By John Gruber
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Mozilla’s then-CEO Gary Kovacs in April 2013:
One of the most interesting things he spoke about today was why Firefox has not been released on iOS while Google has offered its Chrome browser on iOS for some time. He confirmed earlier reports that Apple was blocking its submission due to Mozilla wanting to use a different web engine.
“iOS has a policy, generally speaking, where you have to use their web engine,” Kovacs said. “Our web engine is different. … I would love to see far more energy behind iOS. We refuse to make the policy switch.”
Mozilla VP Jonathan Nightingale, earlier this week:
We need to be where our users are so we’re going to get Firefox on iOS.
That it took them until 2014 to bend to practicality — iOS has been growing in popularity worldwide ever since it debuted, and Apple was never going to allow them to use their own rendering engine in an iOS app — epitomizes everything wrong with Mozilla as an organization. I’m all for idealism, but Mozilla has been idealistic to a fault. (Exhibit A: their stance against H.264 video.)
To once again quote the great poet-philosopher Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Their refusal to create an iOS version of Firefox unless they could use their own rendering engine was a losing hand. They’ve now spent close to a decade bleeding relevance in the only part of the market that is growing: mobile. Compare and contrast with Google’s iOS version of Chrome.
Practicality wins. I’ve long suspected that Mozilla’s leadership didn’t understand why Firefox beat IE. It wasn’t because Firefox was idealistically superior — open source, free of charge, superior support for open standards — but because it was just plain better to use.
What Nightingale tweeted is exactly right. They need to be where their users are. But their users have been on iOS for seven years. Better late than never, I say — and it’s worth noting that Chrome for iOS has only been out for two years. But there’s no logical reason why it should have taken Mozilla this long to make this decision.