been in Google's Chrome store for ages.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget anything but the simplistic noddy app.

        I've never heard of node.js either.

    3. Jonathan 29

      Re: And how does a developer make money from this?

      One of the key differentiators to other app stores and one of the reasons carriers are interested is that carriers will look after the payments, not Mozilla. Good or bad for users and developers, we will see, but it is at least one less company who will have your credit card details.

    4. E 2

      Re: And how does a developer make money from this?

      AFAICT it should be possible. FF OS is a stripped down Linux distro, the screen is driven using OpenGL ES, and I think HTML5 has some kind of GL layer. So, yeah, a port should be possible.

  2. wowfood

    Screw angry birds, I want Cut the rope

    Om Nom FTW!

  3. Tim of the sea

    I don't see this as an advantage.

    I'm a game developer. Am I now supposed to write serious games in HTML5/Javascript?

    Did they write the operating system in javascript?

    If not why do they expect us to write good apps in this limited and unsophisticated language?

    1. jaywin

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

      This is where things like Microsoft's TypeScript start being handy.

      1. dogged

        Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

        @jaywin

        of CoffeeScript if your tastes run that way and you don't mind rewriting your existing javascript to work in it.

        But given how much TypeScript is starting to look like EcmaScript v6, it's not a bad bet for the future.

    2. Mark #255

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

      Am I now supposed to write serious games in HTML5/Javascript?

      A subset of Javascript. asm.js, can be compiled down from C++ (with a hit of ~50%). So no, you don't have to.

      They wrote a surprising amount of Firefox OS in Javascript.

      And I wouldn't class Javascript as limited or unsophisticated. Different, yes: personally I hate the way classes are done (I much prefer the C++/Java/PHP way).

      1. Ian Yates

        Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

        "I hate the way classes are done (I much prefer the C++/Java/PHP way)"

        Excuse me if I'm having a slow day; I'm not sure if you picked three utterly different approaches to OOP on purpose or not... Short of throwing VBA in there, I can't think of more disparate alternatives.

    3. Ru
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

      I'm a game developer. Am I now supposed to write serious games in HTML5/Javascript?

      If there are potential customers on a new platform, and the potential revenues from that new platform comfortably exceed the cost to port old/develop new software on that platform, would you really ignore that platform just because you don't like the language?

      do they expect us to write good apps in this limited and unsophisticated language?

      There's lots not to like about javascript, but 'limited and unsophisticated' it ain't. You can refuse to write in it and demand a 'real programming language' (and I wouldn't blame you), but that basically makes you a primadonna. If you can't write good apps in it, then perhaps you should be examining your own design and engineering skills rather than blaming the language you have to work with.

    4. grammarpolice
      Mushroom

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

      People wrote good apps in BASIC, and that was brutally limited and unsophisticated.

      Grow up and get over your entitlement issues.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

        How does the saying go? "Bad workmen always blame their tools"

    5. marcelo
      Trollface

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage.

      you could write in c++ and clang it to use asm.js...

      it is sophisticated enough for me...

    6. Peter Rathlev
      Go

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage @Tim 14:28

      Limited and unsophisticated language? A good programmer can write FORTRAN in any language.

    7. tootsnoot
      Holmes

      Re: I don't see this as an advantage. - Use Google's 'Dart'

      It's a modern well-structured language, and compiles to JavaScript. You're not trapped into anything.

  4. Himalayaman
    Holmes

    Just when everybody is moving to native apps again... ouch.

    1. dogged

      Because the write many/run many model is so awesome?

      1. Yag
        Trollface

        Because the "write once / might eventually run" model is better ?

    2. Ian Yates
      Thumb Down

      "Just when everybody is moving to native apps again"

      No they aren't. Native has it's place, but it is not a panacea

  5. JDX Gold badge

    Cost and tools

    Which phone OS do you need to learn a new programming language for? C++, Java and Objective-C are all normal languages on the target platforms they're used for.

    In fact, as a software developer rather than a web-developer, I WOULD have to learn a new programming language!

    Also... is £100/year really a big issue for anyone doing this professionally?

