Issue 27

Interview with Chris Heilmann from Mozilla

Ovidiu Mățan
Founder @ Today Software Magazine


We had the pleasure to make an interview with Chris Heilmann, Principal Developer Evanghelist at Mozilla Developer Network, Londra. Chris will be one of the speakers at IMWorld 2014, 8-9 october, București.

Can you tell for our readers a few words about Mozilla Corporation?

Mozilla is a not-for-profit organisation to keep the web open and free. This does not only mean we build a browser and a mobile OS, but we take the user"s interest to heart. The web is there for everyone, everywhere and meant to make the world smaller and a better place to communicate with each other without having to worry about your privacy and security. That"s why we create services and products and educate people on what it means to go online and to take the step from being a consumer to becoming a maker. We"re here to help you go online without having to subscribe to only one closed ecosystem or share your personal information in exchange for the ability to talk to your family.

Firefox OS is something that you don"t hear everyday, actually Romania is not even on the list of available locations. Can we use our existing devices to boot Firefox OS ? How easy can developers write code for it as we know it is based on HTML5?

Writing applications in HTML5 means you already support Firefox OS (and all the other platforms). What Firefox OS does is give you full access to the hardware of a phone and thus make it easier to build very engaging products. Think of it as the platform that fulfills the promises other platforms had given us when HTML5 was defined first. You can start building a Firefox OS app right in the Firefox browser - it now ships with an App Manager/Web IDE right in the developer tools. From there you can start a simulated device on your computer, which does get you 90% on the way. If developers want to have a device to test their applications on there is a dedicated developer device - the Flame developer reference phone. This one ships world-wide for $170 including packaging and postage. It is a mid-level device that allows you to simulate different phone specifications directly on it. There"s a video series available explaining how to do that at .

If tomorrow you will have to create something for promoting a local cultural community, what frameworks and platform will you use?

That very much depends on the community. In the US, for example I"d use a toolchain that people are used to. In Mozilla, we"ve collected various tools to make it easier. In a more emerging country where connectivity is a bigger issue or the community is not used to building apps day-to-day for a living I"d simply start by showing the in-built webIDE in the browser or even use the app maker app maker which allows anyone to build their first app without needing to know anything about the underlying technologies.

How do you see the evolution of mobile web applications vs. native ones?

I"d wager to guess that web applications will become more and more in the next few months. Research like the comscore mobile app report shows that the adoption of apps as a whole is on the decline and people use those that help them do things with the web. That means the high fidelity interfaces of native applications are not the main reason why people use an app. And web applications can move faster and adapt better to changing form factors of hardware. Content publishers are already moving away from native apps as for example The Verge.

How can someone as a volunteer join Mozilla organisation and what are the main advantages?

You go to Mozilla website, you find what interests you and you are off to the races. The main advantage is the people you will work alongside with. You"ll meet people from all over the world, you"ll hear stories about working with you on something as simple as some documentation or reporting a bug changes people"s lives and gives them a chance to get hired by companies in their countries and environments. And you get to talk to technical experts and mentors that help you to improve your skills. I am one of those and I spend a lot of my time helping volunteers to communicate and advocate themselves to the world and to the people who until now don"t really see them as someone worth listening to. We all have a story to tell, and these are best shared.

Christian Heilmann

On Christian Heilmann

Chris Heilmann has dedicated a lot of his time making the web better. Originally coming from a radio journalism background, he built his first web site from scratch around 1997 and spent the following years working on lots of large, international web sites. He then spent a few years in Yahoo building products and explaining and training people and is now at Mozilla. Chris wrote and contributed to six books on web development and wrote many articles and hundreds of blog posts for Ajaxian, Smashing Magazine, Yahoo, Mozilla, ScriptJunkie and many more.




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