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Mozilla The Internet GUI Software

Mozilla Preparing To Scrap Tabbed Browsing? 554

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the if-it-ain't-broke-fix-it dept.
Barence writes "Mozilla Labs has launched a design competition that aims to find an alternative to tabbed browsing. 'Tabs worked well on slow machines on a thin internet, where ten browser sessions were "many browser sessions,"' Mozilla claims on its Design Challenge website. 'Today, 20+ parallel sessions are quite common; the browser is more of an operating system than a data display application; we use it to manage the web as a shared hard drive. However, if you have more than seven or eight tabs open they become pretty much useless.' Aza Raskin, the head of user experience at Mozilla Labs, has already blogged on the possibility of moving tabs down the side of the browser, with tabs grouped by the type of activity involved (i.e. applications, work spaces)."
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Mozilla Preparing To Scrap Tabbed Browsing?

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  • by ionix5891 (1228718) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:37AM (#27994077)

    We need a ribbon!

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:42AM (#27994155) Homepage

      Can we call it the awesome ribbon?

    • or a wider monitor...
  • Sounds more like they're looking for intelligent incremental improvement to me. And why not? Tabbing has taken over the browsing world entirely! Even the Redmondites can't throw an ad campaign accusing tabs of being evil after being the final adopter of the technology. . . .
    • by TeknoHog (164938) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:46AM (#27994197) Homepage Journal

      Even the Redmondites can't throw an ad campaign accusing tabs of being evil after being the final adopter of the technology. . . .

      This is funny as the first place I remember seeing a tabbed interface was MS Office, back before I knew of Linux. For example, the different sheets in a spreadsheet program are exactly like tabs, both in look and feel, and function. It's funny how much hype and 'innovation' it has taken to bring such a common UI element into web browsers.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      When the folks at Opera solve this "problem", I'm sure everyone else will adopt it about a decade later.
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:52AM (#27994315)

      Tabbing has taken over the browsing world entirely!
      Except for the fact that only people who are technical seem to use them. All my non technical friends when I watch them browse the Internet it is quite painful. They keep on clicking a new application to open the browser for every page they want open at the same time. Google the URL (which I won't correct them as it is probably safer that way as they don't go to a mistyped URL and get a bunch of junk). When they have a lot of browsers open they Minimize and maximize or move windows around until the find the right one.

      I would say more effort would be to making tab browing easier for the non tech person (Yes it is really easy for the tech person a click of the mouse or a Alt/Ctrl/Command - T) but the non-technical people will not experiment with their computer. When we see a funny little Icon we click on it and see what it does, a non technical person will just leave it alone. And don't even bother trying to get them to go threw the menu.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        perhaps a default to open new application requests as a tab. Then all the power users need to do is turn it off.

        I know when I want a new browser (to seperate out one set of work from another) but grandma doesn't configure her web experience like that.

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:34AM (#27995041)

        Except for the fact that only people who are technical seem to use them. All my non technical friends when I watch them browse the Internet it is quite painful. They keep on clicking a new application to open the browser for every page they want open at the same time. Google the URL (which I won't correct them as it is probably safer that way as they don't go to a mistyped URL and get a bunch of junk). When they have a lot of browsers open they Minimize and maximize or move windows around until the find the right one.

        What drives me batty is when people open windows explorer windows to get to certain folders, then close them instead of minimize only to have to open them up again a minute later. I have to sit on my hands to keep from ripping the mouse away from them.

  • by SalaSSin (1414849)
    20+ tabs? Damn, when i have 10 tabs i'm already lost, even with addons to view thumbnails of those tabs...

    I'm rather intrigued what will come out of this design contest...

    Personally i don't think the sidebar is that good of an idea. Eats away too much space of my screen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by robthebloke (1308483)
      It's a bit like the windows start bar tbh. If you routinely have a tonne of apps open, move the bar to the side (instead of the bottom) - give you readable text for all of those apps. Surely the same could be true of browsing.
  • Not quite right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Masami Eiri (617825) <brain,wav&gmail,com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:41AM (#27994137) Journal
    Sounds less like ditching tabs, and more like adding grouping. Make it optional, and I don't see a problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spinkham (56603)

      You can already do this.
      I use the "tree style tab" extension on the side on my widescreen desktop, and it works well.
      On my smaller laptop screen I use the normal tabs on the top.

