Areas for Mozilla Labs to investigate

Off the topic of Labs form and structure, I’d like to get your opinion on general directions and areas for investigation.

Sherman Dickman has initiated a fruitful discussion around Firefox themes and product strategy in the newsgroup. There is lots of interesting efforts going on in the browser space right now. What areas being showcased by other Internet client products today should Mozilla explore?

I understand that there is a rich set of functionality already implemented by the myriad of Firefox extensions. I want to try to examine broad areas of functionality rather than details of feature operations. Let’s see if this thought experiment proves to be informative.

It’s four questions only. If you find the survey too stifling or is missing something, please just add your comments at the end of the blog post.

Admin Note: I’ve added a new look to MozLabs Blog. Thanks go out to Deb Richardson for sharing with me her WordPress theme from Mozilla Developer Center (MDC).


37 responses

  1. Vincent wrote on :

    Instead of inserting the new line in the comment, it submitted my survey 🙁

    What I wanted to say:

    Features that now are extensions:
    – Download statusbar
    – Ctrl+Tab Preview
    – Resurrect Pages

    And a possibility to back up and restore your extensions (like Firefox Extension Backup Extension, but rather all extensions in one file, and if I export them in Linux, I only want to import Windows-compatible extensions when on Windows).

  2. Marilyn wrote on :

    Opera’s Fit to Width for a web page should be added to Fx. The things in the survey can all be handled by extensions. The only other area I think desperately needs adding to in Fx is tabbed browsing now that TBE will not work with 2.0. TBE should have been built into Fx long ago and really desperately needs to be incorporated now. Tabbed browsing without TBE is pathetic. I began using Mozilla many years ago because of TBE and it is the reason I still use Fx and SeaMonkey. Without it Fx is not that great of a browser. There needs to be great improvement in tabbed browsing in Fx otherwise TBE lovers will not upgrade to 2.0. Other extensions for tabbed browsing are greatly lacking.

  3. Ant wrote on :

    Metalink ( support and download manager improvements in general would be great, such as cross session resumable downloads and segmented downloading.

    I love mouse gestures too, it’s nice having them by default in Opera, for some reason it feels a bit smoother.

  4. Fafek wrote on :

    Instead of 53th redesign of Preferences window and integrating Themes and Extensions window into new one you should implement new, really useful and necessary features like RSS reader. I saw Firefox 2.0 way – integrate with Bloglines and other such readers. This idea really makes me laugh. You want to develop and make Firefox better or not? Where is incredibly important session saver? Today, Firefox is a Gecko wrapper with “Back” button and spectacular tab drag-and-drop feature, which was a flagship change in 1.5 version. You want some more? Don’t count on Mozilla, rather on community. But I want have a useful browser out-of-box, I don’t want install crappy and buggy extensions.

    Thunderbird situation is worse. Geez, what are you doing there, in Mozilla? Where are multiple signatures? Please! 2 years have a Bugzilla request for more advanced signature inserting options! If you say something about security and testing, I really want to stub you into mouth. Mozilla products development is amazingly slow!!!

  5. dolphinling wrote on :

    Could you put the options in label elements so that the text is clickable? Or would that be something that would have to be done by your survey plugin? It makes selecting them much easier and nicer.

  6. Jim Gatos wrote on :

    Firefox needs…

    1. Send Page in email.. NOT LINK, Page! That feature alone is sorely lacking in Firefox…
    2. Tab Preview
    3. Some pages print great in IE and IE 7, all I get is a lot of blank pages in FF

  7. X wrote on :

    -signed extensions/themes
    -option to block music/sounds from web pages
    -option not to send out referral links
    -easier blocking of cookies (able to select cookie, allow or block, this would be in the list of cookies already on the system)

  8. Jure Repinc wrote on :

    My biggest wish is better integration into KDE desktop environment. Like using KDE open/save dialogs, KDE looks, proper session management (save application status on logout and restore fully on login as if nothing has happened).

  9. Miravlix wrote on :

    I think everyone including the survey is not thinking in wide enough terms.

    Categories should be:

    Web Site Handling.
    User Control.

    “Taking the web back” isn’t about time we start a new slogan “Give the net back to the user” concentrate the Lab work on putting the user back in the driving seat instead of letting the web sites control us.

