Mobile Firefox alpha code now online

Mozilla Wednesday formally released the alpha version of its mobile Firefox browser, dubbed Fennec.

The mobile browser, which uses much of the same code found in desktop Firefox, currently is being released for the Nokia N800 and N810 Internet Tablets, but Mozilla has also released code to run it on desktop PCs (Windows, Mac OS, and Linux), so a wider group of Mozilla community developers can start to exercise it.

Meanwhile, a Windows Mobile version of Fennec is in a very early stage of development. Mozilla just posted a screen shot, and one from a PC-based emulator. Both show the trade-offs involved in having a small screen that has to be shared by both navigation controls and content.

By contrast, the touch version of Fennec is designed to use almost every pixel on the device screen for Web content. The controls, bars and other navigation features are hidden off to either side. You uncover them by dragging or flicking the page to one side or the other. Mozilla has now posted a video walk-through of the alpha user interface.

The Ars Technica blog reviewed an early build of Fennec in April.

Full release notes for Fennec are online, along with a wiki on the mobile project.

Fennec is one of a new flock of Web browsers designed to make the Web a reality for mobile users. Apple's iPhone with its innovative use of a touch screen, coupled with the full-blown Safari Web browser, has proven successful in making it far easier for users to work and play on the Web.

These new-generation browsers typically combine the same HTML rendering engines used by desktop browsers, with a radically redesigned user interface to compensate for the absence of conventional keyboard and mouse.

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