The Once And Future GeckoView

GeckoView is an Android library for embedding Gecko into an Android app. Mark Finkle introduced it via GeckoView: Embedding Gecko in your Android Application back in 2013, and a variety of Fennec hackers have contributed to it, including Nick Alexander, who described a Maven repository for GeckoView in 2014. It’s also been reused, at least experimentally, by Joe Bowser to implement MozillaView – GeckoView Proof of Concept.

But GeckoView development hasn’t been a priority, and parts of it have bitrotted. It has also remained intertwined with Fennec, which makes it more complicated to reuse for another Android app. And the core WebView class in Android (along with the cross-platform implementation in Crosswalk), already address a variety of web rendering use cases for Android app developers, which complicates its value proposition.

Nevertheless, it may have an advantage for the subset of native Android apps that want to provide a consistent experience across the fragmented Android install base or take advantage of the features Gecko provides, like WebRTC, WebVR, and WebAssembly. More research (and perhaps some experimentation) will be needed to determine to what extent that’s true. But if “there’s gold in them thar hills,” then I want to mine it.

So Nick recently determined what it would take to completely separate GeckoView from Fennec, and he filed a bunch of bugs on the work. I then filed meta-bug 1291362 — standalone Gradle-based GeckoView libary to track those bugs along with the rest of the work required to build and distribute a standalone Gradle-based GeckoView library reusable by other Android apps. Nick, Jim Chen, and Randall Barker have already made some progress on that project.

It’s still early days, and I’m still pursuing the project’s prioritization (say that ten times fast). So I can’t yet predict when we’ll complete that work. But I’m excited to see the work underway, and I look forward to reporting on its progress!

 

Myk Melez

Myk is a Principal Software Architect and in-house entrepreneur at Mozilla. A Mozillian since 1999, he's contributed to the Web App Developer Initiative, PluotSorbet, Open Web Apps, Firefox OS Simulator, Jetpack, Raindrop, Snowl, Personas, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Bugzilla. He's just a cook. He's all out of bubblegum.

 

2 thoughts on “The Once And Future GeckoView

  1. Is JavaScript supported in GeckoView in a similar manner to WebView, can I execute JavaScript routines from Java, or call into Java from JavaScript? I am looking for WebView alternative for my Android app project, recently Chrome developers keep breaking different things in WebView and don’t respond to requests to fix them. I’d be happy to contribute somehow to GeckoView project, either financially or even with my work if necessary, in the limited time I have left…

    1. Currently, GeckoView doesn’t offer that. We’re thinking about using Web Extensions to fill that sort of need, though it probably won’t allow everything you can do with the WebView.

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