  • Bah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:42AM (#27994149) Journal

    Mozilla claims on its Design Challenge website. "Today, 20+ parallel sessions are quite common; the browser is more of an operating system than a data display application; we use it to manage the web as a shared hard drive.

    And here we see the next step in FireFox going down the drain. I want a browser not an OS. FireFox is bloated and crash prone, even more so that IE7. If Opera had the plug-in capability of Firefox, I'd move back to it.

  • Stupid. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Miladinoski (1280850) <(miladin.miladinoski) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:44AM (#27994169) Homepage

    Aza Raskin, the head of user experience at Mozilla Labs, has already blogged on the possibility of moving tabs down the side of the browser, with tabs grouped by the type of activity involved (i.e. applications, work spaces).

    Insanely stupid IMO! I personally because I want browser space, totally remove every toolbar - including the tab bar (scroll through them with Ctrl-Tab in Opera) - and now some idiots want to waste more space.

    I don't want a 'Safari look' on my browser, I just want it to be functional and work the way I want. What turns me on is the fact that I can open more than 10 tabs freely on a PC with 512 megs of RAM and not be hogged.

    Sadly, more and more people turn on to other browsers because of their pimped looks (IE) only later to find out that they're peace of crap in the features included.

  • by Manip (656104) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:44AM (#27994175)

    Traditionally when competition exists it pushes the technology (or industry) forward but unfortunately that hasn't been the case with browsers.

    While browsers improve they also remain very much the same. If you pull up a copy of Netscape Navigator 4.0 you'll find that most things are still identical to today's browsers.

    Just to give one example, look at bookmarks, they rarely have even basic search capabilities (e.g. title) and never have more sophisticated searches (e.g. content). Organisation is horribly difficult and finding anything often takes longer than googling it.

    To give another example, history, it is a basic list of websites you've visited but often containing random javascript pages and giving no visual representation of what you visited (visual memory is useful). Search is bad here too.

    I could list more and more examples but I think you get my point.

  • I routinely deal with more than 20 open tabs, and upwards of 60-80 open tabs at times. It isn't a problem, from a performance perspective.

    What is an issue is managing all those open tabs, and being able to find the one I want. I use a number of extensions which help with this, but it can still get burdensome at times. Still, I don't think it's a huge problem, and it doesn't really bother me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shrike82 (1471633)
      Similar story here, though never as many as 60 tabs! How do you keep track of them?

      For academic purposes it can get a bit out of hand when I have 20-30 tabs open, each one containing a journal paper. Trying to juggle them, find the one that I need to look at right now, then another that I need to quote etc. can be difficult. An intelligent way of managing this would be a godsend. TFA is quite correct when it says that browsers are becoming less and less about pure data display - they're a portal to what
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jamesh (87723)

      Hell yeah. They can have my tabs when they pry them from my cold dead hands. My browsing habit is basically to google something, middle click a bunch of likely looking links and then go look at them - hopefully they've loaded up by then.

      Still... if they can come up with something better i'm willing to give it a go.

  • would be indeed a good idea, IMHO.

    CC.
  • Group by site? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:46AM (#27994199)
    Whenever I run into massive multiplication of tabs, it's rarely dozens of entirely separate sites. I'll have three or four /. stories open, and I'll have opened a few subthreads in each one to follow them separately. I'll have several Wikipedia pages open. I'll have the BBC writeups of all football matches of interest from the previous day. So, dozens of tabs in all, but mostly from the same few domains.

    Obvious solution, group them together by site. Instead of a dozen separate tabs which say 'Slashdot Co...' have one tab saying 'slashdot.org' and when I click on that it can show me everything I have open. In fact this is too obvious to be a new idea: surely someone's already programmed an extension that makes this happen?

