Firefox Home App: A Good Idea that Could be Better

Firefox's Home App for iPhone has opened my eyes to a world where desktop and mobile web browsing become one, but we're not quite there yet.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
The neat thing about Firefox Home is that it syncs browser tabs, not just bookmarks, from a PC to an iPhone. Mozilla released the iPhone app on Friday. To use it, you'll also have to install the Firefox Sync add-on to your PC and create an account, and you have to make sure to click "Sync Now" under Firefox's tools tab before you hit the road.

Being able to pick up on the iPhone where I left off on the PC is one of those ideas that suddenly seems long overdue. I'm the kind of Internet user who amasses a semi-organized maze of windows and tabs as my browsing session goes on, and Firefox Home displays links in a simple list.

If you prefer a different browser, another app called Xmarks also syncs from PC to iPhone, and it works in Firefox, Chrome, and IE. It costs $1, and more elegantly groups your open tabs by window.

But neither Firefox Home nor Xmarks take the full step of being a web browser, or integrating with an existing one. When you open a link in either app, you go to a built-in Webkit browser for that app, and from there you're basically stuck. Sure, you can open any link in Safari, but it's not the same as taking all your open tabs on a PC and opening a fully-tabbed browsing session on the phone.

For Mozilla, the solution might be to actually release Firefox -- or Fennec, as it's known in mobile form -- for the iPhone, with the ability to sync directly to the browser. There's an alpha version of Fennec kicking around on Android, but no word on iPhone, or whether Apple would even allow it.

Both Xmarks and Firefox Home could really use a bookmarklet -- a small application stored as a bookmark -- to let mobile users tap their open tabs from any browser. The app would be so much better if I could send my entire browsing session to mobile Safari, or better yet, the tabbed glory of Atomic Web. I'm not the first person to suggest this; there's a growing thread of people asking for the feature on GetSatisfaction.com, an Xmarks rep responded by saying maybe they'll add a bookmarlet feature soon.

For now, browser tab sync is a good idea that falls short of greatness, but with two players in the iPhone app store, I only see improvement ahead.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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