    Parenental Control, Ad handling, Improve on Secure/Insecure handling, Cooke, Privacy and many other areas where only a lot of knowglede lets you understand whats going on.

  10. JG wrote on :

    Better cookie management, definitely. I want to be able to block specific cookies, not just specific sites. Or mark specific cookies to be removed at specific times (every session, daily, weekly, etc.)

  11. druschba wrote on :

    built-in flash-player-plugin

  12. Maimon Mons wrote on :

    The full page zoom is a big feature for me. Hopefully it’ll make it in Firefox3. It should be optioned as:
    Zoom percentage: 110%
    1. Zoom all pages (global setting)
    2. Zoom the current website only
    3. Zoom the current web page only (not recommended).

    And allow site-by-site and page-by-page over rides.

    My folks and my father-in-law all love the zoomy extension I installed in firefox, but wish they could zoom the pictures as well.

  13. Majken wrote on :

    It’s interesting to see how many people are requesting things that are in the betas for 2. I do the same thing myself, whenever I finally think of a feature I would like, I find out it’s already in a development build. I really like IE7’s tab preview, although not sure if I’d actually use it, it just strikes me as a neat idea.

    here’s one that’s not even from a browser. Using IRC and IM I get used to being able to copy simply by highlighting. I had the extention for 1.0.x have forgotten to look to see if it was ever updated.

    I think everything else I can think of myself is as others have said, just improvements on existing features, like better downloading, searchable history and things like that.

  14. percy wrote on :

    ok, it trimmed some “XML” I entered after “something like”. Looks like:


  15. percy wrote on :

    To original poster: You should change the comments field in the survey so it allows Enter. It looks bad with no wrapping plus I pressed Enter to leave a blank line and ended submitting the survey with incomplete comments.

    Richard Goodbee, I am against bloating Firefox or any other piece of software, but a line must be defined between bloating and innovation/improvement. And considering what users “use” not necessarily will bring the answer. If it was the case web feeds, spell checking and tab browsing wouldn’t be part of Firefox not to mention microsummaries.

    I believe BitTorrent is still a mystical word for a large number of web users (disregarding of how much traffic it involves), but users shouldn’t need to know what it is and should just be able to click on a bittorrent file and start getting their file in the same way they get an FTP file and no one cares on what’s that. This is a case like RSS in which including this feature in the browser should move providers to make their content available in a cheaper and more distributed way.

    Something similar goes for photo management/online bookmarks. I would love to see this implemented but not as things are right now. I would like Google, Yahoo!, MSN and any other big provider to streamline all their offerings including web mail and future online apps (Writely & co.) in a single set of web services using a common protocol to access and update them. That’s flying pigs. So, could Mozilla develop a protocol/language/whatever that does this just like microsummaries is been released without almost any current support (and that’s fine with me)? Of course this would be much more complex, but I don’t see Web 2.0 happening without a set of said protocols. What about a plugin format for specific services: for example for webmail, something like

    so users/developers can create plugins to integrate (login, check, compose, attach) webmail (any) into the browser. This is already done by FF2 with online feed readers.

    And then to my pet feature: “Save as PDF”
    the reasons:
    – As web applications become more popular it’s a plus to be able to share an identical copy of specific web page (screen) with a single click (no print screen, open email, paste gigantic image, repeat if more than one screen long). Saving as a web page just doesn’t make the cut because files are scattered, users would need to send the complete file set and save it properly to reproduce the screen before dealing with any other font, image or security problem.
    – it is a marketing opportunity as IE7 reduces the gap, feature-wise, with Firefox, PDF becomes an instant major selling point, specially since MS backed off this feature from Office 2007. It could mean it just wouldn’t be ready on time or, there is a conflict of interests in supporting PDF.
    – since Cairo is coming for FF3, it may be easier to implement with a smaller performance overhead. But of this I know next to nothing. I totally understand that it may be not worth it if the development/performance overhead is too much.

  16. Abdul wrote on :

    What I’m missing are close-buttons on the tabs (like Opera) . Maybe there are extentions which make this possible but I’m too lazy to find them. And also a page preview (also like Opera). What I wouldn’t miss is a bittorrent-client integrated.

