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Essentially a stripped-down browser, the Mozilla web-only operating system layer has much in common with Google Chrome.

Jim Rapoza

July 14, 2011

5 Slides

Signaling what may be a new front in the browser wars, Mozilla has released a prototype of a web-only operating system layer called the Webian Shell. Like Google's Chrome operating system, the entire interface of the Webian Shell is essentially a stripped-down browser. The only applications and services that can be accessed through the Webian Shell are web-based. However, while the Webian Shell has some things in common with Google Chrome, there are some significant differences. While Chrome is a complete operating system that can be installed on bare-metal systems, the Webian Shell is, as the name implies, a shell that runs on top of existing operating systems such as Apple OS X, Linux, and Windows. But probably most significantly, Mozilla's Webian Shell is a very early prototype with extremely limited functionality, while Google Chrome is much further along and already coming to market in new Chrome-based devices.

Released as a very early experimental prototype, Mozilla's Webian Shell displays as a very stripped down browser interface. Currently, the Webian Shell is lacking in quite a bit of functionality, not only when compared to Google Chrome but also when compared to standard browsers such as Mozillas's own Firefox. Keyboard shortcuts failed to work, along with right mouse context menus within the browser. And a number of websites would not display properly, including Google Apps and Twitter. However, this release is meant to simply display some of the ideas behind the Webian Shell; we should expect to see more advances in the near future. RECOMMENDED READING: Mozilla Webian Shell Takes On Google Chrome OS Google Chrome OS Promises Computing Without Pain Google Launches Chrome OS Preview Google 'Chromebooks' Promise Era Of Managed Computing Why Chrome OS Will Succeed Samsung Series 5 Chromebook: Hands-On Review Google Pleased With Chromebook Sales Mozilla Web Application Project Debuts Mozilla Announces New CEO

About the Author(s)

Jim Rapoza


Jim Rapoza is Senior Research Analyst at the Aberdeen Group and Editorial Director for Tech Pro Essentials. For over 20 years he has been using, testing, and writing about the newest technologies in software, enterprise hardware, and the Internet. He previously served as the director of an award-winning technology testing lab based in Massachusetts and California. Rapoza is also the winner of five awards of excellence in technology journalism, and co-chaired a summit on technology industry security practices. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences and expositions and has been regularly interviewed as a technology expert by national and local media outlets including CNN, ABC, NPR, and the Associated Press.

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