    1. dogged

      Re: Cost and tools

      It's a bit more than £100 for Objective-C because you need to buy a Mac.

      And then learn how to pray to the OS to do anything, of course.

      Java is free to download but you might want to update your antivirus.

    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: Cost and tools

      Actually, as an indie game developer these days, the only language I use for mobile games is C# because that's one of the languages Unity 3D supports. If Unity choose to support Firefox OS at some point in the future, then I will consider it as a potential target platform.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What am I missing?

    I could buy a £100 Android phone that does proper native apps and HTML5 applets, or a £100 Firefox phone that forces me to use Firefox and can only do HTML5 applets...

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: What am I missing?

      Dalvik != native app. Relatively few Android apps are written in native code or even include native code.

      asm.js is a subset of JavaScript chosen so it can be optimised more than standard JavaScript, so in effect you should be comparing asm.js against Dalvik. Other languages can be converted into asm.js so there's not even any need to learn something new (asm.js) to get high performance apps.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How awful

    "You can start building apps for Firefox OS today, using nothing more than HTML, CSS and a generous helping of JavaScript."

    How awful.

    Technology from long ago that I moved to the mobile platform to escape. I'd rather never see it again.

    God help us if we are forced in the future to program apps in Javascript and CSS.

    And if anyone says it will be "cross platform" you can bet it won't be!

  8. Greg J Preece

    I've been looking forward to this for ages. Missed both Geeksphone releases (I tried, damn it!) but I've heard good things about them. Being someone who doesn't like the app-for-app's-sake approach, this is right up my street.

  9. Dave, Portsmouth

    Presumably if the developer uses the useful APIs to make it interact with anything (or, in other words, make something that isn't just a website) then that's no longer portable, and hence defeats the point?

    I also agree with the comment about why buy one - if the apps are cross platform (but see my point above), then I'd buy an iPhone / Android / WinPhone and run the same apps in their web browser, but *also* be able to run the hundreds of thousands of apps which can't.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      useful APIs .... no longer portable

      Not true. W3C standards are being developed for loads of apis to integrate with the browser. There's apis for sms, tcp, bluetooth, contacts, file store, database, light sensor, battery status, geolocation, device orientation and a load more. Presentation is where most cross device headaches are, not in getting access to the hardware.

      Think about it from the point of view of a developer not a customer. Why write for one of iPhone / Android / WinPhone when you can target them all and more besides with one app?

      The problem to my mind is making money. App stores allow developers to monetise very easily, how you achieve that with an easy to copy web app is a different matter....

      1. M Gale

        Re: useful APIs .... no longer portable

        The problem to my mind is making money. App stores allow developers to monetise very easily, how you achieve that with an easy to copy web app is a different matter....

        Question is whether you need to put copy protection on the app at all. The endless DRM arms race so far hasn't done much to stop unauthorised copying, but it has provided some pretty nasty ways of ensuring that paying customers are horribly limited.

  10. E 2

    Irony

    Roughly 25 years ago Marc Andreeson was crying to the rooftops that Netscape was going to reduce Windows to the status of a commodity hardware layer on top of which Navigator would provide all the user functionality.

    Of course Bill Gates gave him a good kicking.

    Now the Son of the Son of Navigator might just fulfill Marc's dream.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should be called fadfox is instead of Firefox as there is zero chance that this will catch on. I would rather use one of those "landfill android phones" that some reg writer alluded to than this one any day of the week. I think I read a review on Engadget or somewhere that said it was already laggy and they hadn't even really installed anything on it so yeah, thanks but no thanks.

    1. Steven Roper
      Stop

      It will catch on, simply because right now it's the only mobile OS that doesn't invade your privacy, give some faceless corporation complete control of your device, and profile your entire private life for profit.

      Anyone who's rightly concerned about the invasive and overbearing control companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple maintain over your device, will look at FirefoxOS and immediately realise it's the only option, if actually owning your own device (rather than "paying to borrow" it from a corporation) matters to you.

      Want a device you can distribute any app for without it having to be "approved" by a walled-garden software vendor? Firefox OS.

      Want a device you don't have to "sign in" on an online account to use so the OS vendor can monitor your every action? Firefox OS.

