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New Firefox Vision Aims To Find Content in New Ways
New Firefox Vision Aims To Find Content in New Ways

By Mark Long
June 27, 2011 11:50AM

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Personalized content delivered without relying on search engines or mobile-app stores is the goal of a new Firefox vision statement. Firefox Vice President Jay Sullivan wants to reclaim the browser's content-discovery role and let users avoid irrelevant content. And Sullivan wants developers to build "experiences that are cross-platform."

The Mozilla Foundation has released a new vision statement for its Firefox browser. The goal is to inspire developers to construct a browser environment for users to interact with web sites, apps and people in a personalized and secure way without relying on search engines and mobile-app stores.

Over the past several quarters, the Firefox community has revamped its development and release model to increase the pace of innovation, noted Firefox Vice President Jay Sullivan. "Now that we have a solid base to work from, and greatly improved agility, it's a good time to look at the quickly evolving landscape and chart our path forward," he wrote in a developer e-mail.

Sullivan's release of the new Firefox vision statement Monday is meant to inspire developers to fundamentally rethink the role of the browser in discovering web sites, apps and people. "To enable this, we will look for the opportunities made possible by being alongside each person who travels the web to understand more about intent and personal preferences," Sullivan wrote.

Bypassing Search-Engine Discovery

Search giants and social-networking sites have largely taken over the content-discovery role for which users previously looked to their browsers, Sullivan noted. So the next step for Firefox is to build in intelligence to automatically discover and present personalized content.

This would let Firefox users avoid the barrage of advertising and irrelevant content served up by today's search giants and social networks. To make this happen, however, developers need to build browser designs that can intelligently analyze information about a user's web-surfing history and contacts with trusted users while ensuring privacy and security.

"I think Mozilla is in a position to shake things up a bit," said Al Hilwa, director of applications development software at IDC. "With the competition from Google coming on strong, and upstarts like RockMelt experimenting with different formulas, I think it is the right thing for Mozilla to do this."

A Shot Across the Bow for Apps Stores

Personalized content discovery is only the beginning, Sullivan wrote. Firefox's focus will be on delivering not only client software, but also a web-based service able to address the growing number of device form factors and OS interface conventions.

"Web developers need to easily build experiences that are cross-platform -- they should work in major modern browsers, including smartphones and tablets," Sullivan wrote. So he is asking developers for ideas on how to "simplify the ways in which we organize and track the web pages and apps we use -- history, bookmarks, tabs, windows, tab groups, etc."

Mozilla also intends to enable Firefox to directly serve as the ecosystem for mobile-app developers to connect with their customers without sharing revenues with app stores that decide which apps are worthy. Future Firefox releases also may give users the ability to directly share their content discoveries, insights and inspirations with others.

"The browser is a natural place to be able to follow and share," Sullivan wrote. "Firefox can play a key role in how we connect with each other."

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