Chromebooks have become popular alternatives to Windows and Mac laptops in recent years due to their simplicity, security, and ease-of-use, among other things. The fact that many entry-level models are super cheap probably doesn’t hurt.

But Google doesn’t necessarily hold a monopoly on the idea of building an operating system that puts the web browser front and center. Mozilla’s Firefox OS may have been a short-lived experiment, but developer Rudra Saraswat plans to create a new web-based operating system that puts Firefox front and center.

Right now just about all we know about the project is the name: Ubuntu Web.

Saraswat has a bit of experience creating Ubuntu-based operating systems. He’s the creator and lead developer of Ubuntu Unity Remix and Ubuntu Education, as well as the Krob Linux project that’s optimized for Raspberry Pi computers.

The idea of building a Firefox-based alternative to Chrome OS isn’t all that far-fetched. After all, Google’s operating system is basically what you get when you take a Linux kernel, add the Chrome web browser, and then build out a user interface and additional tools and features from there.

When Chrome OS first launched, it was basically nothing but a web browser with a few tweaks to add support for things like file management and local media playback. At the time if you wanted to install third-party apps, you were limited to running Chrome Web apps or extensions.

Over the years Google added support for running Android or Linux applications.

So while we don’t really know what Ubuntu Web will look like, it’s easy to imagine an operating system with a Linux kernel, a basic Ubuntu file system, and a Firefox web browser. It’s unclear if Saraswat plans to lock down the operating system in any way to prevent users from installing third-party applications for the sake of security, or if they’ll be containerized in some way.

Then again, if you really want a locked-down, reasonably secure, and quick-booting operating system that runs almost as well on low-end hardware as it does on premium computers, you could just buy a Chromebook (or a laptop that ships with Windows 10 S).

Update: Saraswat has clarified that the plan is to “make a minimal ISO based on Ubuntu with focus on webapps and Firefox, and to provide simple tools to make it easy to create/package/install web apps.” 

So it sounds like the plan is to offer a stripped-down, but fully functional Ubuntu-based operating system that puts Firefox front and center. Users who want to install native Ubuntu applications or make other changes will probably be able to do that, but if that’s what you want to do, then this probably wouldn’t be the best operating system for you in the first place. 

via FOSSBytes and @alera_on

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9 replies on “Ubuntu Web is an upcoming Firefox-based web OS to rival Chrome OS”

  1. This is an interesting idea, but how locked down will it be? Will it be possible to install other graphical interfaces? I really hate Gnome 3 and the Activities overlay. The Activities overlay hides the desktop and reminds me of the infamous UAC screen that made Windows Vista so unpopular. I think the XFCE desktop environment (without the Activities overlay) using the xubuntu-desktop package would be a better choice. A more traditional desktop environment (without the Activities overlay) would probably make Ubuntu Web more popular with Chrome OS and Windows users.

    Also, both Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch had very limited App stores. Ubuntu Web will need some mainstream apps to be successful. How about Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Youtube, Netflix, Skype and some popular games for starters? Also, Ubuntu’s open source nature does not include multimedia playback, so I’d need to install VLC as well.

    1. All those services have websites, even skype. Except maybe the popular games, unless you use one of the many game streaming services.
      It would make sense to just use those, if the OS is truly meant to be nothing but a bootloader for a browser. This probably isn’t meant for phones, which might actually need a client app to minimize bandwidth use and load times.
      As for the GUI, maybe it won’t even have one. They could make everything out of browser windows and web pages. EVERYTHING.
      But trying to use a computer by using just the browser is pathetic.
      Even if that’s the way things are going, it’s still just pathetic.

      1. The Activities overlay is why I stopped using Ubuntu and switched to Linux Mint.

  2. Canonical continues to make such odd choices in regards to launching new products. I’m a little uncertain who this OS will appeal to. People that are knowledgable enough with computers to install a linux distro, but want very limited functionality?

    Back in the days of Windows Vista and maybe Windows 7 it was very common for people to install Ubuntu on their grandparents computer, but now in the age of iPads and Chromebooks those days are over.

    This won’t appeal to laptop makers. Chrome OS is already free, and has very low costs to implement. Not to mention that Google handles the support side of the OS for the manufacturer.

    1. @Grant Russell said: “Chrome OS is already free…”

      Wrong. Being spied on and tracked wherever you go is not “free”.

      1. Yep, as usual this WP Jetpack comment system put my reply comment in the WRONG place. Not my fault. That’s why every time I have to deal with a Jetpack comment system reply I always include a @username said: … up front. So now you know who and what I’m replying to – David

Comments are closed.