Mozilla’s Minimo project redefines mobile browsing?

CNET reports on Mozilla's Minimo project, which has apparently managed to create proof of concepts for solutions that solve problems affecting mobile browsers:

  • Solution to rendering pages on small screens; no horizontal scrolling
  • Proper support for JavaScript and frames in a mobile browser
  • Navigating links with the arrow keys (a difficult problem to solve, according to the Minimo spokesperson)
  • Zooming

Yes, some of these are indeed problems that have plagued mobile browsers in the past. One gets the impression, though, when reading the article, that there is no working solution to any of them, and that Minimo has arrived to redefine what a mobile browser is supposed to be doing.

When talking about these features, the Mozilla spokesperson uses language such as "better than some products on the market", and "a lot of browsers" to explain how the competition is apparently struggling. Both he and the article author completely fail to mention the browser which actually pioneered most of these, namely Opera. Opera already does all of this, and not just as a proof of concept, but as real, working solutions. The mobile Opera browser has been downloaded over a million times from our Web site, and yet more have been installed directly on mobiles by mobile and network operators.

Opera is not ignored in the article, however. It is mentioned as Minimo's main competitor, despite Minimo's current alpha status (unfinished software). To explain Minimo's advantages over Opera, the Minimo spokesperson mentions Minimo being free, which is true. However, its system requirements are far higher than Opera's, so one needs more expensive hardware to run Minimo. Minimo is also "fully standards compliant", and "compatible with various platforms". I don't know how these statements are relevant when talking about Minimo's advantages over Opera, as Opera is also a standards compliant browser, and available for a wide range of platforms and operating systems.

Which brings me to a rather interesting quote from the Minimo spokesperson:

"We can be ported to many platforms that Opera can't"

Now, either the Minimo spokesperson has somehow gained access to Opera's source code in order to analyze its portability to different platforms, or he is making assumptions that may not hold water. To further emphasize his point, the Minimo spokesperson explains that Minimo has been developed to "work on every flavor of Unix and every type of processor, chip or widget set". Opera already works on Unix of various flavours, including mobile Unix systems. In addition to this, there are many other mobile operating systems and platforms supported by Opera that are not mentioned by the Minimo spokesperson. Important mobile systems such as Symbian, Brew and Windows Mobile come to mind. Considering this, the Minimo spokesperson may have been a bit hasty when making assumptions about Opera's portability. Perhaps the spokesperson should have made sure that Minimo is available for every single platform and operating system currently supported by Opera before making such statements?

In the end, I am sure Minimo will be a decent mobile browser when finished, but it would be nice if they could at least acknowledge the work already done by Opera to define mobile browsing. Perhaps Minimo will one day redefine mobile browsing and take over Opera's role, but until then, how about giving credit where credit is due? There is no need to pretend that one has broken new ground, when one is in reality walking down existing paths.

As for Firefox being "the greatest browser on the desktop", as claimed by the Minimo spokesperson, I must respectfully disagree there. It is certainly a bigger download than Opera, but it lacks the many features that are integrated into a whole in Opera, without the need to download extensions to get functionality. You can of course download Firefox extensions separately in an attempt to emulate Opera's features, but in Opera, everything is created with a common goal in mind, and everything works together towards that goal. It is an integrated package which allows you to get started right away, and it lets you get on with your surfing, instead of having to spend time installing additional features first. Indeed, most of the features listed on the main Firefox page were pioneered by Opera, or added to Opera long before they were available in Firefox.

If you want convenience, functionality and speed, and if you want the innovative features first, Opera is certainly the way to go.


13 thoughts on “Mozilla’s Minimo project redefines mobile browsing?

  1. Excellent article Haarvard, thank you.
    Is Opera planning an official response? As Firefox is gaining (over IE) on the desktop and is having more press coverage than Opera, I would think that Opera needs to defend its position in the mobile market more agressively. Maybe it's time to spnd some (more) money on communication and advertisement (what about print media?)!

    I think Opera needs to reestablish the tuth.

  2. "A spokeswoman for Opera said Mozilla doesn't have as much experience in developing for mobile technologies. "These are interesting comments, although I am not sure that delivering on many flavors of Unix is going to get you onto very many mobile phones," she said. "We have been working on mobile browsers for six years."

    The spokeswoman added that Opera works on numerous operating systems. "We support all major processors in the market," she said. "You can not only run Opera on Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD, but also on SymbianOS, Windows Mobile, Brew, MicroItron–and more are coming. I believe this is the most extensive list in the market, and it is all with the same source code."

  3. Well said, Haavard. 🙂

    These Mozilla-articles are nauseating me with half-truths, veiled lies, and general propaganda that borders upon being insulting.

  4. Just a note to the Minimo developers: it is not just Opera that already has nice features. The NetFront browser from Access also mimics Opera's SSR, and can deal with frames and javascript. Openwave's browser also renders HTML in some fit-to-screen mode. I've never used either of them, but I've been told Opera does a lot better on 'the real web', if you leave the walled gardens and want more than imode or wap content. Nevertheless, their saying "We've solved the problem" only means they can now start to be taken serious.

  5. I really hate the way that Mozilla and Firefox users portray themselves and their hardware. It makes me want to not use it based on principle.

    1 thing that Opera has really taught me is that paying for good software is a good thing.

  6. Mozilla – for an OSS product – has the best propaganda money can or can not buy. It's amazing that I have colleagues who are supposed to be tech people talking about how wonderful Firefox is introducing these great tab things and so on.

    Personally I hate lie based propaganda (as opposed to truth based propaganda: if its the truth and you want to spread it then go for it) and they seem to be borrowing from the oft boo-ed Microsoftian FUD tactics to rule the roost.


  7. Anonymous writes:About the mobile Opera browser, there is no download for Pocket PCs. Unofficial Minimo builds are already available for Pocket PCs.

  8. Try Opera Mini :)And I haven't exactly heard good things about Minimo so far. Let's see if it improves before it is released as a final version.

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