Both Mozilla and Google have confirmed to various sources that they have begun (or are planning to begin) work on Metro-style versions of their Firefox and Chrome browsers for Windows 8. Google also mentioned that it would be tweaking the desktop version of Chrome to make it more touch-friendly on the platform. Opera wouldn't confirm that a touch-enabled version of its browser was in the works, but a spokesman for the company said they they were "currently looking into" it.

Mozilla's Brian Bondy shone some light on how browsers will work in Microsoft's next operating system - while most Metro and desktop apps will be developed and delivered independently of each other, Metro-enabled browsers will apparently be able to piggyback on the installer for the desktop version. They will also be less restricted by the sandbox imposed on most Metro-style apps, though Bondy wasn't sure whether this would affect their ability to be distributed through the Windows Store. Neither Bondy nor the Microsoft whitepaper on Metro-style browser development say whether Metro browsers will be able to use plug-ins like Flash, but given that IE can't while in Metro mode, it doesn't seem likely.

As we noted in our Windows 8 preview, the new operating system comes with both a Metro and a desktop version of Internet Explorer that use the same rendering engine but different interfaces, one optimized for touch and the other for mouse-and-keyboard. We also noted that the desktop and Metro could use different default browsers, and that the Metro version of IE was only accessible if it was set as the default browser - this limitation also apparently affects third-party browsers.

Metro has sometimes elicited negative reactions from longtime Windows users, but Mozilla and Google's early commitment to using the new interface may indicate at least some level of support among third-party developers.

Source: Brian Bondy (Firefox), Mashable (Chrome), Ars Technica (Opera)

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  • LauRoman - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Are the Metro browsers going to just hook into the metro interface and become the background of the browser while having metro as the ui. This would be in essence the exact opposite what Opera did on iOS where Opera mini was only the skin for a custom Safari browser. Careful, Oera Mini is not the same as Opera Mobile.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Metro will provide the UI, but AFAIK it'll be authentic Firefox and Chrome running under the hood. Mozilla makes it sound like the two will even be bundled in the same installer.
  • andrelozer - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Opera Mini is NOT a custom Safari browser. Opera Mini is way older than iOS and has nothing to do with Apple, it was first released on Jave ME platform and them ported to Windows Mobile, iOS and Android, and it is NOT meant to be a fully featured browser, it is focused on reducing data and hardware resouces usage.
  • LauRoman - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    Yes opera mini on Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile etc is a stand alone browser, what i meant is that on iOS ONLY it's just a skin and a few tweaked settings for a custom Safari browser. Look it up.
  • Leonick - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    Pretty sure that isn't true.
    Opera Mini for iOS still have everything passing trough Operas server as that's where they have all the image shrinking and data compression is done. In other words, it's Opera Mini with all the entails, including crappy rendering compared to all other modern mobile browsers.
  • wolrah - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    Incorrect. Opera Mobile is a standalone browser on any platforms it's available on.

    Opera Mini is a client for Opera's remote browser solution, designed to allow low-power J2ME devices to have access to features of a full browser that they could not run locally.

    It still exists on modern smartphones mainly to conserve data and/or battery life (I assume the reduced load of the Mini display engine would help compared to a full browser) and because its the only way to get an alternative browser on iOS.

    Pretty much every other alternative browser on iOS is exactly what you say because Apple will not allow local native alternative browsers, this just works around the problem by not actually being a web browser itself.
  • Herp Derpson - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I just hope they will make separate versions, not force everything into one installation (Bloatware galore). But who am I kidding, they don't care.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    In theory, if they're using the same rendering engine, the addition of Metro code shouldn't add THAT much extra relative to the current size of the installers (which aren't very large by today's standards anyway).
  • Herp Derpson - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    It's not about size, it's about being obsessive-compulsive :D
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    Ah, I see. :-)

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