Simplify Firefox: Experimental Add-on Hides the URL Bar
Mozilla Labs has released a new experimental Firefox add-on, dubbed LessChrome HD, which hides the URL bar to give webpages a bit more room. The idea is to only show the Firefox user interface when needed, the rest of the time the screen real estate is given over to the actual webpage.
The LessChrome HD experiment is available through the Mozilla Add-ons site and you can even try it out without restarting Firefox. LessChrome HD works in Firefox 4 and above.
LessChrome HD doesn’t dispense with the URL bar, it’s just hidden. Moving your mouse anywhere into the window chrome will reveal it, as will the old cmd-L keyboard shortcut or cmd-T to create a new tab. Mozilla refers to this as an “on-demand interface.” In other words, it’s there when you need to navigate and disappears when you’re just reading something on the page.
LessChrome HD is somewhat similar to the new hidden nav bar option in Chrome 13 and seems to hint at a new UI design direction for browsers: hiding the URL bar. The extra screen real estate is useful if you’re using a small screen laptop, but even if you’ve got a massive monitor the minimalist user interface helps focus your attention on the web page, rather than the web browser.
Not everyone likes this trend. Software developer Dave Winer likens the missing URL bar trend to building a house without a backdoor, writing that the URL bar is “the way you can be sure you can get somewhere even if all the powers-that-be don’t want you to go there.” I’d argue that LessChrome HD and Chrome 13′s URL bar experiments are more like hiding the backdoor than eliminating it. That said, I’d hate to see this become a default in any web browser. It seems to work well as it is — an add-on for those that want it, while those that don’t can safely ignore it.