Native UI for Firefox on Android

November 15, 2011

It’s been a month since Johnathan publicly announced the native UI for Firefox on Android. So it’s probably a good time to give everyone a quick status update. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, we are re-implementing Fennec’s UI using Android’s native platform to be able to deliver a much better performance and UX to our users on Android devices.

In terms of architecture, one of the key points of the native UI is to move Gecko and XUL out of Firefox’s startup path on Android. This way, the UI can start up and respond to user interaction immediately while Gecko and XUL load and run on a separate thread. The communication between Gecko and the native UI then happens through a simple message system. This means we’re replacing Electrolysis with a lighter architecture that brings similar benefits. For the curious, Mark Finkle wrote an architecture overview with more details.

We’re landing the new code on a separate repository called “birch” which will eventually be merged in mozilla-central. Large parts of the primary browser UI have already been implemented—AwesomeBar, tabs, bookmarking, notification popups, addons manager, preferences, context menus, and more. We also have a new panning/zooming implementation that is extremely fast and smooth. The design team is bringing a new phone UI for Firefox that is both beautiful and simpler. The new design is part of a wider effort to streamline the Firefox UX on all platforms, desktop and mobile.

This is all very exciting but there’s still a lot to do to make it all feature-complete, stable, and ready for users. If you want to help us with feedback and testing, install the native UI’s nightly build on your Android phone. Don’t have an Android phone? Mozilla can give you one! Have a look at our Test Drivers program page for more information.

It’s key to Mozilla’s mission to have a strong presence on the mobile web space. We’re working hard to make Firefox the most exciting mobile browser on Android. Development is moving insanely fast and I can’t wait to see the new UI delivered to our users next year!

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