Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Firefox Ubiquity Experiment a Runaway Success- May end up in Awesomebar!

Mozilla has deemed its Ubiquity plug-in a runaway success. The Firefox add-on, which allows you to create mashups and manipulate data on the fly, has over two-hundred thousand active users and has been downloaded by millions of users. Now, says Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla Labs, it's time to move beyond the early adopters and bring Ubiquity to the mainstream Firefox user.

Ubiquity is designed to offer an easy way to manipulate web services by typing simple, plain language commands into your browser. The best way to understand Ubiquity is by example: imagine you're looking for an apartment on Craigslist; you have the Craigslist page open in your browser and the Ubiquity plug-in installed. Press the hot key (option-space by default) and just type "map these." Then, as if by magic, Ubiquity will show you all the apartment listings plotted on a Google Map.

It's an incredibly handy tool and offers far more than just map mashups — dictionary lookups, Twitter searches, weather forecasts, the possibilities are literally unlimited and there's already a huge selection of user-contributed Ubiquity tools to chose from.

The problem is that Firefox plug-ins are popular only with a small subset of users and Mozilla would like to offer the features described above to everybody. That's where the Awesomebar comes in.

Although still in the planning stage, Raskin has proposed a number of possible designs, nearly all of which focus on rolling Ubiquity's functionality into the so-called "Awesomebar."

The Awesomebar, which is what Mozilla calls the enhanced URL bar in Firefox 3.0, already acts as a history and bookmarks search tool, so why not add in the functionality of Ubiquity? It just means more awesomeness, and, more importantly, would give all Firefox users access to maps mashups, integrated Flickr searches, automatic dictionary lookups and the hundreds of other handy functions Ubiquity can perform.

Also keep in mind that the Awesomebar is adaptive, learning which pages you select and moving them closer to the top of the results the next time you search. Giving Ubiquity those adaptive learning tools would mean that if you select an address Ubiquity could guess that you want to map it, or if you select a URL that you want to send it to Delicious and so on.

The Awesomebar interface also works well with Raskin's number one goal for Ubiquity — "don't force new work flows." In other words, most of us already use the Awesomebar to find webpages we want to revisit, so it makes sense to extend it with even more functionality — like the ability to create map mashups, use alternative search engines, post to Twitter, bookmark sites on Delicious or any Ubiquity's myriad of functions.

Although not everyone is a fan of the Awesomebar, extending it to support Ubiquity commands feels like a natural progression.

Raskin and company seem committed to bringing Ubiquity to the Awesomebar, but no final decisions have been made. Raskin's blog post showcases a number of design possibilities, but given that Ubiquity's plug-in interface is continually evolving and improving, it might be some time before an Awesomebar version reaches the prime-time stage.

As Raskin says, "this is just the first round of brainstorming… we're really interested in seeing more mockups, and having more people participate in the brainstorming process."

To that end, Mozilla would like to see how you might envision Ubiquity fitting into Firefox. If you'd like to create your own mockup of how Ubiquity could look in Firefox, post links to the results in the comments of Raskin's post or upload your designs to Flickr using the tag "mozconcept."