October 2009


Mozilla is hiring a new user interface designer for Labs. I think some of the readers of this blog might be interested in that sort of thing?

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This Raindrop thing seems pretty cool. I’ll use it even if for no other reason besides its ability to separate the bac’n from the real-human-conversations-that-I-care-about email.

Unfortunately, using the current demo version requires running your own server locally, which is a high barrier to entry. But keep an eye on the evolution of this project; it might be just the thing we need to take control of our inboxes again.

(When I say “take control of our inboxes” I am thinking of my Gmail inbox which currently has over 10,000 conversations in it, a third of them unread.)

Spilling over with enthusiasm as always, Aza gave a talk to a recent web developer conference in London about how he sees the future of the web browser. He takes together several strands that Mozilla Labs has been working on and ties them together into a story about how the browser can evolve into more of an intelligent user-agent. The browser really ought to bring the mountain to Mohamed, to borrow a phrase, rather than sending Mohamed to the mountain.

I’m glad he mentions Ubiquity, but I think Aza oversells it a little bit. For example, he talks about Ubiquity collecting your contacts from Facebook in order to auto-complete emails. Getting Facebook contacts is not something we currently know how to do. So I want to clarify that when Aza talks about Ubiquity in this video, a lot of the things he mentions are aspirational — “stuff we would like it to do someday” — not things that it does right now.

Ex-Mozillanoid JWZ writes of his “ongoing Kafka-esque nightmare of dealing with Palm and their App Catalog submission process.” (Part One) (Part Two).

His story shows, by counterexample, exactly why the Open Web is important. Part of the working definition I came up with in my previous post was that on the open web, no company can get between a developer who wants to publish something and a user who wants to use it. JWZ’s story shows what happens in a non-open environment when a company, Palm in this case, does get in the way. JWZ’s applications were innocuous free software which posed no conceivable threat to Palm in any way, and he didn’t even want to charge anything for them; nevertheless, Palm’s bureaucracy prevented JWZ from giving away his own software to people who wanted it.

When this happens, developers and users both lose.

Palm is not unique in this regard. The process for getting apps approved on the iPhone is no less opaque:

We’ve been getting more and more questions from customers wondering where the heck our iPhone App is. Unfortunately, we have no idea.

Despite sending a steady stream of emails to Apple requesting status updates, we continue to receive generic form letters in response – frustrating, to say the least.

Say what you like about Microsoft, but they never barred independent software developers from developing and distributing Windows software, did they?

A very snazzy video.

We’ve had over 5,000 users submit data from the Test Pilot tabs study!

Considering that people had to first hear about Test Pilot, then opt in by installing the extension, then opt in again by choosing to submit the data, 5,000 is a really good number. Better than we had any right to expect, certainly.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been sifting and analyzing the data, and working with Blake Cutler from the Mozilla Metrics team to generate graphs of interesting statistics about tab usage. I’ve just put up a results page showcasing several of these graphs.

We’ve also posted samples of the aggregated data which are free for anyone to download and use. There was some discussion on my previous post about how to aggregate the data in a way that was still useful to researchers. What we ended up doing was building files that include row-level data from a random subsample of the users that fit particular criteria. It’s stripped of any information on the language/locale, operating system, or installed extensions for any individual user in the sample.

Third-party researchers have already begun using the data to do their own analysis! Andy at Surfmind.com has a post containing some very cool-looking visualizations and has proposed an interesting theory about there being two classes of heavy tab users.