Launch days are great, great days. Official announcement here.
Skimming back through my Twitter stream, it turns out that yesterday was a pretty great day in the ol’ salt mine. Sometimes when you’re right in the thick of it, it’s hard to really notice all the awesome that’s going on around here, so here’s a quick roundup of some of it.
We launched a demo site that includes this fully interactive HTML5 poster (grab a copy of the latest Firefox 4 beta to get the full effect). I’m biased, obviously, but this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the Web in a hell of a long time…
We announced the availability of the first developer integration release of our Open Web Apps project (along with a neat video that explains what the heck we’re actually talking about when talk about “web apps”). ReadWriteWeb says that we make “a better case for web apps in minutes than Google did in months,” so if you’re still not sure what Web Apps are all about, you chould check out the post over on the Labs blog.
The best part? We’re just getting warmed up. 2011 is going to be a ridiculously amazing year.
Robcee and I spent a bunch of time thinking and talking about alternative browser designs back in 2006/2007. He recently posted his idea from back then, so I figured I’d dig through the archive and post mine. I call it Zenji.
Note: Where it says “[EMPTY PAGE]” that’s where the actual Web content or Dashboard would be. So that’s just a lie.
Zenji was an attempt to re-envision the browser as something smaller and simpler. Some of the ideas have actually shown up in modern browsers, which is gratifying. Other ideas are just terrible (no back button? whuck?). Were I to sit down now and put together ideas for Zenji 2, I would do a lot of things differently.
That in mind, here’s a quick overview of Zenji. The long version is a 13 page PDF which you can download.
The primary goal of Zenji was to be “as simple as possible, but no simpler.” It encompassed a pared down feature set that would let most users use the vast majority of the Web without being overwhelmed.
While Zenji was to be as simple as possible, it also had to be able to grow with the user. Novice users become expert users over time, and what they need in a browser evolves as well.
Features and UI
What Zenji doesn’t have:
- Traditional tabs
- A URL bar
- Any form of bookmark organization
- Back/forward buttons (2010 editorial comment: yeah, what?)
- A “home page”
- Context menus
- Most preferences or customization options
- Traditional “addons”
What Zenji does have:
Search: Search is the primary focus of Zenji, with the main search bar stretching across the entire top of the window.
Toolbar: The Zenji toolbar does not appear at the top of the window, but rather on the side. Default toolbar buttons are: Dashboard, Stars, Timeline, Subscriptions, Zoom, Widget bar. Additional buttons include: Downloads and Archives.
Dashboard: The dashboard was envisioned as a new breed of “start page” that is local on the users’ machine, but that pulls information both from the browser and the web. It could include things such as: recently starred pages, most frequently visited pages, latest subscription updates, Zenji tips & tricks, help/support info, new widget promotion, user polls & feedback requests, etc.
Stars: Stars are Zenji’s simplified bookmarks. Clicking the “Star” button opens/closes the Stars sidebar, which includes the user’s starred pages sortable by recency and/or frequency. Includes a search box.
Timeline: Timeline is a hybrid of history & tabs that can be viewed as a list (with favicons) or thumbnails.
Subscriptions: Subscriptions are essentially fully integrated feeds. If you subscribe to a page, Zenji shows you the most recent updates to your subscriptions in this sidebar.
Zoom: Apparently I thought zoom was important enough to have on the main toolbar. This would probably be different now :)
Downloads: Sidebar of stuff the user has downloaded through Zenji, all neatly organized. Everything goes into a single directory, which can be sorted in Zenji in various ways.
Archives: Archived pages (basically saved web pages) are stored in a single Zenji archives directory.
Widget bar: This is where the user can add things to Zenji’s UI and functionality. Widgets were envisioned as a new breed of add-on, being small, very task-specfic, and allowed to change nothing about Zenji’s UI beyond, at most, displaying a panel when clicked. Examples would include: Gmail bookmark/icon with new message count overlay, Facebook w/ overlay, Current weather + temp, Flickr RSS stream and uploader, Personas, etc. Widgets would be a simple drag/drop to install and uninstall.
Page actions: Star, Subscribe, Archive.
And et cetera. There’s more detail (and more craziness) in the PDF. Turns out thinking about browser design is a lot of fun :)
Check out the Mozilla Labs Chromeless browser experiment if you haven’t — the team is working on making zany experiments like this as fast and easy as possible, which I think could lead to an amazing period of exploration and innovation.
