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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mozilla Integrates Messaging Into The Browser With “Snowl”

How good it would be if your web browser help you to follow and participate in online discussions? Snowl is an experiment to answer that question.  It’s a prototype Firefox extension that integrates messaging into the browser based on a few key ideas:

1. It doesn’t matter where messages originate. They’re alike, whether they come from traditional email servers, RSS/Atom feeds, web discussion forums, social networks, or other sources.

2. Some messages are more important than others, and the best interface for actively reading important messages is different from the best one for casually browsing unimportant ones.

3. A search-based interface for message retrieval is more powerful and easier to use than one that makes you organize your messages first to find them later.

4. Browser functionality for navigating web content, like tabs, bookmarks, and history, also works well for navigating messages.

The initial prototype supports two sources of messages: RSS/Atom feeds and Twitter.  And it exposes two interfaces for reading them.  First, a traditional three-pane “list” view, targeted to active reading of important messages:

the list view

Second, a “river of news” view, based on the concept popularized by Dave Winer, designed for casual browsing:

the river view

Get the initial prototype : Snowl for Firefox.

The prototype code is released under an MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license.

Warning: the initial prototype is a primitive implementation with many bugs, and subsequent versions will include changes that break functionality and delete all your messages, making you start over from scratch.

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