Mozilla develops social skills with F1

As Flock and RockMelt duke it out over deep social-networking hooks, browser kingpin Mozilla quietly introduces a new add-on for Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail users that provides a key "social browser" feature.

As Flock and RockMelt duked it out for social-networking addicts' attention, browser kingpin Mozilla quietly introduced last week a new add-on for Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail users. Called F1 (download) and created by Mozilla Messaging, the division of Mozilla that manages the e-mail client Thunderbird, the secure and unobtrusive add-on provides fast sharing of URLs via a dedicated navigation bar button. It mimics one of the best features found in social-networking browsers without having to deal with hassle of switching browsers, although the add-on is definitely still a bit rough.

One-button Web-sharing in Firefox

Once installed, F1 will create a button on the right side of the search box that looks like a comic book word balloon. Click it and the F1 interface appears to add accounts from Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail. Type in a message to accompany the link you're sharing and then hit Share on the right. The Gmail option will also provide To and Subject fields. In my instance of F1, it didn't support searching recipient field completion from a partial e-mail address, although the F1 demo video did show that feature working.

The add-on currently supports only one iteration of each account, too. It works on Firefox 3.6 and later, but it does not re-map the F1 hot key from Help to opening the sharing drop-down box. Mozilla stated in the blog post announcing the add-on that one of its goals with F1 was to cut down on cluttered and potentially insecure sharing buttons that have become ubiquitous on Web pages, a task that sounds Sysiphean at best, although Mozilla has taken some steps to make using F1 easier. The add-on relies on services that support OAuth, and the open-source add-on has an extensive developer's wiki. F1 developers said that Yahoo Mail was left out of the initial release because it required an extra captcha authentication on top of OAuth support.

The Firefox add-on F1 makes it much easier to share links via Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Mozilla has also released other "experimental" add-ons recently that demonstrate its take on "future Web" features and technology. One of them is called Prospector, which is what Mozilla is calling a series of search experiments. One Prospector add-on is called Speak Words and allows the browser to auto-complete words as they're typed into the location bar. It's based on your browsing history, so depending on the user typing "Gia" could get you They Might Be Giants, the San Francisco Giants, or a lot of Italian actresses. Another Prospector experiment is called Find Suggest, and as the name states, it suggests complete words to search for as you type into Firefox's search box. Click on one to add it to the search box. Both Prospector experiments are restricted to the Firefox 4 beta.

Prospector: Find Suggest is a Mozilla experiment for Firefox that adds suggested words to your in-page search queries.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

A third experimental add-on for the Firefox 4 beta is called Lab Kit, and it serves the simple task to automatically update specific Mozilla Labs add-ons without having to restart the browser. While the concept is still foreign to Firefox users, Google Chrome add-ons have been auto-updated by their publishers since extensions were added to it. So far, Lab Kit supports the two Prospector add-ons, Mozilla Contacts, and the Test Pilot add-on which anonymously collects Firefox 4 beta user data.

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