Just a few years ago, one of the most popular uses of the internet was to send jokes, cute pictures, and news stories to friends and family (social networks) via email. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find that not a lot has changed except the medium. Now one of the most common uses of instant messenger services and social networking sites is to send people links to jokes, cute pictures and interesting news stories.
This behavior isn’t at all surprising – it’s friends sharing experiences, the very backbone of social interactions and friendships. It’s also unsurprising that most “Web 2.0″ services have a feature that makes it easy for you to build a social network so that you can share things more easily, or subscribe to a friend’s activity as a way of keeping in touch.
What is surprising, however, is how little of this type of functionality has made it into today’s web browsers. The result is that when people think of tools for social interaction, email and instant messenger are at the top of their list, not web browsers.
Enter “The Coop”, a Mozilla Labs project to experiment with adding social tools to the web browser. We want to create a fun and easy way to share links with your friends, and to browse the set of links that friends have shared with you. We also want to make it easy to “subscribe” to a friend in order to make it easy to keep track of the pictures, movies, blog posts and status information that they might be posting on a variety of services. There’s a project page that describes The Coop in a bit more detail, and also has some mockups of how it might look (my favorite is the idea for a view that shows a stream of recently shared material.)
Myk Melez has also made an initial prototype available. (Note that you’ll have to allow add-ons to be installed from labs.mozilla.com in order to install The Coop.) This first build uses Facebook’s “Share” feature as the data transport layer for now, and allows you to share web content by dragging it onto your friend’s picture. As the project page indicates, we’re thinking of several different data transport mechanisms, as well as how we want to expose various interactions. This prototype really helps to get a feeling of what The Coop might become over time.
If you’re interested in an easier way to share your cool online experiences with your friends, we encourage you to check out the project page and the prototype (one cool feature of the new AMO sandbox is that you can browse the code), and then come join us in the forums and help us iterate on the design and code.
Update! We have made The Coop available at a new location here and have updated the original link above. Note that you will have to allow add-ons to be installed from labs.mozilla.com in order to install this prototype.