Webian Shell & Webian Home Update

I recently wrote about The Story of Firefox OS, which ends with Mozilla no longer continuing their work on the Boot to Gecko project.

Having worked on the concept of a web oriented OS for over a decade now, I have no intention of stopping just because Mozilla has lost interest. I intend to continue hacking on Webian when I can.

In February I gave the Webian website a bit of a refresh and updated it with my latest designs for Webian Shell (now including both a tablet and desktop UI) and Webian Home (the home server part of Webian which I started earlier).

Webian Shell

Webian Shell is a graphical shell for the web.

Webian Shell tablet mockup.

Now that Mozilla Chromeless, XULRunner, mozApps and B2G have all been stopped, it’s incredibly difficult to use Gecko for anything other than building Firefox. The Positron and GeckoView projects hold some promise of Gecko being embeddable again in the future (on desktop and mobile respectively), but in the meantime I have to consider the possibility of using something else for Webian Shell.

One possibility I’m considering for the tablet version is re-writing the UI shown above as a full screen Android app using Android’s WebView, which could eventually be used as a stand-alone front end running on top of Android Things.

On the desktop side I’m considering using Electron, although the Tofino team has already discovered some of the limitations of that approach.

This split approach also isn’t ideal as I’d ideally like to share code between the two versions (rather than have one in Java and one in JavaScript!), so I’m open to other ideas. I’ve looked at other potential solutions like React Native, but so far haven’t found anything that does what I need.

When I get the chance I’ll try prototyping one of these approaches and see how far I get.

Webian Home

Webian Home is a web server for your home.

Webian Home Mockup

My work in Connected Devices at Mozilla has also re-kindled my interest in building a home web server. I have a broad vision for the use cases of a web server in the home (some examples below), but I hope that the work in my day job might contribute to the smart home aspect of that vision.

Smart Home

  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Security

Home Media

  • Family photos
  • Music collection
  • Home videos

Family organisation

  • Family calendar
  • Family todo list
  • Family noticeboard

Don’t expect to see much progress on either the client or server parts of Webian in the near future, I have a day job to do. But I also have no intention of stopping working on these projects any time soon 🙂