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Firefox, Opera improve their Android strategies for mobile browsing

by Kristen Nicole

Mobile web browsing is on the rise, extending our Internet access to Android devices and spurring browser makers to optimize more for the mobile experience. It’s a new frontier for companies like Firefox and Opera, but it’s also a competitive plain for these mobile mavericks.

Firefox and Opera upgrade Android strategies

As Firefox struggles to remain relevant on PC web browsing, it’s focusing some serious efforts in the mobile space to catch a lead on smartphones and tablets. Firefox is now prepping for a native Android interface, aiming for faster performance with less memory use. Mozilla is settling on a Firefox UI built using native code called XUL instead of its XML-based language. For Android users, Firefox’s use of native code means greater responsiveness. You probably won’t see changes in the upcoming Firefox 8 or 9 (which come out towards the end of the year) but will be available afterwards.

Opera, a browser company that’s built its business on mobile surfing, is also gearing up for a major launch due in 2012. It will combine aspects of Opera Mini and Opera Mobile, redefining the company’s mobile strategy with Android at the center of it all. The hybrid approach, called Opera with Turbo for Android, will detect when the network is strained, switching to Mini to lessen the data-transfer burden. It should simplify product options for Android users, which are as varied as the devices they use. It seems both Firefox and Opera are looking to leverage Android’s built-in upgrades to improve their own products, appealing to consumers with products that require even less on their part.

Mobile web attacks threatens Android devices

But mobile browsing has opened up doors for cyber attacks as well. Vulnerabilities in mobile web browsers present a threat to smartphone security, and could lead to an increase in attacks in the coming year, according to Georgia Tech’s Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2012 (PDF). Just as browsers have had to enhance their PC portals, mobile browsers will need security boosts as this sector continues to grow. But we’re already seeing the industry respond to mobile browser security threats, as popular Firefox extension Noscript launches a mobile version to bring the safety measures of its desktop version to the mobile device.