On Mozilla and The Evolution of the Browser

May 11, 2007 at 10:10 am | Posted in Browsers | Leave a comment

I just saw a great blog posting “On Mozilla and The Evolution of the Browser” that talks about microformats and the future of browsers.  Microformats are ways to add simple, machine readable tags to otherwise human-readable web content (my definition-forgive me if I missed a formal one somewhere).  hCal is a simple example: “Friday, June 11th at the Hackney Pavillion, 7pm” could be tagged so it could be clicked via some type of UI and added to your calendar. 

I like microformats, but rather than seeing Mozilla thinking about which ones they should build into the browser I’d prefer they keep the browser lean and extensible and create a plug-in API so that anyone who feels like creating a microformat interpreter can do so.  The UI of the browser would accomodate whatever microformat plug-ins are installed.  I think they are considering a more open approach and the technologies they picked were just samples of what could be inserted into the browser – at least I hope!

I can actually think of quite a few more actions that could be taken on web pages.  I wouldn’t force the user to understand which are due to microformats and which are possible without them.  They are all just actions (like other than historical or techie reasons, why would subscribing to RSS be accomplished through its orange icon, adding a calendar entry under a submenu from a green plus, and personal bookmarking be from the bookmark menu, and editing from the tools menu?).  And I disagree with Alex Faaborg’s statement that the content area shouldn’t be altered.  The UI I envision for microformats would be a combination of page-wide and contextual microformats that could be applied:

Page-wide actions

Place in toolbars across top or side rather than forcing user to click on a “+” symbol in the middle of the toolbar.

  • Tag (del.icio.us)
  • Rate (Digg, StumbleUpon, reddit)
  • Blog
  • Discuss (Wirefan)
  • Subscribe (RSS, Atom)
  • Edit
  • Bookmark (Yahoo My Web, del.icio.us, enterprise equiavelents from IBM, Microsoft, BEA, etc.)
  • Store (to workspace, offline)

Contextual actions

There’s a familiar UI for contextual capabilities which is to support right-clicking to take action on items and have the option of a contextual toolbar the provides pushbutton access to choices on the highlighted or cursored information.  Given the number of microformats that could be embedded in a page there will probably need to be a “show all codes” equivalent where you can see all microformatted areas while holding down ctrl or something like that.

  • Map
  • Save contact
  • Contact (call, IM, email as appropriate)
  • Add to calendar
  • Search (Sphere, Google, Wikipedia)
  • Virtual teleport (Slurl)
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