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December 23, 2007

Weave: Integrating Online Services with Firefox

While social bookmarking sites like del.ico.us have a lot of fans, most people aren't comfortable with publicly displaying their bookmarks. Even if many sites allow you save your bookmarks online, the integration between the services and browsers is still not very good, you have to install plug-ins and learn how to bookmark sites and manage your bookmarks.

This year, browsers started to realize that they have a great opportunity: to extend their local bookmarking services and add an online layer. The first browser that integrated this feature was the IE-based Maxthon, then Opera added a bookmark synchronization feature to its desktop and mobile clients. Now Mozilla tests a similar service called Weave, that's available as an extension for Firefox 3 Beta 2, but unlike Opera and Maxthon, Mozilla's product will be open to third-parties.


As the Web continues to evolve and more of our lives move online, we believe that Web browsers like Firefox can and should do more to broker rich experiences while increasing user control over their data and personal information. One important area for exploration is the blending of the desktop and the Web through deeper integration of the browser with online services. (...) Just like Mozilla enables massive innovation by making Firefox open on many levels, we will aim to do the same with Weave by developing an open extensible framework for services integration.

For now, Weave lets you synchronize your bookmarks and your history, but the service should be extended to other kinds of data: passwords, cookies, settings, sessions, extensions. In this limited test, the only service provider is Mozilla, but once the platform matures, we can expect to see important service providers like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft. Instead of using Google Toolbar, you'll be able to bookmark web pages to Google Bookmarks directly from Firefox.

And if other browsers support this platform, you should be able to access the same personal data in Firefox, Opera or other browsers, at home or at work, from your computer or your mobile phone.


Here are some use cases from Mozilla:
* Automatic backup and restore - Dan's hard drive has died. Like many folks, Dan had never gotten around to getting that backup solution he knew he needed. Dan feels miserable when he thinks of all the software he needs to install, the stuff he's lost, and all the account names and passwords he'll never remember. Then he realizes that his family photos, email and calendar are all hosted online, as well as all of the services he uses to manage his life: his banking, shopping, purchased music and more. With his replacement computer in hand, he installs Firefox, logs in to his Mozilla account and resumes his online life without skipping a beat.

* Personalization made portable - Myk likes to visit his Mom on weekends. He doesn't have a laptop, so he uses his mom's computer when he visits. He used to be annoyed because, though he installed Firefox on his Mom's PC, he missed having easy access to his favorite sites and RSS feeds, and having to remember all his account names and passwords. He logs into his Mozilla account and his personalized experience returns. And, just as importantly, when he logs out, all of the cookies, bookmarks and other information is cleared from his Mom's PC so that she doesn't accidentally log in to his email account or anything else he was browsing.


Hopefully, Mozilla's project will become a part of Firefox 4 and other browsers will work in a similar direction. This way, it will be easier to decide who stores your data and to have your data with you permanently.

For now, Weave is available as an experimental extension for Firefox 3 Beta 2. If you use Firefox 2 or an earlier version, you can install Firefox 3 without conflicting with your current version, but it's recommended to create a new profile. You can find more about Firefox 3 from Ars Technica, but one thing is for sure: Firefox 3 is really fast.

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