The Firefox OS 1.x/2.x Problems

This article has been written before more than 1 years, information might old.

I call myself an Open Source Fanatic Pragmatic that would mean that i recognize the limits of the open source and that is impossible think that everything can be open source. Particularly the Free Software.

With this introduction – after an year and over from the Italian launch of Firefox OS and an experience of other than 2 years as a volunteer and now as a Mozilla Rep – now we see all the problems, software and of the system.

I don’t talk of hardware, is the question that regards less me because i think that is the more annoying and distracting; also don’t help to focus the problems of an operative system, of every type.

The first problem is the software – as a operative system – that have many missing things respect to the competitors, that create many problems on the diffusion and the development of advanced apps.

Today the Firefox marketplace is full of apps that are only client or games, but nothing that doing the difference for an user that ask more from his phone.

The true is that today are not many that wants a smartphone only for be online (chat/social and mainly news) but they want automatize the things and enjoy the full power of the hardware but also from the software, using also external device.

Keep one eye on the points that i think that Firefox OS need an analysis points for points.

  1. Few API: usually in my talks on Firefox OS i talk much about the API available, that are not few, but actually is impossible act on the system. They are only API to talk with the sensor, access to the file, play multimedia files, sent SMS or add a contact. Missing API advanced like to access to the notification (read the notification), useful to use for add a smartwatch support to get the notification on the clock, API to access on the file systems for example to see all the password of the WIFI network saved.
  2. API certified with permission: for safety reasons, some API as Bluetooth or NFC require the application to be made by the partners of Mozilla and not shared by the developer. This thing is not useful to promote their services or support to other devices, since not everyone can apply for a partnership. APIs more interesting are all certified and this prevents third-party developers to demonstrate the true power of HTML5.
  3. Ringtones: I had developed a ringtone picker, I noticed that currently the third-party app can access only the ringtone for calls, not to that for messages or for alarm; consequently serve other web activity in order to add these capabilities.
  4. Background service: the ability to create services always listening. Mentioned in point 1, but as the argument is very important today to do this you need to use the API of the alarm that is not a valid solution engineering standpoint. The ability to launch a service that can intercept and what happens in the phone for some types of applications is important.
  5. Few types of apps: from version 1.4 you can create launcher and keyboards but there is no documentation or examples to achieve them. I participated in the development of the famous boilerplate but not enough examples for the use of the API, serve the projects start to ensure that you have more material available to us and earn in time and level of learning. MDN is not enough, need complete application starting to customize.
  6. There is no the simulator for the tablet version. Certainly, currently there are very few around, but make it available would help the testing phase of the volunteers who own these devices. Would also serve a simulator for Matchstick (you can always work with a connected television) and other devices that will come out.
  7. The simulator does not support the camera and the computer does not allow you to enter data for geolocation, making it difficult application testing. There are ticket reporting open in this regard but are slow, however I think they should take precedence: how can we convince the developers of the goodness of the operating system if he is offered a simulator that face as it should work as a… simulator?
  8. The lack of support for CardDAV creates problems for people like me who relies on external services for synchronization of your contacts. I know CalDav in the new versions is supported but this is a problem for those who want to make the switch.
  9. Google, yes the damned not having the API writeable for services like Google Plus or Drive makes it impossible to use its services to Firefox OS, and web versions are often obsolete and outdated making their use very uncomfortable and unpleasant. So would a project like Web Compat but thought to promote the opening of the API of the various online services. In this way it would benefit not only Firefox OS but other colleagues as Ubuntu Touch or Sailfish OS or Windows Phone.
  10. The marketplace prevents developers to specialize the app for a specific version of the operating system. This is one of many problems highlighted by me on the mailing list dedicated to the marketplace, following the full report: https://mail.mozilla.org/pipermail/marketplace-contributors/2014-December/000039.html
  11. The development of new API is really slow, like WebSerial or WebUSB, making use of Firefox OS on other devices besides smartphones useless.There are projects designed for the Internet of Things, but are nothing more than modified versions of Firefox OS. Would need a system that has universal support and is suitable depending on the app present, exactly how does Android.
  12. The browser is the cornerstone of Firefox OS, but is far behind the desktop version of one of those points that make Firefox the best browser used: personalization; There are no extensions for this mobile browser.
  13. Lacks the ability to perform any kind of modification or customization, both the interface and the system except using API certified or customization of the UI. When it should be a possibility to choose between different themes (different grades, different styles, etc.).

Perhaps the big problem of Firefox OS is its nature primarily open source, in particular the fact that there are enough resources to dedicate himself sufficiently to develop certain functionality; maybe the only make available the API certified could open the eyes of those who are sceptical about the potential of HTML5 and does not believe that this standard can really be the future.

We have the Flame, the target phone for developers with Bluetooth or NFC, but we can not use them because they are certified.

APIs are certified to a safety issue and the time that Mozilla “lost” in doing so makes her stay behind. It would still be appropriate, in my opinion, allow to non-partners to apply for certification.

We must prepare to fight against competitors more advanced to see the real potential of Firefox OS is necessary that this be done as soon as possible. I think it is useless to present televisions or dongle if we can not fully utilize the system. Firefox OS has the appeal of a powerful but at the moment it looks like a toy, not because of the low cost of the device, but because of the limited possibilities for a common developer.

PS: i know the Spark/Project LightSaber, this document was written before but many suggestion and the problems are the same.

Thanks to Domenico Majorana, Jessica Lambiase, Giacomo Montalti, Gaetano Abatemarco and Niccolo Cantù for the help to writing this analysis.

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The Firefox OS 1.x/2.x Problems

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