Mozilla Experimenting with Social Features for Firefox

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What if instead of surfing the web, you could surf your friends? Mozilla is developing a social addition to the popular Firefox web browser, revealed Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s User Experience Lead, on the Mozilla Labs blog yesterday that will convert Firefox into an interpersonal communications tool.

“What is surprising,” wrote Beltzner, “is how little of this type of functionality has made it into today’s web browsers. The result is that when people think of tools for social interaction, email and instant messenger are at the top of their list, not web browsers.” Mozilla in turn wants to change all that.

The project code, nicknamed “The Coop”, will let users subscribe to their friends and browse their links, photos, movies and blog posts. Each friend’s face will appear in a sidebar. To share something with them, you just drag and drop an item onto their photo.

To keep from stepping on anyone’s toes, Mozilla won’t be developing any new file or distribution formats. Instead The Coop will use already existing web infrastructures like RSS feeds, which are part of most blogging sites, and site-specific APIs, which are part of most online services like Flickr and Facebook.

The toes they will step on, however, are those of the privately developed social web browser Flock, which is built on Firefox (it’s Open Source). Flock, while it is not yet out of beta, already includes full integration with photo sharing sites Flickr and Photobucket, and a drag-and-drop social blogging tool. The Coop wiki site presents a mockup designed by open source advocate Chris Messina, originally for Flock, as an example of what The Coop could become.

Firefox had between 70 and 80 million users as of October 2006, according to VP of products Christopher Beard.

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