      Want a device you can install an app on without worrying that the OS vendor can "pull the plug" and remove it from your device whether you want it or not? Firefox OS.

      Want a device where you decide the permissions and access an app is allowed to have, not the app distributor - so no more "weather apps" that needlessly require access to your contact list? Firefox OS.

      Want a device you can save your own data securely and locally on, instead of trusting your most personal and confidential data to some PRISM-infested cloud storage? Firefox OS.

      Oh yeah, I think it'll "catch on"!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        no need to ever sign in to Google from Android (I am the living proof of this) - but no doubt Google are tracking my every move, they'll just be using their own identifier, not my login.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't think so

        I think you severely misunderstand the public. Ease of use and ubiquitous trump security any day. You and I work in IT - most people don't. Google is a big player and Mozilla/Firefox isn't. To the man in the street who is he going to choose? Someone he hasn't heard of or the big corporation? you can scream all you want about security, privacy, selling data, etc but it makes no difference. Why do you think the likes of McDonalds, Starbucks, etc, etc, etc are so big? They trade on convenience - and that is nearly all that matters.

        Not to mention that coding in CSS and HTML and Javascript sucks donkeys, as as a dev. I won't be touching it.

      3. Tim of the sea

        I can't believe I've just read this when Mozilla get so much of their money from Google.

        My personal prediction is that the same problems will emerge with privacy on this device as have emerged on the web and in the app space. The market becomes overly saturated with products, there's a price crash and eventually people expect apps for free. Then the most successful apps will be made free and monetised by harvesting data from their users, if not through Mozilla or the OS then through direct tracking through the app, sent to the vendor. Users may be able to pick apps that work with their choice of privacy settings, but the mainstream mass market won't care enough to bother.

        As with my much-derided comment about using HTML 5, I don't see this as a new model in any way, and it contains all the same flaws as any other software market that have led us to the situation we're in today.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    So HTML 5 has been ratified?

    Oh wait, no it hasn't.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: So HTML 5 has been ratified?

      I think you'll find they call it "a living standard". So yeah, not ratified...

  13. Andrew Hodgkinson
    FAIL

    You *ARE* locked into the platform, obviously so

    So El Reg lapped up the nonsense about still having a "working web app", yet then went onto describe how you need to call into the Firefox OS API if you want to get any real work done. Much as HTML 5 might try, it still doesn't (thank heavens) replicate everything a native OS can do, along with general housekeeping / "being a good citizen".

    For example, accessing the platform-wide GUI toolkit, or producing a platform-wide notification broadcast, requires cooperation with the system and that requires an API. Screen orientation. System settings. Bluetooth. USB. Basic telephony. APIs, APIs, APIs.

    https://wiki.mozilla.org/WebAPI

    I don't care if you're calling the API in JavaScript, C++, Objective C, Java, BASIC, assembler or any other language - it's a proprietary API for that platform. Get rid of the platform and your app won't run. It won't execute on a generalised web browser because that doesn't provide the platform specific API.

    As you can see from the Wiki page, Mozilla list standards bodies they're trying to push the APIs into, or where they may already exist. If this were Microsoft, everyone would cry foul...

    Bizarrely, in some respects this is actually LESS open than writing web apps under a cross platform framework such as Cordova, or even writing a "raw" un-integrated web app that just runs in the web browser and requires the user to save a link to it onto their home screen / apps list, where you really are limited to just the published and implemented APIs available in the browser environment. Or - as we used to call it once - write a web page.

    And good luck writing something like Alchemy with that. Good luck even writing something like Audiobus with it!

    http://www.camelaudio.com/AlchemyMobile.php

  14. Arthur Kater :-D ☺
    FAIL

    Who's going to make good apps if there's no way to protect your IP

    Many of the successful apps (Skype, Angry Birds, etc.) have their code more or less unreadable (compiled to native, obfuscated etc.).

    To me it seems using HTML+CSS+JSS is basically making an open source app.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    real programming language?

    How about Scheme (though not sure how much of it):

    http://www.pawfal.org/dave/blog/2013/06/planet-fluxus/

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