Build a custom browser with Mozilla Chromeless

By establishing a “blank" user interface in standard Web technologies, Mozilla puts customization within reach of more users.

No matter how many choices there are in the Web browser arena, it's a pretty safe bet that many of us would love to tweak some aspect of the interface on our browser of choice, if given the opportunity. After all, no one product can satisfy everyone perfectly.

Well, that opportunity may soon be a reality. Mozilla Labs yesterday announced "Chromeless," a new project to create a customizable user interface on the Firefox browser.

"Firefox is put together in a way that seasoned developers are able implement features with amazing efficiency," Mozilla Labs' Marcio Galli wrote on Thursday. "But at the same time, the browser interface in XUL (XML User Interface Language) represents a barrier for potential contributors.

"What if the parts of the browser that are most interesting to contributors were implemented in standard Web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript?" Galli continued. "What kinds of wild-eyed experimentation would we see if a new conception of browser UI could be prototyped in about the same time it takes to write a web page?"

A 'Blank Canvas' for Customization

Now, the name "Chromeless" is no jab at Google -- rather, "chrome" is simply the term for Firefox's local interface applications written in XUL. By removing this "chrome" interface to create a stripped-down browser, Mozilla aims to give developers and others a "blank canvas" on which they can create their own browser interfaces.

One could interact with an interface module "to set the labels and handlers for OS-specific window menus," for example, "or to invoke an OS-specific notification mechanism," Galli explained.

The Mozilla Labs blog post demonstrates the idea with a screenshot showing a very simple browser application with page thumbnails used for tab handlers.

An SDK for Remixing the Browser

The project is currently in a pre-alpha phase, with a functional application written in HTML; the inner browser elements are iframes instead of XUL browser elements. Not present yet, though, is a means for sandboxing, among other things.

In the coming months Mozilla Labs will add specific APIs to allow for more meaningful browser construction as well as integrating security features to keep Web content in a minimally privileged sandbox. Ultimately, it aims to roll out an accessible SDK to make it easy to start remixing the browser.

The current source code and instructions are now available at the Chromeless Web site. Those interested in participating can join the Mozilla Labs Group or get in touch via #labs on irc.mozilla.org.

Bottom line? It may not be too long before a business can easily create its own, customized browser tailored perfectly to the needs and habits of its employee users. I'll say it again: there's no such thing as too much choice!

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesWeb-based Applicationsapplicationsbrowserssoftwareinternetmozilla

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?