Open source browser vendor Mozilla is launching a new testing effort today that will integrate Facebook more deeply into the Firefox web browser.
The new Social API is an effort that will embed social networking site activity and collaboration directly into Firefox. For years, there have been multiple types of browser add-ons that try to enable social networking. The new Social API aims to go a step further with a uniquely integrated experience that weaves social networking fabric right into the core of the daily browsing experience.
“We want to build something generic into the foundation of the browser, so whoever your social provider is, you can plug them in and have a persistent, integrated experience,” Johnathan Nightingale, Senior Director of Firefox Engineering at Mozilla told Datamation.
The Social API is set to become part of Firefox 17, which is now in public beta. The first social provider that will be supported is Facebook. Nightingale explained that the first thing users will notice when the Social API is activated is that a new sidebar become available. For Facebook, the sidebar will display a ticker of activity from a user’s friends as well as a Facebook chat capability.
In the location bar, the Social API integration will also expose a ‘like’ button for Facebook. Nightingale noted that other social networking site providers can similarly tie in via a ‘share’ button capability.
“So as you are browsing around reading stuff you always have the ability to share with a single click and you always have the sidebar available so you can keep in touch,” Nightingale said. “Social is an overlay on the work you’re already doing in the browser, it’s not a discrete task.”
While Mozilla is working together with Facebook on the Social API support in Firefox, there is no formal business agreement between the two vendors. Facebook generates its revenues from ad revenues.
“We have been working closely with the Facebook engineering team to make sure we got to something that is excellent,” Nightingale said. “But this really came out of a desire we both had to have better social integration in the browser.”
Nightingale added that Mozilla is not engaged in a relationship with Facebook’s advertising program or anything of that nature as part of the Social API development. Mozilla and Facebook also have a relationship by way of a number of former Mozilla employees who currently work at Facebook. Among them is Mozilla project founding member Mike Shaver, who left for Facebook back in 2011. Nightingale noted that Mozilla’s work on the Social API was by way of the Facebook Messenger group and not the mobile team where Shaver works.
Over time, Mozilla will enable the Social API to turn on integration with other social networks beyond Facebook. The key is all about providing a user experience that changes the way Firefox users interact with the social web.
“You’re in your browser and you could be loading your social networking website just as a regular tab, but you’re busy doing other things,” Nightingale said. “Having the connection to your network being fully integrated — it’s a small change to describe but viscerally, it feels really different and you really connect with it a lot more strongly. It’s at your fingertips and it just feels like you’re fighting the technology less.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.