Mozilla to let enterprises build custom Firefox browsers

The upcoming Build Your Own Browser program will let companies customize Firefox 3.5 and install it across multiple desktops

Mozilla is readying a program that will allow companies to build their own customized browsers based on the next version of Firefox, which will be out in a few weeks.

The Build Your Own Browser program is a good fit for enterprises that want to create a customized browser that can be easily installed across multiple corporate desktops, said Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox at Mozilla Corp.

Through the program, which will start sometime soon after Firefox 3.5 is released at the end of June, companies can use a Web application provided by Mozilla to specify certain customizations for the browser -- such as bookmarks to certain sites or corporate intranets or portals, he said.

Companies also can brand the browser through technology called Personas that allows them to code a skin across the top of the browser with a company's logo on it, Beltzner said.

Once the custom browser is developed, the application then will send it to the company and give it an installation program that makes it possible to install the browser across all desktops in the company, Beltzner added.

The bulk of enterprises still use Internet Explorer if they mandate a browser for company use, because Microsoft provides provisioning and installation software for IE that makes it easy for enterprises to control browser settings and install across all corporate desktops, said Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish.

Mozilla has not historically done this, but something like the Build Your Own Browser program is a good start to encourage enterprises to use Firefox over IE, she said.

"If Mozilla can enable some customization to developers and IT professionals to not only brand but give greater control to manage and administer the Firefox browser, that will certainly have companies take another look at it to make it the default browser of choice," McLeish said.

Up until now Mozilla has offered "deep customization tools" for Firefox, but they weren't always obvious to the average user and there has never been a good way for someone to build a customized version of the browser, Beltzner said.

Mozilla also has not provided software akin to Microsoft's installation pack for IE, but does make it possible for people to build their own multiple-machine installers for Firefox, given that the browser is open source and applications for it can easily be developed, he said.

Firefox has about 300 million users worldwide, and Firefox 3.5 will be available in more than 70 languages on the day it is available, according to Mozilla. A beta of the browser is available online now.

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