Mozilla Evolves Web Services Offering

Could the open source Mozilla earn a reputation as a Web services vendor?

Mozilla today is best known as a browser vendor, but one day it could be known as a Web services vendor, too. That's thanks to a services backend that has at its heart a Mozilla Labs project called Weave.

The project is an effort to enable users to synchronize and save data on Mozilla infrastructure. Mozilla introduced Weave in late 2007 and has had three big releases -- versions 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3.

Downloads and usage of the client software, which is available as a browser add-on called Weave Sync, remain relatively modest. Dan Mills, Mozilla Weave lead told InternetNews.com that Weave has had over 30,000 downloads, and around 6,000 to 7,000 daily users.

Still, ambitions remain high. Weave represents a new model for Mozilla, where users rely on Mozilla for more than just a browser interface, but for data as well. In some ways, the effort can be seen as competitive with social bookmarking sites like Delicious, though the overall goal for Weave is intended to be broader than just bookmarks.

"Weave is a broad project with many moving parts," Mills explained. "Our focus has been to develop the Weave Sync client and server architecture, to make it scalable and fast, and getting the core down to a size that can fit on handheld devices. Going forward, our challenge will be to build upon this core to increase our users' ability to connect and share information with the rest of the Web."

That effort took a step forward with the Weave 0.3 release in late March, in which Mozilla added support for synchronization across both mobile and desktop browsers.

"The 0.3 release was a big milestone for the Weave project," Mills said. "Using the experience we gained from the Weave 0.1 and 0.2 releases, we redesigned and rewrote several key components of the Weave architecture."

Mills added that Weave 0.3 also provides a much more capable server and API (define). That's an important development, since the Weave API is the key technology by which Weave developers can connect to the Weave server for services.

On the client side, Mills noted that Weave 0.3 has improved memory usage and speed, and has added support for the Fennec browser -- a Firefox offshoot for mobile devices.

While the goal of Weave is to be about more than just bookmark sharing, data synchronization thus far has proven Weave's main function.

"Currently, the Weave Sync add-on is mainly about data synchronization, but the project has always been about integrating services into the browser, and brokering rich experiences on the Web," Mills said. "The Weave Sync core is a foundational piece of that larger vision, and a natural stepping stone for the project. We're very excited about the possibilities once we open up more APIs on the server to allow services to interact with users and their data."

Mills also said that Mozilla also has baked important user privacy features into Weave, with all data encrypted before it is uploaded to Mozilla's servers.

Firefox integration ahead?

As a Mozilla Labs project, Weave is not directly integrated into the Firefox Web browser by default. Other Labs efforts, notably the Ubiquity command tool, however, are already set to migrate from Labs to a future Firefox release.

"One of the challenges of having such a broad user base as Firefox now has, is that we have to carefully consider whether changes we make to the browser core will benefit the majority of users," Mills said. "Firefox has always had a strong element of personalization, and we at Mozilla Labs have been working with the Firefox team to find ways to make that even more accessible."

While Firefox is a key project for Mozilla, Mills noted that the Weave team has also been working with the Fennec mobile browser team to determine if it might make sense to integrate Weave there.

In any event, he added that the Weave development team is still in the process of drawing up plans for the next few releases.

"Broadly speaking, we want to further improve the Weave Sync core, to make it even faster and more reliable, and add an interface for Firefox add-ons to leverage the technology," Mills said. "We're also keen to build on the server side as well, both to provide a broader platform as well as to deliver key features such as web access to user data."

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.




Tags: browsers, Firefox, services, privacy, Mozilla


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