Is the mobile phone industry ready for the pure web?

Mark Surman @ Campus Party BR 2013

The biggest mobile phone trade faire kicks off in the ever so lovely Barcelona, and the analysis seems to suggest this year it will be about all the mobile platforms tearing down Android and iOS.

My favourites have to be Mobile Ubuntu which I have written about in the past and Firefox OS, which Gigaom has written about.

Love the concept of Firefox OS but interestingly there seems to be a lot of support for Firefox OS from the mobile phone industry. Last time I saw this level of support it was for Android.

From an open standards perspective, the Firefox OS is as pure as it gets right now. The whole thing is based on HTML5 – it’s all about escaping Google and Apple’s walled gardens and frolicking freely in the wilds of the open web. Half the code was written by volunteers.

There will be an official Firefox Marketplace but everyone is free to roll their own, from carriers to games specialists. Any payment method can be implemented – that factor is not in the hands of any one platform sponsor. Apps that run on the platform will also be able to run on rivals that implement HTML5, such as Google’s and Apple’s.

Although I do still ask the question of the mobile phone industry, are you ready to give people the pure web?

So back we come to this idea of the open mobile web. This is an area where luminaries such as Tim Berners-Lee have been on the warpath, pointing out very real problems with the iOS/Android model. These include the inability to share app-based content in a standardized way, and the inability to search across apps. In short: the loss of the level playing field that web technologies represent.

Firefox OS is designed to solve those problems. Weirdly, we can now witness the former walled garden proprietors genuinely extol the virtues of openness. By promoting Firefox OS, they cannot regain control – however, they hope to prise some control from the hands of Google and Apple.

Well I guess we shall see how far Firefox OS gets. Like Ubuntu, my contract is up this year so I could be tempted to switch to one of these phones. Although I’ll be honest and say Google’s extra features are pretty compelling, specially Google Now.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.