    • Re:Group by site? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:07AM (#27994525)

      Except that when I have that grouping by site makes little sense.

      There's a slashdot article, the link from the article (no, seriously), maybe some additional links open, maybe a wikipedia page if something was interesting enough, a google search page and maybe a couple of result pages open if it was *really* interesting.

      Then there's a google maps page, a google search page, some real estate lising pages.

      Then a bugzilla page, a calendar, some task pages, a google search page, some search result pages, maybe some mailing list archive pages, and the damn documentation for the obscure library function I actually was looking for.

      The groupings are not by site, they're by activity with multiple overlapping sites in each activity. Of course at some point multiple browser *windows* makes sense...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kagura (843695)
      Tab Mix Plus [mozilla.org]. Don't let the "last updated" date fool you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Does it
        1) not mess with other extensions
        2) not use up loads of memory (some leaks, some due to features)
        yet?

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:48AM (#27994233)

    "the browser is more of an operating system than a data display application"

    Err no, it isn't. Its not even close to being an OS. A data display application with some built in interpreters is ALL it is and hopefully is all it will be since most browsers are bloated enough already.

    "we use it to manage the web as a shared hard drive"

    Speak for yourself pal - not all of us want to manage our private files or even lives online. Just because you do doesn't make it so for everyone.

    • by Fzz (153115) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:23AM (#27994813)
      Well, a traditional operating system is essentially an abstraction layer between user applications and the hardware. It manages storage, performs task scheduling, handles I/O in a standard way for applications, maintainss user sessions, provides isolation between applications for security, and provides programming APIs that expose all this functionality in a unified way.

      A browser is becoming similar, what with browser plugins (PDF, Flash) and Javascript. It does limited storage management (mostly cookies, cache and bookmarks), performs internal scheduling, handles some I/O (display, mouse, etc) in a standard way for "browser applications", maintains separate sessions (tabs), provides (limited) isolation between tabs (could be better though), and provides programming APIs that expose much of this functionality in a unified way (especially for javascript).

      It's not completely there as an OS, but it's certainly got many of the properties of an OS.

  • it was never designed to be so, and probably should never be. If there are elements of the web that you are using as if they were part of your operating system, e.g webstorage, google docs... then those services should develop applications to integrate themselves into your OS (c.f web/netowrk disks).
  • First, the browser isn't an OS. (It's a browser, stupid!)

    Second, someone's pissed about chrome's separate processes per tab. (now, just close the process on that tab and no more crashes.)

    Third, to make firefox useful, you must bloat it up with addons. (evidenced by the 12+ addons I have loaded right now)

    Fourth, someone's also pissed about chrome being so fast. (let's not argue, it's just way faster.)

    Fifth, If I could load addons into chrome, I'd be a fanboy. (specifically adblock)

    Sixth, make firefox able to use different javascript engines and perhaps different rendering engines, then we'll talk about tabs. (which, if you think about it is the main appeal of firefox. It's why people started switching in the first place.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AndrewNeo (979708)

      Third, to make firefox useful, you must bloat it up with addons.

      I don't think you quite understand how this works, as evidenced by

      Fifth, If I could load addons into chrome, I'd be a fanboy. (specifically adblock)

      So you're bashing Firefox for needing addons to make it useful (when in reality you mean more useful), but then you want addons to make Chrome (more) useful? There is no difference. Add-ons in Chrome would be add-ons in Firefox.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:50AM (#27994275)

    That's what bothers me more, that my browsing experiences hangs with one page. Perhaps every tabs should be it's own thread/process/whatever.

    I don't know about alternatives to tabs, but whatever they come up with (like Google's Chromium), I'm pretty sure it will be still tabs but just an alternative presentation adding up to the same thing - even if becomes like the mulitple desktops Linuxes have. I don't think anyone wants to go to the pre-tab days of having 20 browser apps crowding out the other apps.

    I wish they would concentrate on making the browser better at sorting information, an update to the dated bookmark concept, maybe with a profile that automatically transfers (if you want it too) to your other computers, making your experience more seamless. Or just being able to save a webpage as a PDF (take a hint from OS X) without using add-ons.

