Electronic Design

Firefox: A Browser For Embedded Applications

Unless you've been ignoring the Internet, you're probably aware of Firefox 1.0. This open-source Web browser has garnered a significant following--though not a following that severely impacts the reigning king, Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Still, Firefox should be of interest to developers who target platforms other than Windows-based systems, which are the only places where Internet Explorer will run.

Web browsers aren't easy to create. That's why a number of solutions are available for various embedded operating systems. Most are licensed, though there are some open-source alternatives. On the other hand, Firefox already targets a range of platforms, including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Most embedded developers will be interested in the Linux applications.

One reason Firefox will be of interest is its modular plug-in architecture. While it's significantly simpler than Eclipse, another open-source project design for application development, Firefox already has a host of plug-ins that enhance its functionality.

Recently, there has been a move to provide Firefox under a range of open-source licenses. This is important because many embedded developers would prefer to use a license that doesn't require the release of source code, which would be necessary under licenses such as the popular GPL (General Public License). Right now, a mix of licenses--including the Lesser GPL (LGPL), Netscape Public License (NPL), and the Mozilla Public License (MPL)--cover Firefox and Mozilla.

The migration to an MPL/LGPL/GPL tri-license will continue in 2005. This will let embedded developers choose how to control their source code. It may be premature to deliver a proprietary version of Firefox now, but an open-source version is viable.

Firefox is part of the Mozilla project. The source code and binary versions can be downloaded from the Mozilla Web site.


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