  17. Will pate wrote on :

    I’m a little biased, because I work at one of the companies mentioned, but I’m also a longtime Firefox user and fan. In my personal opinion there are two areas that the Mozilla should focus on with Firefox: security and performance. I think if FF continues to improve in those two areas it will continue to keep users safe and happy on the web, and garner more market share from Internet Explorer. The rest will all come from people extending the platform.

  18. Ian Thomas wrote on :

    yoschi: You want Grease Monkey, see
    It lets you run specific javascript whenever you visit a page, so just run the onclick routines

    Ulrich Hobelmann: With a single button solution to hiding toolbars there has to be a standard to what is hidden. To me, firefox does the most logical thing. If you want more granularity you need to use more complicated options, and you can use View > Toolbars.

  19. Cameron wrote on :

    Full page zoom (I’ve only seen in it Opera, not IE yet) is something I’d love to see. All the rest (except bittorrent support maybe) are just bloatey and belong in the realm of extensions IMO.

  20. Ulrich Hobelmann wrote on :

    Viktor, be careful what you ask for. My girlfriend once had trouble printing out a web document with IE (couldn’t convince her to use FF so far). The far right side of the text was always cut off. Just for a try I asked her to open that page in FF, and it printed out nicely, no text cut off 🙂

  21. Andy wrote on :

    I’m missing a better cookie- management. Firefox should ask me to allow/deny cookies website by website and there should be an option to save this. Internet Explorer offers this when “automatic cookie- handling” is turned off. I know there are extensions for cookie- management, but they don’t ask me to allow or deny the cookies. That’s the only thing i’m missing in this great browser.

  22. Leon wrote on :

    An .msi package/Group Policy support would be great for corporate admins. Support for easily customizing Firefox defaults (homepage etc) would be nice too, again for corporate users (though ISP’s might also like this – especially the ones that distribute “Starter Kits” with a customized version of IE on it).

  23. [yoschi] wrote on :

    I’d like to have a “record (mouse) action” feature similar to the password manager.
    With some websites you need to check several checkboxes or you need to click a special link before you’re able to enter your password. Why not recording these actions and store them in the password manager so you’re able to access the site immediately without having to repeat the same actions over and over again? That would be a really useful feature.

  24. Viktor wrote on :

    I wish myself an improved print. If I print in Firefox a selection, the text is not scaled on the page like in the IE6.
    Otherwise I find the small Firefox very good.

    Sorry for my bad english.

  25. botcherO wrote on :

    I think a better Downloadmanger would be the best thing. Multiple Downloadlocations on 1 File, better resuming.
    Bittorrent should be StandAlone as it is.
    Mouse gestures would be nice too, along with better Menu/ToolbarTabbar customizations.
    I hate to have just one Tab- and one Bookmarkbar…
    Bookmarksyncing is also a nice Feature to think of…

  26. insel wrote on :

    Its absolutly Top, nothing is missing, maybe “minimize to tray” and “restart” integration, but its not insisting needfull (both features existing as an extension)

  27. beltzner wrote on :

    While this is really a nomenclature nitpick, I think you might want to de-emphasize the focus on Firefox for the purposes of this data gathering exercise. The question (I think!) you’re actually asking is: which of these feature areas do you think is interesting enough to investigate further? It’s entirely possible that they would be proposed for a future version of Firefox, but just as possible that they would be proposed for some sort of extension bundle, or perhaps another product entirely. I wonder if you’d get different responses by re-casting the question in that light.

  28. Kyle Eslick wrote on :

    Can we get something very similar to the Opera sidebar? (And have it include E-mail, such as Opera does).

    That is probably the thing I would most like to have integrated into the browser. In the meantime, I am using the All In One Sidebar

  29. Dao wrote on :

    > toolbar-less mode. This gives me almost all screen area for the actual *task*

  30. Ulrich Hobelmann wrote on :

    @Ian: decent RSS support would be great, yes (like Safari’s, or at least like Sage or Thunderbird). Seconded. It’s sad that I haven’t met any RSS reader that’s as usable as Safari (even though I just switched back to TB (it’s not as slow)).

    @Ian Thomas: as I said, keeping the bookmarks bar makes a lot of sense. Why would I NOT want to keep it (or at least have the option 😉 )? How do I drag+drop bookmarks then, or have them available for fast access? I only don’t need/care to use/see the rest of the toolbar, like all those click buttons, the location bar, or the search field. All those can be called on demand with a cmd-key.

