File Under: Browsers

Mozilla Labs’ New ‘Prospector’ Hopes to Improve Firefox’s Awesome Bar

Mozilla has announced a new Labs project, dubbed Prospector, which will help improve Firefox’s search tools. Although details are thin so far, and there’s no code to play with yet, it appears Prospector will extend the Awesome Bar, which first arrived in Firefox 3.

Rather than a single add-on or tool, the Labs blog calls Prospector “a series of experiments,” some of which will be add-ons, while others will be “deeper explorations.” The plan is to take a look at the Awesome Bar and extend its search powers to focus on “analyzing, experimenting and prototyping improvements on how you search and discover content with Firefox.”

Firefox 3.0 introduced the world to the “Awesome Bar,” which turned the previously neglected URL bar into a powerful history and bookmark search tool. In fact, the idea was so compelling that Google’s Chrome web browser launched with the very same feature. You can also launch web searches from the bar in both browsers. Internet Explorer 9, due next year, will also have a unified URL search bar.

Type a keyword in the Awesome Bar and Firefox will pull up URLs to sites you’ve visited and sites you’ve bookmarked based on their page title or URL. The Labs blog calls the current Awesome Bar “just the first step” and wants to combine history and bookmark searching with “websites you have visited, tabs you are currently viewing, and pages you haven’t visited yet.”

The first two goals sound a bit like the current version of Awesome Bar, but the later is intriguing and would seem to imply some combination of internal Firefox data and external web searching — perhaps a bit like what Google has done with the URL search bar in Chrome.

Judging by the announcement Prospector will also take advantage of Firefox’s new, lightweight Jetpack add-on framework, promising the Prospector experiments will won’t require a restart and will work with Firefox 4.

Although Prospector’s goal is to eventually enhance Firefox’s search tools, don’t look for it to make its way into Firefox for some time. While experimental Prospector add-ons are no doubt in the works, the Labs blog cautions that “Prospector is a Mozilla Labs exploration and thus not part of the Firefox roadmap.”

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