Well, this is a surprise. Stephen Shankland of CNET pokes through some Mozilla planning documents and uncovers the details:
"The feature goal here is a new Gecko-based browser built for and integrated with the Metro environment," Mozilla’s planning document said, referring to the Firefox browser engine. "Firefox on Metro, like all other Metro apps will be full screen, focused on touch interactions, and connected to the rest of the Metro environment through Windows 8 contracts," a mechanism by which one app can hand off tasks–opening a Web page or sharing a photo, for example–to another app.
My two questions are, “Why?” And “Will Google try to do the same with Chrome?”
If you want to read more about the Windows 8 Metro Firefox, the details are here, in what is described as a “Placeholder feature page for all requirements to build a Windows 8 Metro-specific Firefox browser.”
Under the “Open Issues/Risks” heading is this very interesting statement:
This proposal depends on Microsoft providing the same capabilities for Firefox as it does for IE — running at the Medium level integrity process that allows us the full use of the Win32 API and what we need from Metro, or a set of APIs that allow Mozilla to port Gecko to the WinRT. For the purposes of this feature proposal, I’m assuming we’ll get the first and we won’t have to port the bulk of Gecko and instead will use the win32 dlls from within Metro.
That part about “full use of the Win32 API” is a pretty big if for the Metro version. The other big what-if that goes unmentioned is whether (and if so, how) a Metro-styled Firefox can tap into the extensive library of Firefox add-ons.
Asa Dotzler, who’s been with Mozilla for 14 years, is project manager. He’s written a blog post about Mozilla’s plans here. That post in turn links to a roadmap that lowers expectations considerably, calling for a “proof of concept” for Metro Firefox:
Proof of concept for Firefox in Windows 8 Metro: In order to deliver a compelling Firefox for Windows 8 Metro experience, we need to understand what’s possible. A technology proof of concept is the first step. This is not a Alpha or a Beta, but should demonstrate the feasibility of Firefox in Windows 8 Metro. (Timing here is dependent on when Microsoft releases their Windows 8 consumer preview and developer documentation.)
I’ve sent him an e-mail to see if we can talk more about Mozilla’s goals and expectations.