Thinking about the Open Web
I’ve been thinking about how to talk to people about what the Open Web is, why it’s so important, and why they should care.
The Open Web as a global public resource
It struck me that the Open Web is analogous to some other fundamentally vital things in our society:
- public libraries
- public schools
- public parks
- public broadcasting
- public roads
- public art
- public museums
- public galleries
Many of these things are deemed so vital a part of our everyday lives and societal infrastructure that we support them through our tax dollars. Others are supported by concerned citizens who believe so deeply in their importance that they donate not only their hard-earned money, but also their time, skills, and creativity.
The Web is an increasingly important part of our lives, and it is absolutely essential that it remain free and open and accessible to all. If it doesn’t — if the Web becomes closed, restricted, controlled, and inaccessible to anyone who is disadvantaged or marginalized in some way — our whole, global society will suffer as a result. The Web cannot become something that further delineates the haves from the have-nots. It is already far too important for that, and it is still only in its infancy.
Mozilla exists to support the Open Web
Mozilla is an organization devoted to ensuring that the Web continue to develop as and remain a global public resource — akin to libraries, schools, parks, and roads — and everything we do, every resource at our disposal, is focused towards this end. This is the absolute core of our mission as outlined in the Mozilla Manifesto, and it is the heart of everything we strive towards.
Why Mozilla makes a browser
Making a browser is one of the most important things Mozilla currently does — not as an end unto itself, but rather in support of our larger mission and goals.
The browser is by far the most important tool we use to create and consume the Web. Without an open browser there is no Open Web. This is why we build Firefox, and why we’re pushing hard to get Firefox on to as many devices and desktops as we can. The Open Web is an increasingly crucial part of our lives and our society, and Firefox is one way we’re working to ensure that the Web remain open and available for everyone.
What do you think?
Is this a useful way to think about and talk about the Open Web to people who might not quite get what we’re so excited about? Not everyone is going to grok the analogy in the same way — and this certainly isn’t the only way to talk about it — but I think that most people understand that public works are a good thing, and that ensuring open and equitable access to fundamental resources and infrastructure — which now includes the Open Web — is an essential part of a just and civilised society.
Just jumping on the adblocking yea/nay blogging train: I don’t block ads. I could but I don’t bother. Most of the time they don’t bother me unless I’m trying to read a long article, at which point I use Readability, which is infinitely better than an adblocker for that situation.
Note: Readability runs fine on Minefield if you use Nightly Tester Tools to force-install. There’s also a bookmarklet version if you don’t want to install an add-on.
Readability is a Firefox add-on that improves the experience of reading long articles in your browser by getting all the extraneous cruft out of the way. I use it every single day and love it to bits.
Here, for example, is a screenshot of what a typical Harvard Business Review article looks like in Firefox (Persona: Save the Bees Plz by monorail cat):
With the Readability add-on installed, all I have to do is hit a quick keyboard shortcut (alt-cmd-R) and the page will reload and be reformatted by Readability. It looks like this:
It’s just so, so much better. arc90, you have made a great thing. Thanks :)
Like reading? Want to support a good cause? Welcome to the Project Gutenberg Project*!
If you’ve never heard of it, Project Gutenberg (Wikipedia page) is an almost entirely volunteer-driven effort to digitize, archive, and distribute “cultural works” (mostly books). It was established in 1971 and now includes over 30,000 free ebooks that you can read on a wide variety of devices including computers, cellphones, various mobile devices, and ebook readers.
Project Gutenberg contains some amazing, unparalleled works of literature and it is an incredibly valuable resource that just doesn’t seem to get the credit (and support) it deserves. This challenge has two purposes:
1) To inspire people to read some of these wonderful old classics, and
2) To support Project Gutenberg.
Here’s the challenge
1) Set a goal: Pick a number of Project Gutenberg books you think you could read over the next year. This can be anything from a conservative 2 or 3, a more ambitious one per month, or a hardcore no-holds-barred one per week. The number is entirely up to you. Post a quick comment here if you would like to make your goal public!
2) Make a donation: Donate a few dollars to Project Gutenberg. I’m going to donate $2 for each book in my goal, but that’s just a suggestion. Just try to send ‘em a couple of bucks if you can.
3) Find some books and start reading. Each time you finish a book, blog a quick review of it, fire off a tweet about it, or post to Facebook about it. Encourage other folks to play along, donate a few dollars, and read some of these amazing pieces of literature. Project Gutenberg is a great and under-appreciated project that is doing some fantastic work, so let’s show ‘em some love.
