During 2010, Firefox has had much of its momentum as an alternative Web browser stolen by Google Chrome. However, a new Firefox innovation called Tab Candy will make Firefox act more like a operating system, with much-improved multitasking and sharing capabilities. In fact, if the Firefox team can pull off all of the features of Tab Candy that it recently demonstrated, it would leapfrog Chrome in functionality.
The Tab Candy functionality is being spearheaded by Aza Raskin, the Head of UX at Mozilla Labs. Raskin is the son of Macintosh creator Jef Raskin and he joined Mozilla in 2008 when his software company Humanized merged with Mozilla.
Raskin said, "How many of us keep tabs open as reminders of something we want to do or read later? We're all suffering from infoguilt. We need a way to organize browsing, to see all of our tabs at once, and focus on the task at hand."
With that mind, here's what Tab Candy can do:
- Organize tabs into groups that you can name and position on a desktop-like view (Figure A)
- Save tab groups to look at later
- Search through your tabs
- Have multiple profiles so that you can sign into the same site with different logins in two different tab groups
- Share tabs or tab groups between different computers and devices (Figure D)
- Share tabs or tab groups with other users
- Set up a shared tab group where several users can co-browse and see what each other is looking at on the screen
- Choose colors or image backgrounds to distinguish different tab groups (Figure C)
Figure C: To distinguish between different tab group you can give them a color or background
Figure D: Tab Candy will also let you share tabs across different computers and devices
Here is Raskin's seven-minute demo of Tab Candy:
Raskin has perfectly articulated the workflow and tab overload problem in today's Web browsers, and his Tab Candy vision of innovating the browser experience would be a major step forward. And, Firefox needs a big shot in the arm. Not only is Google Chrome leaching away more and more Firefox users, it has also stolen away Firefox's reputation as the browser bringing the most innovation to the Web experience.
My only question with Tab Candy is if and when it will make it into Firefox. In the lackluster announcement of Firefox 4 in May, the Firefox team had Tab Candy listed in light gray at the bottom of its list of new features (giving no indication of its importance). Raskin said "The reason why Tab Candy was listed in grey in the product plan is that there are still some implementation challenges to be solved and a couple user experience questions to be answered for us to be able to commit to TabCandy being in Firefox 4."
Make no mistake, this is Firefox's best shot at competing with Chrome since the rest of Firefox 4 feels much like a copy of Chrome. Launching Firefox 4 with Tab Candy should be Mozilla's top priority.
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Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).