According to PC Pro, Mozilla has launched a design challenge to find the next logical evolution for the browser. Tabs have been around since 2000, but now that the browser has become the de facto operating system, it’s become obvious the next evolution in their functionality must happen.
“Tabs worked well on slow machines on a thin internet, where ten browser sessions were ‘many browser sessions’,” Mozilla claims on its Design Challenge website.
“Today, 20+ parallel sessions are quite common; the browser is more of an operating system than a data display application; we use it to manage the web as a shared hard drive.
“However, if you have more than seven or eight tabs open they become pretty much useless. And tabs don’t work well if you use them with heterogeneous information. They’re a good solution to keep the screen tidy for the moment.”
The question of the design challenge is what is the best way to navigate 20+ webpages from one browser. Aza Raskin, the head of user experience at Mozilla Labs, has suggested moving tabs to the side of the browser, with tabs grouped by type — applications, work spaces, etc.
The logical extension of that suggestion would be Oliver Reichenstein’s design of Firefox as an iTunes-like interface.
To be clear: It’s not what Safari or Chrome do. The idea is not to show screen shots but to turn the browser into a media system organizer more than a media display application. Instead of structuring a browser to keep the screen tidy for the moment, we thought that it’d be awesome to structure the browser as a (multi media) file system. Like iTunes. With predefined folders. Like OSX. So whenever you open a new tab you see what you last saw in your iTunes, uhm, Firefox library.
Hopefully, Mozilla and Firefox make some radical and much needed changes for Firefox 3.2 or 4.0 or whatever the next version will be. Regardless, the functionality of the browser hasn’t really changed much since Netscape practically invented it back in the early 90s and yet the web itself has gone through about three evolutions since then. Shouldn’t our interface with that world evolve in the same manner?