I first linked to some speculation about a year ago that Mozilla might use the then new native SDK for to bring Fennec to the Android platform. More recently, there was some video circulating of a development build of Fennec running on an Android phone. Now, even though it is labeled as “pre-alpha”, Fennec is available for anyone courageous enough to give it a try on their Android based device.
Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb was one of many folks to pick up the announcement. She clearly itemizes the warnings for anyone excited to try Mozilla’s mobile browser. Even though the release is heavily qualified, hopefully subsequent builds will improve rapidly. I wish I had an Android device to help test and give feedback to fuel that. If you have a Droid or Nexus One running Android 2.0 or later, consider helping out. Perez has some good tips at the end of her article one how best to deal with Fennec when this early stage build eventually crashes.
Fennec development has previously focused on Maemo, a Linux based OS used on the Nokia N-900. I don’t know how much code is shared between the two builds but I hope it is a sizable fraction. Otherwise, I fear for the cost of pushing development for two different smart phone platforms, even though both are Linux based. I am sure the GUI stacks are significantly different between the two and would hate to see development crawl or completely stall out because of the combinatorial load of support two platforms. I don’t know how comparable the effort is to support Firefox proper on multiple OSes but maybe that is cause for some optimism.
I am thrilled to see that Mozilla’s Weave is already supported on Fennec for Android. I already use it heavily to synchronize saved passwords, history, and tabs between three browser instances on two different OSes. Unlike a lot of other synchronization solutions, Weave can potentially work with all kinds of data, not just the usual suspects when talking about browser sync. That and all of the data is encrypted by the browser so the Weave server has zero knowledge. I believe the openness of Weave also extends to the possibility of eventually being able to run your own Weave server.
I hope other add ons are soon supported by the mobile browser, both ones developed by Mozilla and third party developers. In particular, I’d love to see the also heavily experimental Account Manager add on working in Fennec.