Mozilla gave the nascent Junior its first airing in a presentation last week, demonstrating the prototype software's web-surfing chops. Check out video of the app in action on Mozilla's site (Junior's demo kicks off at the 31-minute mark), or watch a version posted to YouTube below.
"We wanted to make something entirely new," Mozilla's Alex Limi said, claiming the non-profit organisation's goal was to "re-invent the browser for a new form factor".
Limi called Safari, the current default browser on Apple's slate, "a pretty miserable experience", but conceded it was "still the best browsing experience on a tablet out there".
Junior is a full-screen browser, so there's no navigation bar cluttering up the top. There are just two buttons, flanking the web page about a third of the way up the screen, so that if you're holding the iPad in portrait mode, these on-screen keys are at thumb height.
On the left you get a back button, while the right 'plus' button brings up a screen with recent sites, other open web pages, favourites and a URL/search bar.
It's explained that Junior's developers thought the cost of having tabs was too high, and anyone using the Safari browser gets caught up constantly going back and closing tabs. "Nothing in here should ever feel like a hassle," Limi says.
Refresh, forward, share and print buttons can be accessed by pulling on the two on-screen keys, but they're hidden most of the time. That seems like a smart move as they're the tools you likely don't use that often.
I'm really keen to see what Mozilla can cook up, but the company has a mountain to climb if it wants to oust Safari. I agree with the criticisms of Safari, but access to it is baked into the iOS experience (many apps offer an 'open in Safari' option, for example). If Mozilla wants to beat Safari, it'll need to make a browser so good people use it despite that hurdle.
Limi admitted Mozilla wasn't doing much when it comes to iOS, saying, "It's a platform where we don't have anything useful right now." An imminent Google Chrome browser for iOS is also mentioned in the presentation -- I'll keep an eye out for any signs of that coming soon.
There's no release date yet, but would you use Mozilla's iPad browser? Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook wall.