Firefox new social features almost ready

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 13, 2012

Adding social features to an existing product is always something that developers need to be very careful about as it can irritate part of the product's user base. Firefox in the past two years has seen lots of changes and feature additions of which not all were welcome by (part of) the community. Think about Panorama, the Firefox button, the removal of the status bar or other smaller or larger changes that Mozilla made in the past. And things are not standing still when you look what lies ahead either. The new download panel that replaces the download window, in-content preferences, or the full release of Firefox's new design are just some of the new features that will make it into one of the next versions of the browser.

According to Sören Hentzschel, social features can be added to that list. Mozilla noticed that the majority of Internet users are spending time on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, and the idea was born to provide Firefox users with a browser that provides them with better accessibility and connectivity when it comes to these networks.

The feature works similar to the browser's search provider feature. Users can install or activate social networking providers in the browser to interact with the service through toolbar icons and the sidebar, and without having to access the site of the service directly.

The feature overview on the Mozilla Wiki lists four major first generation features:

  • Integration of persistent social notifications into the Firefox toolbar just like it is provided by Firefox add-ons for various networks already
  • Integration of feeds, tickers, contact lists into a Firefox sidebar
  • Integration of communication, e.g. chat, voice, video into a docked or floating window
  • Integration of a share service into the Firefox toolbar

A mock up has been posted on Bugzilla that is highlighting how this could actually look like in the browser. According to that mock up, Firefox will display up to three social network favicons in its toolbar that act as notifiers and means to quickly interact with the service.

A second mock up demonstrates how a sidebar could look like in Firefox. Here you see chat contacts and their availability on the right, a chat and search at the bottom, and options to react to friend activities right from within the sidebar.

The feature seems to be completely optional, as users need to sign in and/or connect their social networking accounts before it can be used in the web browser.

I for one can't really see myself using the social buttons for a number of reasons. It does feel a bit redundant considering that add-ons are available for major social networking sites that integrate part of the functionality in the browser. And having to keep open a another tab with the chat or notification interface is not really an issue either.

Still, there are certainly Firefox users out there who will like the new feature and use its to its fullest. As long as it is opt-in, I do not really have a problem with it.

What's your take on the integration? Good thing, bad thing, or do not care?


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  1. cezi said on August 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    They just want to earn more $ = so accepted offer from FBIbook ,
    and similiar ones.
    If it make its way = will show that -in short -alleged ease of use of 7 sheeple counts more then 2 conscious users + 1 geek to them…
    They seem to forget that usually those 3 convinced other 7 to switching from IE to FF -and can help them with social addon if they don’t know how install such one by itself(is it possible?)…
    No gratitude….They may start recommend and install other clean(er)gecko/webkit browsers if mozilla piss them off .

    To me this wrong way(enforced spy-bloating) of Mozilla was obvious to speed up ,when I saw
    in default preloading spydial autostart connecting outside, and in new tabs…
    What % of users knows how to remove spydial ?
    If spycial will be easy to remove -and not returning with every updates ,I can still live with FF .

    There are many FF forks (also webkit based )with social integration and didn’t make big gains in market comparing to “not-integrated” ones :Palemoon, Waterfox …

    @Damirora good point :)

  2. fiefoxlover said on August 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I just don’t want those social features in Firefox! If built into the browser, I will leave Firefox after having used it since Nov 2004.

    Hopefully Pale Moon will not make that mistake.

  3. firefoxlover said on August 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I just don’t want any social features in Firefox. They should offer them as optional and not within the browser. I have been using Fx since Nov 2004 and won’t tolerate that stuff. I sincerely hope that the author of Pale Moon browser won’t add them in.

  4. ComicHippo said on August 14, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Has this feature landed on Firefox ( Beta , Aurora or Nightly )or this is just a mockup ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

      Part of it has landed, will be complete in one of the next updates.

  5. dw4rf_t0ss said on August 14, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Experience tells me it will not be opt-in, though I hope I’m wrong. I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that their intended audience for these changes are not the sharpest of tacks, and many would probably never use or enable it, whereas smart types who read sites like ghax are able to shut it off. heh

    ——–the rest is a relevant, but somewhat OT and angry rant———

    On the average, I believe this could be why they always make people opt-out rather than in. Facebook, firefox, and many others all opt you in to BS like Beacon or some other unwanted drastic change and just hope that the masses of dullards won’t squawk too much and ruin all your “legal-but-very-grey-area” fun. This incident alone SHOULD have caused a mass exodus from Facebook. Not surprisingly, most didn’t give a rip. Nah, Facebook is actually pissing people off with their UI changes, heh. “I don’t care about mah privacy, mah page is fugly”.

    I personally find the whole social data-mining fad to be obnoxious, and most of the people who I know GROSSLY misrepresent themselves on it. But there are many who love it, or use it for “professional reasons” etc (HEY I just got a friend request from a BAR… does a building type anyways?).

