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Mozilla’s VR web browser, Firefox Reality, has been shut down down in May 2019. Mozilla, the nonprofit behind Firefox and other popular products such as Thunderbird email client and Pocket app, launched Firefox Reality in 2017 to bring Internet browsing to virtual reality devices. Unfortunately, just two years later, Mozilla decided to shut it down. But what happened? Will we ever see another VR browser?
Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a headset. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, and smell.
You launch Firefox Reality and select a web page to visit. The browser then renders that page as if it were on a 2D monitor. You can use your gaze to interact with objects on that page, and can interact with your hands using a Daydream controller or other input device. This makes it easier to do things like click links in articles. When you’re ready to leave virtual reality, you can either open up another website in full screen (which removes VR support), or go back into virtual reality by returning to Firefox Reality.
Security and privacy features are standard in all modern browsers. Most, like Mozilla, keep track of your browsing habits for marketing purposes, but they don’t force you to share that information with other people. You can even set up a private window within many popular browsers that prevents any data from being saved.
Unknown Privacy Threats of Using VR Browser
In part, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Consumers aren’t interested in VR because there isn’t enough good content and developers aren’t interested in creating that content because there aren’t enough users. Mozilla has tried to remedy that by developing a browser for virtual reality, which they just announced they will no longer be developing.
If you’re looking for an answer to why Mozilla shut down it’s a virtual reality browser, you’re going to need a little background. Mozilla first introduced its vision for a web-based mixed reality in 2016. At that time, Facebook had just purchased Oculus and showed off its mixed reality headset with support from partners Samsung and HTC. From what we know now, most of those partnerships have fallen by the wayside.
Mozilla’s introduction on their virtual reality browser – Firefox Reality
It seems like a niche product. Not to mention it’s only available on Daydream and GearVR, meaning that Mozilla has limited its customer base to two platforms. With Apple and Google pushing their own browsers while also adding support for WebXR APIs, it might have been too soon for Mozilla to release Firefox Reality. Plus there isn’t any word of when (or if) it will get an AR upgrade in order to be compatible with ARCore or ARKit apps!
While Mozilla’s marketing team saw some success with virtual reality and augmented reality campaigns, Mozilla Vice President of Mixed Reality Danny Stieben claims that VR has not lived up to expectations in recent years. Though few would disagree that 2018 was a rough year for consumer interest in AR and VR, most industry experts also point out that there are still many positive factors influencing consumer confidence.
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