  31. starwed wrote on :

    I’d have to say the largest functionality I’ve missed from Firefox is a decent download manager. Perhaps this has been fixed by now, but being unable to resume downloads was always a big pain in the ass for me. 🙁

  32. Ian Thomas wrote on :

    >toolbar-less mode

    This is already available on the Mac, just click the hide toolbar button on the right of the titlebar. You’ll keep the status bar and tab bar, nothing else. Keeping the bookmarks bar too doesn’t really make sense.

    You can do a similar thing on Windows (or on Mac, if you want more control), by using the View > Toolbars options

  33. Ian wrote on :

    – Bittorrent support, with integrated HTTP/FTP seeding.
    – Metalink support
    – Page zoom
    – Expose-like feature (hey were were first anyway with extensions)
    – Built in basic mouse gestures – really I only use a few, and that means one less possibly buggy extension
    – Site-specific preferences would be nice, but a good extension may be more suitable. We already have site-specific CSS and Greasemonkey
    – ODF support (hey it can’t be that hard, it’s just XML, and what a benefit and also boost to ODF)
    – Integrated RSS folder, improved RSS client (even something basic like Sage)
    – Parental controls is something people want, but may be a better OS feature (what if they just install another browser?)
    – Vista Protected Mode definitely – but also see DropMyRights as a way to run a program with reduced privileges (I use this on Windows XP to run with lower rights)
    – AdBlock really ought to be on that list (but perhaps not marketed directly as that).

  34. Ulrich Hobelmann wrote on :

    The above are all boring, but Camino has a great feature (which all good Mac apps have): toolbar-less mode. This gives me almost all screen area for the actual *task*, yes, that’s browsing. If I want to search the web, I push shift-cmd-f, if I want to open a location I push cmd-l, and type away. A Sheet opens and lets me type what I want, then shifts away again on pressing return. Sweet, non-intrusive, and does all I ever need. When I want to go back/forward, I push cmd-left/right, or rightclick->back (first entry in context menu). And most of my links don’t go back anyway, cause they open in new tabs… I don’t need to stare at that stupid location/google/button bar all day. 😉

    Oh yes, all that remains visible is the bookmarks bar, the tab bar, the status bar, and the browser window.

    Not sure if this’d make me switch back to FF on the Mac, but I’d love it on other platforms.

  35. Dao wrote on :

    – I voted for Mouse gestures because I think the extensions’ performance isn’t good enough.
    – FWIW, “Notes associated with visited pages” is already a planned Places feature.
    – Firefox CCK ( is superior to IE 7 Administration Kit (IEAK)
    – Full page zoom is a Firefox 3 target (bug 4821).
    – OpenSearch … erm … Firefox 2 already supports that, doesn’t it?

  36. David Hammond wrote on :

    I agree that Firefox shouldn’t become bloated with lots of extra UI that isn’t useful to most people. However, I would like to see some form of BitTorrent support that works seamlessly like a regular download. Firefox could leach the files in the background and continue seeding until a certain share ratio has been met. The user would simply see a regular download progress bar in the Downloads dialog, perhaps with a little icon indicating the different download mode (for example, two arrows in opposite directions with some sort of gradient animation, indicating two-way transfer).

    Torrents are not yet widely used for typical downloads, but that may simply be a chicken-and-egg issue. Making torrents more convenient and transparent for users could significantly increase its adoption on the Web for miscellaneous large-file downloads.

  37. Richard Godbee wrote on :

    I’d like to cast anti-votes (un-votes?) for the following features:

    – Built-in BitTorrent client
    – Built-in IRC chat
    – Photo management integration
    – Online bookmark management integration
    – Blog publishing integration

    Part of the appeal of Firefox is that it’s a good web browser. Period. I’d prefer that Firefox didn’t become the old Mozilla Suite. For the folks who would like their web browser to make their morning coffee and be their interface for everything they do on the Internet, Firefox has an extensions system.

    I would, however, like to cast a vote in favor of integrating an Opera feature not listed in the survey. When you zoom in and out in Opera, it scales the entire page, not just the text sizes. (IE7 Beta’s “Full page zoom,” which *is* listed in the survey, fails pretty miserably at the job compared to Opera’s implementation.)