With a more open iOS 8, Firefox is coming as a new browser option

After sitting on the iOS sidelines for years, Mozilla is planning to bring its Firefox browser to Apple’s mobile devices. Lukas Blakk, Mozilla’s release manager, tweeted the news, saying, “We need to be where our users are, so we’re going to get Firefox on iOS.”

With iOS usage growing strong since 2007 and its users among the most engaged web surfers, why hasn’t Mozilla done this sooner and why is it now choosing to work with iOS?

Firefox OS reference phone

The answer is actually simpler than you might expect. Until [company]Apple[/company] released iOS 8 a few months ago, third-party browsers for the platform were hobbled by comparison to Apple’s own mobile Safari app, particularly when it comes to executing JavaScript code and the Nitro engine. Safari, for example, supported JIT, or Just In Time, JavaScript compiling, but third-party browsers didn’t have access to that.

That changes with iOS 8 and Apple’s addition of the WKWebView API, according to the discussion WebKit engineer Anders Carlsson gave at Apple’s WWDC event this past June. CNET previously highlighted Carlson’s panel — you can watch the full video here  — where he said this:

One of the goals we had with this modern API [application programming interface] was to take a lot of features that were previously only available to Safari and give you access to them. For example…the full power of the JavaScript Nitro engine.

It’s true that Mozilla is now looking to go where its users are by bringing Firefox to iOS; it probably wouldn’t be doing so, however, if Apple still kept Safari as the only browser to use all of the best available features. Either way, it’s good for both Mozilla and iOS users, because another choice for how you want to surf the web is coming to iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices. Just remember, Safari will still be the default browser when tapping links in apps, regardless of other installed apps to surf the web.