Exploring Search (in the Context of the Browser) with Prospector

Ed Lee

Prospector is a new series of experiments from Mozilla Labs focused on analyzing, experimenting and prototyping improvements on how you search and discover content with Firefox.

To start, we’re focusing on three main areas: websites you have visited, tabs you are currently viewing, and pages you haven’t visited yet. In each of these, there are different aspects of traversing through existing behavior, extracting relevant information and discovering better ways to search.

For example, if you search and find a page with what you are looking for, Firefox can be made aware of the words and sites used to search as well as which results were visited and for how long. Using that raw data, Firefox could learn to better streamline that search behavior and help you get what you want even faster – all directly in Firefox, without sending data to a server.

Firefox has always tried to help users find the websites they want to get to by including the search box on every window as well as defaulting to a search engine on new windows. Firefox 3 added the Awesome Bar for improved history search with suggestions of websites a user will likely re-visit. This behavior of highlighting items that a user frequently visits is something we see as just the first step in adapting Firefox to the current user’s behavior.

The Prospector project will contain a mixture of lightweight prototypes that try out various ideas as well as a few deeper explorations that might change multiple aspects of the Firefox user interface. These will be made available as add-ons that don’t require a browser restart and can be installed in Firefox 4. Most prototypes will not send any personal data to a server but focus on creating functionality directly in Firefox.

We aim to identify useful and exciting new ways for you to find what you are looking for faster and better – while putting you in control of your experience.

P.S.: Please note that Prospector is a Mozilla Labs exploration and thus not part of the Firefox roadmap.