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Mozilla Looks to Grass Roots for Next Wave of Browser Innovation

By Walaika Haskins LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Aug 6, 2008 1:42 PM PT

Mozilla has announced its new Mozilla Labs Concept Series and issued a call for participation from anyone interested in submitting a concept, idea or mock-up.

Mozilla Looks to Grass Roots for Next Wave of Browser Innovation

The new initiative, Mozilla said, is intended to makes it easy for anyone interested to contribute to the development of the online experience -- no programming experience necessary. However, the software maker said it is particularly interested in connecting with thinkers from outside of the open source field.

"We're hoping to lower the barrier to participation by providing a forum for surfacing, sharing and collaborating on new ideas and concepts. Our goal is to bring even more people to the table and provoke thought, facilitate discussion and inspire future design directions for Firefox, the Mozilla project and the Web as a whole," explained Chris Beard, vice president and general manager of Mozilla Labs.

From Concept

Making the Concept Series debut are the Aurora browser, a bookmarking and history interactive visualizer, and a mobile version of the Firefox browser.

Aurora, created with the help of Adaptive Path, allows users to manipulate objects in the browser with the hand cursor the same way they would in the real world. They can grab, lift, push, pull and drop anything. Aurora's browser interface is completely hidden unless and until a user invokes it using a radial menu or with the frame.

Other features include multi-user applications such as instant messaging and voice chat, which enable users to collaborate, share and remix content on the Web, according to Adaptive Path. It also will feature products that enhance contextual awareness so that users know where they are and what they're doing both in the physical and virtual worlds.

In developing the mobile Firefox browser, Fennec, the focus will be on the user experience. When typing is tough and screens are small, interaction and presentation count, said Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla.

The software is being designed for a touch screen with multi-touch functionality to enable direct manipulation of interfaces. However, it will be operable with just a single digit. The two companies are also making targets on the phone larger to accommodate fat fingers.

The bookmark and history visualization tool includes drop-down menus with visual representations of Web pages within bookmark folders, on-the-fly searches, and drag-and-drop saving of bookmarked pages.

"As with most Mozilla projects, we're developing the concept in the open and hope to see the idea and process evolve with the wider participation of the global community of collaborators. If the early response is indication, we'll certainly have more to share over the coming weeks and months," Beard told LinuxInsider.

The Big Idea

To become involved in the project, users will need to categorize their input as Ideas, Mockups or Prototypes.

It all begins with an idea, said Beard. Mozilla is requesting participants to submit their ideas, whether it's "a sentence, paragraph, or even bullet-points [to] kick-start the process. Ideas can be simple and non-technical. It should be easy for anyone and everyone to help shape the future of the Web. So throw your notions, inspirations, dreams and visions out to the community."

Users able turn their idea, or even someone else's, into an image, sketch or video should submit mockups.

Finally, a prototype is interactive, according to Beard. Users should feel, touch and play with developing concepts. Prototypes get ideas across by showing off the moving parts.

Mozilla also requests that concepts and related source materials be freely redistributable and remixable under either a Creative Commons license or the Mozilla Public License.

Putting the Future in Users' Hands

With this initiative, Mozilla is presumably trying to leverage the community's input regarding the future direction and development of its products, said Stephen O'Grady, a Redmonk analyst,

What Mozilla is doing could help the company introduce many useful and constructive ideas, much as Dell's IdeaStorm has led to greater innovation for the computer maker, he said.

"Many software entities successfully leverage community input through open source and other related channels," he told LinuxInsider.

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