Firefox 4 add-on takes browsing outside the browser

An experimental tool aims to shift the emphasis away from search and enable more natural browsing, Mozilla Labs says.

A new, experimental add-on from Mozilla Labs' Prospector project removes the standard browser interface from Firefox 4 and instead gives full priority to Web content.

Called Home Dash, the add-on "moves the usual browser functionality into a dashboard that sits on top of the page and goes away after you have found what you were looking for," Mozilla developer Edward Lee wrote in a recent blog post.

Specifically, it replaces the standard location bar, search bar and tabs with a single, translucent Firefox logo that can be used to open a dashboard. Though search functionality is still available, the experiment aims to switch the Web browser's focus away from search-based browsing and toward what Mozilla Labs calls "browse-based browsing."

"Home Dash helps you just browse to (instead of typing to search) the sites you like by finding the top 24 sites and organizing them in a way that matches your browsing behavior," Lee explained. Pointing at one of the sites included creates an instant preview.

'Multiple Separate Dashboards'

Ultimately, the plan is to make this presentation customizable, so that users can add, remove and resize the sites displayed or even include Web apps, widgets and people.

"With all this information, it would be useful to organize different groups of sites, apps and people into multiple separate dashboards that focus on one idea or task," Lee suggested.

Though it's not yet intended for production use, current Firefox 4 beta users can immediately install Home Dash without restarting the browser. Users are also invited to leave feedback or contribute to the project. A selection of tips, shortcuts and troubleshooting advice is available in a separate post on the Mozilla Labs site.

A Weighty Endorsement

A final version of Firefox 4 is expected next month. Among the browser's most widely anticipated features, of course, is the "do not track" capability that Mozilla introduced last week. Following with similar news the very next day was Google, which is taking a different approach in its competing Chrome browser.

Reactions to both tools have been mixed here at PCWorld, but the privacy-focused Electronic Frontier Foundation endorsed Mozilla's strategy soon after it was announced, lending an additional measure of support for Firefox.

Though it holds the No. 2 spot worldwide -- behind only Microsoft's Internet Explorer -- Firefox was recently named the No. 1 browser in Europe. Time will tell how things shake out once the final version of Firefox 4 and all its associated add-ons hit the streets.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Katherine Noyes

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