Not sure where to start?
Here’s a quick baker’s dozen of some of the fantastic books available through Project Gutenberg:
- Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
- Walden, Henry David Thoreau
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin
- Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
- Dracula, Bram Stoker
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Jacob and Whilhelm Grimm
- Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
- Harvard Classics bookshelf (for a real challenge)
Here are some stickers you can put on your weblog if you decide to participate. Link the sticker to this blog post, and we’ll see how many people we can get reading some old classics and supporting Project Gutenberg.
* Disclaimers: I’m doing this just for fun. I am in no way associated with Project Gutenberg, and they have no idea I’m doing this. Having read their legalese I think I’m ok calling this the “Project Gutenberg Project”, but I didn’t ask for their permission (so the name may change!) If you decide to donate, please go to the Project Gutenberg site, and follow their directions.
Very cool original stamp graphic is from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.
Gerv posted about his Wikipedia addiction, so I figured I’d follow suit, only slightly differently. I don’t read nearly as many Wikipedia pages per day as he does, and rather than pick a dozen random pages I figured I’d just give a list of 50 or so interesting ones I’ve looked at recently. For really no particular reason other than I’m sort of bored and looking at Wikipedia is fun.
- Time (magazine)
- CF-105 Arrow
- Yellowstone Caldera
- The Ant and the Grasshopper
- Five elements (Japanese philosophy)
- Fibonacci number
- Fiddlehead fern
- George Eliot
- Swamp Thing
- Black Stone
- Chartreuse (color)
- Charles Rennie Mackintosh
- Aircraft flight control systems
- Hadrian’s Wall
- Katherin Hepburn
- Abraham Lincoln
- Letterpress printing
- Shuswap language
- Sagrada Familia
- House Hippo
- The Education of Little Tree
- Clifton Cathedral
- Oregon Death with Dignity Act
- Ashanti mythology
- Gecko (layout engine)
- Japanese map symbols
- Persian Empire
- Eurotas River
- Schrodinger’s cat
- ARM architecture
- The Wire
- Kubler-Ross model
- Chac Mool
- Standing Stones of Stenness
- Chimay Brewery
- Brownie (camera)
- Gallia Narbonensis
- River Phoenix
- Pelagic zone
- Horse archer
- Roger Tory Peterson
There’s a great article at the Atlantic that’s worth reading: Is Google making us stupid?. I don’t think it is, but I do think it’s changing things, and probably in ways we haven’t begun to realize yet. It’s an interesting observation, and definitely something to think about.
I read a lot of web feeds. Hundreds of feeds bring me thousands of stories on all manner of topics every day — Mozilla stuff, food and cooking, photography, gaming, news, technology, literature, writing, politics, business, innovation, design, etc. Feeds are how I get almost all of my news, whether it be local, national, or international. It’s how I view my friends’ blogs and my Flickr contacts’ photo streams. Feeds keep me up to date on most forums and newsgroups I follow, and they’re the first place I turn when I want to waste some time catching up on my entertainment news or to see what’s up at the renovation/interior design blogs I read. Feeds are, by and large, how I access the vast majority of the Web content I consume.
Until a few days ago I have been using the Vienna feed reader for Mac OS X. It’s a pretty decent workhorse of a reader with a standard email-client-like user interface, the ability to group feeds into folders and subfolders (and sub-subfolders), and all that. It has always frustrated me, however, that my feedreader — through which I consume the majority of my Web content — wasn’t part of Firefox. In fact, I could go so far as to say that Vienna was on close to equal footing to Firefox as my core tool for accessing the Web. This has always struck me as somewhat ridiculous, so I’ve played with all sorts of tools for reading feeds via Firefox, whether they be add-ons or web-applications or what have you. None have ever been compelling enough to switch me away from Vienna until now.
I’ve discovered Feedly, you see, an incredibly slick Firefox 3 add-on that’s been in development for quite some time.
While I’ve only been using Feedly for just over a week now, it has already completely streamlined how I manage, view, and deal with my feeds. Brilliantly, Feedly leverages the existing Google Reader web application as its back end, and throws in added functionality, other service integration points, and a significantly improved UI for good measure. It installs as quickly and easily as any Firefox add-on, displays your feeds in their own tab, and essentially integrates your entire feed reading experience right into your Firefox. Feedly is almost exactly the sort of tool I was hoping to find, and while it does still have a few bugs and rough edges, it’s by far the best feed reader I’ve used to date.
Check it out: Feedly at Mozilla Add-ons.