  • Please... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Betonschaar (178617) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:55AM (#27994347)

    "Today, 20+ parallel sessions are quite common; the browser is more of an operating system than a data display application; we use it to manage the web as a shared hard drive. However, if you have more than seven or eight tabs open they become pretty much useless."

    Sure, maybe the Mozilla folks like their browser so much they use it as an OS and open up 20+ tabs at once with it, but I'm pretty confident the average user just browses the web with it, and doesn't open more than 3 or 4 tabs at once. At least I don't (or anyone I know, for that matter) and I even consider myself a power user, I spend about 2 hours a day in my browser.

    Maybe the Mozilla devs should consider gathering some statistics to back up their assumptions about browser use because this really sounds like they don't really get the difference between the 1% power users and the 99% casual users that just visit the same few websites they visit everyday.

    Until that, just keep the tabs please.

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:56AM (#27994353)

    Tabs and new windows are not mutually exclusive. I group my tabs just fine by having a separate window for each set of tabs. To me it makes a lot of sense since I can ALT-tab between subjects and CTRL-tab between tabs in that subject. I don't see their sidebar solution as being any better.

  • I suggest... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pizza_milkshake (580452) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:59AM (#27994399)

    As others have said, the first thing I do in Windows is turn off window grouping, and in firefox is turn off all the extraneous, real estate-sucking bars they haven enabled.

    I suggest that they implement whichever solution(s) they like as an extension, and let people vote with their downloads which one they like best before drastically changing the browser. Let the users decide.

  • by bytesex (112972) on Monday May 18, 2009 @08:59AM (#27994401) Homepage

    Grouping tabs wouldn't work. All those hundreds of tabs would still end up in the same group: porn. And I'd be just as lost.

  • Book Metaphor? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BBCWatcher (900486) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:06AM (#27994509)
    I think the correct metaphor for organizing a large number of (Web) pages is a book. A book can have hundreds or even thousands of pages, referenced by page number at least. The pages can be organized into sections, chapters, and subsections, all of which are listed in a hierarchical table of contents. The pages can also be indexed according to key words and topics. And there's a level of abstraction above a book if needed: a bookshelf. In terms of user interface design, all of these bookish elements have been implemented pretty well in other contexts. Coverflow-style page flipping would probably be one navigation option, for example.
  • by C_Kode (102755) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:12AM (#27994625) Journal

    Removing tabs would be a big deal, and if you do it. You had damn well better be right.

    Coke thought the people wanted something new with "New Coke". That didn't go over well and the backlash damaged Coke as many Coke drinkers, went with other products and some didn't come back with Coke Classic came out.

  • by arikol (728226) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:23AM (#27994811) Journal

    This sounds brilliant to me.

    If the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" crowd had their way we would all be using carrier pigeons..

    Seriously, Netscape stopped innovating and died. IE stopped improving and lost an amazing amount of market share. Firefox HAS to keep awake and on top of the game if they want to stay relevant.

    And improving the web using experience at home is an excellent idea. Just test lots of cool ideas until we find one that works well. Then try to figure out something better.

    Now I usually don't have more than 5-20 broswer tabs max, often split across 2 or three workspaces. That still doesn't mean that the system can't be improved!

  • And how about... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:33AM (#27995021)

    ...not having 500 tabs open, just because you want to read them in the next 3 years or something? ^^

    You know, there is a feature called "bookmarks" for this.

    Basically, the only point where I can imagine that it makes sense to open enough tabs to fill the whole bar, is when you open many images, or search results. They could be displayed in a gallery-like manner.

    But I have a problem with sidebars: They take away too much space. And still you got no overview.
    You basically either create one line per tab, which would usually cut off the most important part of the page title (Making 10 tabs say "Slashdot Comments | Mo..."). And below, you still got 80% of the tab empty.
    Or you add line-breaks, and more, and got some huge rows that take away most of the place, while still only allowing some 8 tabs to be visible. Again: Lost space. Filled but still lost.

