File Under: Browsers, Social, Web Services

Mozilla Wants to Put Social Networks in the Browser

Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired

With Firefox 16 out the door — and yes, it has been updated to fix the security vulnerability we wrote about yesterday — Mozilla has begun turning its attention to Firefox 17, which just arrived in the Beta channel.

If you’d like to test Firefox 17, head over to the Firefox channels page and grab a copy.

Firefox 17 introduces the first bit of Mozilla’s plan to bring the social web into the web browser. Firefox 17 lays the groundwork for Mozilla’s new Social API. There’s nothing to see right now, but under the hood Firefox 17 is getting ready to move your social web interactions from individual websites into a sidebar within Firefox.

Among Mozilla’s plans for the new Social API are a notification system, a way to share or recommend content and a dedicated sidebar for news feeds, chat and other aspects of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its social API:

Much like the OpenSearch standard, the Social API enables developers to integrate social services into the browser in a way that is meaningful and helpful to users. As services integrate with Firefox via the Social API sidebar, it will be easy for you to keep up with friends and family anywhere you go on the Web without having to open a new Web page or switch between tabs. You can stay connected to your favorite social network even while you are surfing the Web, watching a video or playing a game.

If that sounds familiar, well, it should. The “social” web browser Flock offered most of the features Mozilla has planned for the Firefox Social API, but failed to ever find much of an audience and has since been shut down acquired by Zynga and shutdown (while the current Flock website seems to hint that it might return, we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath).

Mozilla is planning to start its own social experimentation with Facebook. The two companies are working to bring Facebook Messenger (Facebook’s chat and SMS app) into Firefox via the new Social API. Look for Facebook Messenger to arrive in Firefox 17 as updates roll out in the coming weeks.

If social network integration isn’t your bag, fear not, Firefox does have a few changes aimed at web developers, most notably the new Markup Panel in the developer tools.

Previously the Markup Panel only allowed you to edit HTML attribute values, but now you can double-click pretty much anywhere in the panel and change just about any bit of HTML you’d like. That means it’s possible to edit pages on the fly in the browser and then copy and paste your changes back to your actual HTML files or templates. For more details on the other new developer tools in Firefox 17, see our earlier write-up of the Aurora channel release.