    From a business perspective, I get the why of it, as there are mobs of dullards who demand such. Still, that doesn’t mean anyone with half a brain has to like or support it. Sell your seemingly innocuous details for access to a website; just don’t be surprised when in a few years they put cams in your TVs so that they can monitor your faces for cues to determine if you liked a show (you don’t trust us? Here’s some Farmville, alllll better). I’m not saying we are even close to that, but if people…..awwww who am I kidding, we’re all so very screwed.

    Facebook stock, compared to its’ IPO price, is a joke, and its’ gonna tank more as people leave in droves due to, of all things, Timeline hatred, as well as even more shares flooding out there (1.7 BILLION, give or take). Earnings are flagging like crazy, and what do you think they will be selling when they get REALLY desperate to stay afloat? It can only get worse.

    1. Alex said on August 14, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Well apparently there are clothes from Wal-Mart that had been or may be coming with RFID technology. In their words “This ability to wave the wand and have a sense of all the products that are on the floor or in the back room in seconds is something that we feel can really transform our business”
      So that reality is not all that far away… .

      1. Alex said on August 14, 2012 at 11:34 am

        god ok no more messing with the mod I promise

    2. Alex said on August 14, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Well apparently there are clothes from Wal-Mart that had been or may be coming with RFID technology. In their words “This ability to wave the wand and have a sense of all the products that are on the floor or in the back room in seconds is something that we feel can really transform our business”
      So that reality is not all that far away…

      1. Alex said on August 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

        can thse be just deleted altogheter?

      2. Alex said on August 14, 2012 at 11:35 am

        god ok no more messing with the mod I promise.

    3. dw4rf_t0ss said on August 14, 2012 at 8:32 am

      And yeah, Firefox is becoming like that ex who used to be so hot, but she got a little too comfortable and fat on ya, and assumed you would always just put up with it.

      I just don’t see what’s so difficult about having a bare-bones and speedy browser with a start page that says: YA WANNA INSTALL SOCIAL PLUGINS? Click here. Such an approach would alienate nobody, and still accomplish what they wanted to do.

      1. Paul said on August 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

        Haha nice :D

  6. Bob said on August 14, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Firefox is at the point where they aim to please marketing companies first by introducing features meant to data mine people even more. No matter what history you delete, they still have it.

    Two weeks ago my browser was not shutting down when I tried to close it. I had to run a batch file that I created to force it to close. Also at the same time my history button extension started to freeze. I ended up uninstalling Firefox, Adobe, and Java with Revo Uninstaller, JV16 Powertools, and manually though the appdata folder and reinstalling everything except Firefox. I ran SFC /Scannow and it repaired some corrupt files.

    I am now using Palemoon as Firefox is really starting to get buggy.

    1. noswal said on August 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      I also switched to Pale Moon about a week ago and so far I’m very pleased.
      Haven’t had any stability problems so far.
      I hope that Pale Moon can be used with Mozilla Backup soon.

  7. ComicHippo said on August 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I hope there would be a way to disable this crap in the about:config .

    1. Bill2 said on August 14, 2012 at 3:11 am

      Yes, I think it is “social.enabled”.

  8. Uhtred said on August 13, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Though I’m not keen on them, seems social networks are here for the next few years at least… so can’t blame FF developers for following the trend… but seems to me it would be nicer if they gave you the basic model, and then let you choose from there.
    It can’t be too much of a leap, even for not so technical users to be provided with a checkbox list of “official FF add ons” or list of official FF recommended add on packages to suit the gamer or the social networker etc. The add on facility is there already, it just needs to be marketed a bit better, and a clear distinction made between what FF develops, and the third party material.

  9. Wayfarer said on August 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    ‘Goose’ and ‘golden egg’ just about says it for me.

  10. Damirora said on August 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    “Mozilla noticed that the majority of Internet users are spending time on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, and the idea was born to provide Firefox users with a browser that provides them with better accessibility and connectivity when it comes to these networks.”

    Do FFox users get those for XXX networks and the like as well¿ The majority of internet users must be on those as well. Maybe Mozilla should connect them directly to those too, and be providing the FFox users faster, free XXX content and whatnot.

  11. Marlon Orozco Baños said on August 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    In my experience, the speed of Firefox has increased in very build since 4; but maybe is a misperception. I liked panorama, but don’t liked the removal of the status bar nor the search from address bar (Browse by name extension fixed that). But I will never prefer a non-open-source browser, who is way ahead in the implementation of features I don’t like, and (for Crhome in particular) it’s getting more google-centric each time. Firefox still have my loyalty.

  12. Genious said on August 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    This should be a plugin not part of the browser. A browser needs to just that, brows the web. Extensions allow people to customize their user experience. I don’t want this crap.

  13. Guest said on August 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I don’t really hate this feature since, like Martin pointed out, is completely opt-in.

