Pancake: A new project from Mozilla Labs

Stuart Parmenter

What is Pancake?

Pancake is a new Mozilla Labs project focused on exploring, evolving and expanding how we search, browse, navigate, organize and discover amazing things on the Web. To do this, we’re creating an app — a usable prototype that we’ll share and iterate on rapidly through an ongoing series of experiments. We want to better understand what people do on the Web, why and how they do those things, and how we can make those things easier and more efficient.

We’re playing with some huge concepts, monumental problems and occasionally crazy ideas. We’ll be looking at what tools and systems we can create to put more of the Web at users’ fingertips. We hope to devise new metaphors and new systems that give users greater power and control within the modern Web.

We want to address questions that go to the core of how users experience the Web. Some examples of the questions we are asking include: How can we make it easier for people to find what they’re really looking for on the Web? Do URLs still need to be something users care about? Can we make it easier for people to discover new and interesting things on the Web? What impact does social play in discovery on the Web?

The prototype app we are building is really only the surface of Pancake. We’re also pushing the envelope — using the latest and greatest Web technologies — to build an amazing, portable experience for users. The back-end of Pancake will live in the cloud, where we’re creating an extensive Web service that will allow you to carry your data and experience across many devices. Our initial focus is on iOS and Android tablets and phones, but our long-term goal is to help people live their online lives on their own terms, across all devices and platforms.

The project will operate as a typical open-source project — allowing open collaboration so everyone can test our ideas, give us feedback, conduct usability testing, and with us to discover new avenues of experimentation and exploration. We are working hard to release our first prototype in the next few months.

Why are we doing this?

The Web is vast and continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. More people and organizations get online to use and contribute to the Web every day. And the Web is unbelievably powerful — it is changing our media, our politics, our social systems, our education, our communications… our everything. The Web is changing the world, and it is changing with the world.

But there is a problem. Our tools for viewing, understanding and using this increasingly vast and powerful Web haven’t been keeping pace. Our core methods for searching, browsing, navigating, organizing, and discovering things on the Web are not significantly more advanced than they were a decade ago.

On top of this, the Web has evolved well past its origins as a way to publish and consume static information — the modern Web includes socializing, sharing, playing, creating, collaborating and other real world activities that it was never really designed to support. As a result, the modern Web is less useful and usable than it could be, and it is hard to make use of its full potential.

This is where Pancake comes in.

How can you get involved?

If you would like to get involved or talk with us about the project, please visit our Wiki.