Although the tabbed browsing interface was neither a Mozilla Firefox nor Opera invention during inception, its founding father Adam Stiles, chief programmer of the NetCaptor Project, has always advocated the interface layout on a variety of platforms and competing web browsers on the market.
As time moved on in the Internet world, many tabbed-browsing users became overwhelmed with a habit of keeping a dozen or two dozen tabs open across multiple browser windows at any given time. Many now use the Web to multitask among several types of different activities at once, including business portfolios, thousands of news articles, social networking streams, music streaming, multiple web-based email accounts, blog posts and forums. At times, it can often be difficult to keep web content organized along dozens of linear tabs crammed into a little strip along the top of the browser pane.
In a globalized society inundated with unmanageable information overload, and even “info guilt” as many technologists insist, it seems as if tabbed browsing has reached its peak potential use and is now in dire need of an interface revolution. Thankfully, Mozilla is working on a great solution.
Aza Raskin, Creative Lead for Firefox and Expert Interface Guru, posted a blog over the weekend detailing a new revolutionary method for organizing tabs into managed groups. The project, appropriately titled Tab Candy, shows an “elevated perspective” of all open tabs in a browser session to allow a user to quickly locate and switch between them. Tab Candy also lets users organize tabs into groups with customizable labels to differentiate between “vacation,” “work,” “social networking” and “business,” for instance.
Firefox Tab Candy provides a spatial framework for organizing web content. Larger image here.
As MG Siegler from TechCrunch notes, it appears as if Tab Candy’s layout takes design hints from Apple’s Expose feature in Mac OS X mixed with the Spaces feature. Apple's interfaces essentially allow a user to zoom out and observe every window from an elevated perspective, or birds-eye view. In this case, Aza Raskin intends to do the same with tabbed browsing and plans to integrate the feature straight into Firefox.
Tab Candy is currently available for preview in very early alpha stage development and is integrated within Firefox 4.0 beta 3 (Minefield release) which can be downloaded here.
Over the past few days, many Firefox beta users have already developed a sweet tooth for Tab Candy and its managed organizational awesomeness. However, a minor nightly update to the Firefox 4b3pre build removed Tab Candy functionality from the taskbar and left many in distress and wonder over whether the feature would ever return. We turned over to Mozilla’s Support Forums for an official answer from Aza Raskin (who is also currently researching a new type of phishing attack called “tabnabbing”).
“Unfortunately, the Tab Candy build of Firefox points to the wrong URL for updates, said Raskin. “Thus, it installs a vanilla build of Minefield instead of a Tab Candy build of Firefox. You'll need to refrain from updating (or manually getting another Tab Candy build, which we manually updated). Sorry for the inconvenience. When we land in the nightly builds, this won't be a problem anymore.”
In other words, Tab Candy users are urged to uninstall any vanilla Minefield nightly update package that was installed over the Tab Candy build of Firefox and reinstall the alpha try-server build that was released on July 23, 2010. In order to ensure that nightly builds of Minefield aren’t installed over the Tab Candy build of Firefox, users are advised to change the “app.update.channel” string in about:config to something invalid for now, so updates don’t get fetched.
We will stay updated on the development progress of Tab Candy for Firefox, including its decided integration or departure from an official Firefox build sometime in the future.