    I do like Panorama though. It wasn’t that great in Firefox 4, but has been improved through the last few versions after.

    Firefox fixed these issues for Panorama:

    When closing a tab in Panorama, don’t immediately resize other tabs

    Panorama groups should always persist

    Load Panorama groups on-demand


    I do understand how Firefox’s users can hate new features, but not every new feature is a bad thing. I do believe Mozilla should focus more on fixing existing issues in already implemented features, but I’m not mad at them for exploring new territory.

    I guess the problem is Mozilla maybe juggling too many things at once instead of focusing on refining what’s already there. It seems to be hard for them to find a balance when it comes to prioritizing and making decisions on multiple fronts.

  14. Zeus said on August 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    As someone who barely even uses Twitter, let alone Facebook, the sound of “social features” sends chills down my spine.

  15. Bill said on August 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I like Firefox for all the optional add-ons available. Note the word *optional*. Another option for me is a different browser.

  16. SuilAmhain said on August 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    They must offer the facilities the majority of users want.
    Mozilla and some die-hard whiners may not want the features but Firefox must compete or die.

    1. The Mighty Buzzard said on August 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      No, Firefox does not have to compete or die. They got by just peachy when they had only a few percent market share.

      And they are not offering things users want. They are offering change for the sake of change, users be damned. This new attitude will be their Metro if they don’t knock it the hell off.

      1. Marc said on August 13, 2012 at 11:17 pm

        @SuilAmhain Problem is regardless of if is opt in or opt out and if you actually are going to use it or not, it’s more code to the browser, that means that it becomes more complex, hence more propense to bugs and unstability issues or reduced performance and as such bloated.

        I would add that I understand their reasoning, why are they adding those features, but I completely disagree. Firefox is a browser, and it has to be damn good as it. If you want to made it an all-in-one-package, you have to made it in such way that those features don’t mess in any way with the tiny efficient faster browser, that is using modular aproach and Firefox has the Extensions Modular Platform. All these extra features should be addons-based approach. Perhaps you can just advertize them more prominently in the browser so that all the user base becomes aware of them and few clicks away to use it. From a Developers perspective perhaps: If I develop this I want it to be built-in in the browser so that everyone hast it. That’s just wrong. I would love to see some stats of how many people actually use Panorama for example – Jet like Reports – or other browser heavy stuff like Sync (a lot more likely) but still I haven’t met any regular user that does make use of Sync (Not Ghacks or LH readers!). Just like Google Mozilla should have a deprecation and cleaning police: Google after some times Removes / terminates those unsuccessful services; cleans the house and removes the efforth maintaining them. The same should be applied to Mozilla Firefox functionality.

      2. SuilAmhain said on August 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm

        You do not want the social features and you do not like Metro, that’s your individual opinion

        If Firefox market share diminished to less than say 10% and when/if the Google dollars keeping the Mozilla foundation alive reduce drastically and/or disappear we’ll see how long the infrastructure that makes Firefox possible hangs together.

        I will not use the social features but I can understand why they are there

  17. Peter (NL) said on August 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I do not like this move from Mozilla Firefox. I think that big favicon with notifications is ugly If people want to use Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, let them acces the relevant website and log in there.
    I really hope the Firefox user can get rid of that large notifications favicon. I don’t want to see it in my browser UI. I just want a SECURE, STABLE, SUPER FAST, WEB COMPLIANT browser. No circus around it.

  18. Tony said on August 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    As a professional web dev, I used Firefox for years mainly for extensions like Firebug, making dev so much easier. But these days, Chrome’s built-in inspection tools are just as good as Firebug, and their add-ons aren’t half bad either.

    More importantly, Firefox has become completely and utterly unstable and slow by comparison on every machine I’ve used it on. Chrome still misses a few basic marks (No RSS or Image Properties without an add-on? Really?) – but it’s a pleasure to use by comparison.

  19. The Mighty Buzzard said on August 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Feature creep needs to die in a fire. I started using Firefox because it wasn’t a bloated PoS like Netscape and was more secure than IE. Well, it’s still more secure than IE but now it’s a bloated PoS more than Netscape ever was.

    I swear, if it weren’t the most screwed up build environment I’ve ever tried to compile from, I’d start a fork from v3 or 4 and include only internals updates. No GUI changes and no additional features. Within a year the Mozilla builds would have less market share than IE 4.

    1. Paul said on August 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      +1 I’ll hold the future updates after version 15! Before, there were add-ons for adding things like these for people who wanted it. Now, there are add-ons for removing these sh*ts.

    2. JohnJ said on August 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm


      I’m struggling to find one improvement since 4 that has actually made my browsing experience better. That is, with the browser right out of the box. Because, anything that HAS made it better, I was already using as extensions since 3. (security fixes excepted)

      1. Paul said on August 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

        @JohnJ – HTML5, CSS3, better performance, better looks, some under the hood functionality

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