    But the concept of grouping tasks/tabs is not bad. Just please do not implement it in that incredibly disturbing and useless manner that it's implemented in XP.
    I would recommend adding a second "level" of tabs. For usability and overview, I would by default (but changable) force the number of tabs per set to 10 max. (average = 7). So you could have one level showing the topics, which would for example contain one topic for each project you are working on, and one for random stuff. And below that, there were the tabs, just like now.

    Oh, and I would create a function in the right-click menu of the tabs, that would show a window with the exact details on the memory and CPU usage of that tab. So people could finally see, that most memory eating in Firefox comes from Flash, and huge, html-downscaled pics and animated gifs. Seriously. Flash is the guilty one here.

  • tabs vs. windows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bigdavex (155746) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:39AM (#27995161)

    I personally think that the difference between arranging by tabs and arranging by multiple windows is nearly irrelevent. It's just a question of how to position the buttons that bring foucs to that content.

    The thing that tabbed browsing gets right that matters is that it fetches and renders the page without immediately bringing focus to it.

  • To me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Monday May 18, 2009 @09:45AM (#27995307) Journal

    ...this just shows that they don't know what (some) people use tabs for.

    Personally, when I tend to browse forums or a website, etc, I use tabs like footnotes.

    1) Efficiency: I continue reading the current thread or page, and 'open new tab' on any interesting link. This allows THAT page to load in the background while I continue to read uninterrupted. So while I have "broadband" some pages STILL take a not-irrelevant time to load.

    2) Organization: tabs allow me to reduce clutter and keep things organized. Right now, for instance, I have outlook, 2 emails I should be working on instead of reading/posting to /., 4 different excel worksheets (work), outlook reminders, adobe (work) and firefox. At least with the tabs all residing within firefox I can keep neatly separated between what I'm doing and what I SHOULD be doing....

    3) resources: ok, this was a far bigger issue with previous hardware and OS's, but it's still my preference not to run/exit/run/exit multiple iterations of any program. To open a new browser for a page I might spend 30 seconds reading seems a waste (and is quite a bit slower than ctrl+t) - on a day of heavy web-browsing, I might open 100+ pages. Perhaps I'm just ignorant and the memory load/memory leakage of multiple tabs is essentially the same for tabs as for multiple iterations, but that's my 'sense' of it - tabs seem less likely to run me out of resources.

    And no, having a host of "context" tabs that I could open doesn't sound terribly useful - if I open my "slashdot" tab, I'm after the individual stories, which the browser can't possibly predict which are worth downloading. On the other side of the coin, how could the browser anticipate/understand that (forum post)(4chan)(algore.com)(goatsce.cx) are all contextually tied (but only for as long as I need to make that forum post and insert the image - and then never, ever again).

    For my style of tab-heavy browsing, I wouldn't mind perhaps the tabs running down the side of the page. That seems more logically useful given the lateral nature of text, and easier to pack 20-30 tabs on a page. However, then it becomes a WASTE of space for people who only open a small number of tabs. With tabs on top, you're losing only the thickness of a text line in screen real estate; with tabs to the side, you lose the WIDTH of a text line - substantially more - even if you only have two tabs open. For that matter, I'd simply be happy with the ability to increase the height of the CURRENT tabline, like you can with the Windows bar in XP, so with 20-30 tabs, I can read more of their (currently-abbreviated) headers, at a small cost in screen area.

    In short, I love tabs and use them intensively. Don't see much of a need to change them.

  • by Deton8 (522248) on Monday May 18, 2009 @12:50PM (#27998923)
    The only reason I use tabbed browsing is because the BACK button is slow/unreliable/unpredictable. As far as I am concerned, the BACK button should instantaneously take me to the rendering of the most recent web page unless the page has some kind of meta tag which indicates that BACK requires either a refresh or is totally prohibited (e-commerce, banking, etc). But for ordinary surfing, the links on the previous BACK buffer are still valid and if only the browser remembered the previous page's contents we could have instant BACK functionality.

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