Mozilla has announced that it’s spinning out WebThings, its open source internet of things (IoT) platform, as an independent project. The move comes shortly after the Firefox browser maker announced a major restructuring of its corporate division, leading to 250 layoffs — a quarter of its workforce — alongside plans to “tighten and refocus” its product lineup.
For the past few years, Mozilla has been working on a decentralized open IoT framework based on the W3C’s “web of things” (WoT) standards, one that enables software and services to communicate with each other across devices. It got going in 2018 with the launch of Project Things, allowing developers and tinkerers with a Raspberry Pi to build their own IoT Gateway to control connected devices from the web. And then last year, that project graduated from an experimental plaything into a full-fledged project branded as Mozilla WebThings.
Ultimately, it was designed to ensure that devices adhere to common standards around privacy, security, and — crucially — interoperability. Each “thing,” such as a connected thermometer or camera, is allocated a URL on the web to make them “linkable and discoverable,” as Mozilla put it.
While WebThings had made some progress toward real-world implementation in routers, it never really made it anywhere near commercial deployment. In fact, back in February Mozilla announced that it had abandoned plans to bring Mozilla-branded consumer WebThings products to market, revealing there was “…no longer an active roadmap for WebThings Gateway and no plans for end-user feature development.”
So this latest announcement, set against the backdrop of broader restructurings at Mozilla, perhaps comes as little surprise. Moving forward, Mozilla WebThings will simply be known as “WebThings,” with control lying squarely with the WebThings community. It’s not entirely clear when this transition will be complete, but users are able to register for updates here.
There are other open IoT standards initiatives currently in motion too such as Connected Home Over IP, a working group comprising dozens of major technology companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. While it’s not exactly the same as WebThings, there are similarities in their goals in terms of ensuring that software and devices play ball across the smart home ecosystem, making it easier for service developers to a common standard.
Cross-platform open standards that any company or developer can use — with no licensing fees — may be just the thing to crank smart home innovation up a few gears.
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