The latest word from Mozilla on HTML5 gaming is pretty clear: Apple boxed themselves into a corner.
Until lately, Apple has relied on continued support for WebKit to drive iOS innovation. By requiring all third-party browsers to render on-device content through Apple’s own compilation of WebKit, Apple has gained consistency. But, they’ve also locked down control. No other browser on iOS can assert any superior performance than Safari.
If this sounds unethical, well, we report, you decide. We just ask you decide with your wallet, and help make change in the industry. Supporters have argued that Apple is doing this out of security, but that falls flat if Apple is running a walled garden, since Apple can code audit all apps submitted (and does, citing the tradeoff of freedom for security… you should know our take on that argument, by now).
Mozilla, is voting with their wallets. While a non-profit organization, the company has pushed heavily its new Firefox OS initiative. The notion is to answer iOS and Android with pure HTML5, sans gatekeepers. The goal of Mozilla is to amp up HTML5 across this desktop and mobile initiatives, to allow Firefox OS to have app payloads capable of taking on immersive, native code in iOS and Android.
Even if you prefer native code, you’ll probably benefit from these improvements. Since Android now is the most-used smartphone platform globally, Android will also get these HTML5 improvements, which may make Firefox the fastest HTML5 mobile browser by year’s end. iOS… not so much, because Apple decides what software can run on its devices, and what software consumers can run on the devices they purchase from Apple.
Even scaled to ARM CPUs, this type of performance is not possible with Safari or WebKit today. Apps like Chrome and Safari (with WebGL enabled), cannot run these games properly. Some may assert that these games were tuned to Firefox, but debug WebKit builds we have run can play them… just not as well.
Apple, to a degree, realizes this. Safari on iOS disables WebGL completely, while permitting iAds publishers to offer curated WebGL content… but only in advertisements on Apple’s platform. Apple’s restrictions also make it impossible for third-party ad networks to provide 3D, interactive advertisements, even using the same WebGL calls. Some have indicated this may be a form of antitrust on Apple’s part.
To be clear, today’s announcements do not mean Firefox is about to unseat WebKit in the browser wars, on desktop or mobile. But, Mozilla’s comeback doesn’t hurt open platforms like Android, as users can simply chose between different web browsers at any time. What it does hurt, is the jailed worlds of iOS and Windows Phone, as well as the upcoming jailed world of Windows RT.
Remember, Windows 8 fractures the marketplace, with Windows
8 RT devices rendered completely unable to run Firefox/Chrome/Opera’s engines… just like iOS, and just like Windows Phone.
iOS 6, Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, and Windows RT all are starting to become isolated, on an onerous island of unacceptable restrictions… which consumers will soon be able to differentiate against. In this industry veteran’s opinion, that’s the way it should be, and consumers will finally be able to recognize Apple and Microsoft’s policies, and how they stifle innovation on their respective platforms.