Working open is not only in Mozilla’s DNA but leads to huge benefits for the project more broadly. While Mozilla has hundreds of paid contributors, they have tens of thousands of volunteer contributors — all working together to keep the web open and as a platform for innovation. Working open means Mozilla can draw on talent no matter where in the world someone happens to live. It means people with what Clay Shirky would call cognitive surplus can contribute as much or as little free time and labour to projects as they wish. Importantly, it also leads to a level of trust that users can have in Mozilla’s products. Not only can they inspect the source code used to build the product, but actually participate in discussions about its development.
One of the things we get asked about all the time, whether from artists, community groups or bigger organisations is how to develop apps for mobile.
Usually the answer has to be ‘pay someone to do it’ – even though this can be an expensive process.
There are some do it yourself options – the App Inventor for Android from MIT springs to mind – but it’s fair I think to say that they still aren’t terribly easy to use, and of course in the case of App Inventor, your projects will only work on the Android platform.
Mozilla – the cool folks behind the Firefox web browser amongst other great projects – might just have another option in the works. It’s part of their development of FireFox OS, a competitor to Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone. In other words, a smartphone operating system.
The unique thing about FireFox OS is it’s use of web apps rather than native apps. What this means is that instead of having apps that are written specifically for one platform, whether that be iOS or Android or whatever, these apps work through the web, and so can be accessed on any device.
This also means that no one company can control what apps you decide to put on your phone or tablet – as they are all accessed via the web, the user is completely in control.
Mozilla is also aiming this work at emerging markets – in other words, they aren’t necessarily out to steal Apple’s crown. Instead they want to bring the power of mobile computing to those areas of the world where tradition feature phones dominate.
One early example of this endeavour is the ZTE Open, a phone running FireFox OS. You can buy one, completely unlocked, here on ebay for just £60. I have one, and it’s fair to say it won’t be impacting on sales of the iPhone 5s any time soon. It’s closer to the low range Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace range. However, as a cheap, effective and open entry point to smartphones, it’s an interesting device and it will be fascinating to watch how other manufacturers decide to use Firefox OS.
So, how to make apps for this environment? Mozilla is working on that too, with Appmaker. This is at a very early stage in its development, but you can have a play with it. It gives you a drag and drop style interface to build web apps, and seems really easy to use, and could put the power of app development into the hands of pretty much anyone.
Of course, tools like this make developing apps easy, but I suspect developing great apps is still just as hard!
LGSearch is a search engine for the UK public sector that I developed quite a while ago. It’s built on Google Custom Search, and isn’t particularly clever, but is rather useful.
Anyway, inspired by Simon’s recent efforts on behalf of DirectGov, I thought I would make it easy for Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 users to add LGSearch to the list of search engines they can access from within their browsers.
Simply click here to install LGSearch, or visit this page to find out more about it.
President-elect Obama has made a very clear commitment to changing the way government works with its citizens. To this end, we offer these three principles to guide the transition in its objective to build upon the very best of the Internet to produce the very best for government.
Those three principles are:
No Legal Barrier to Sharing
No Technological Barrier to Sharing
There’s also a video explaining things a bit more:
It will be interesting to follow this one, and see what influence it might have.
The search box on the FireFox toolbar is a pretty useful thing, giving you quick access to various search engines and other sites, like Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia. It’s based on a Mozilla project called Mycroft (that being the name of Sherlock Holmes’ brother) and if you have a browse around, you’ll find plugins to enable you to search loads of different sites using that single box on your browser.
Well, I found out today just how damn easy it is to make one of these for yourself. You don’t even need to know any XML – the format used to code the plugins – just fill a form in on the Mycroft site. I did this to create a search box for DavePress, which you can install by visiting this page.
The form is simplicity itself to complete, with only one tricky field, which is where you specify the URL to use when carrying out searches. Here’s a tip for WordPress users, you need to input:
For a less-than-five minute job, you’d be mad not to. Might be a useful thing for local councils, government departments etc to do to make their stuff that bit more simple to find.