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09 July 2012, 14:13

Firefox plans to add a social API

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The Firefox team at Mozilla has published details of a planned new social API for the browser; it is currently being developed and should be included in development versions of the software soon. Mozilla is now looking for input from users on how to design the look and feel of the functionality.

Mozilla's wiki lists detailed blueprints for the social API. The developers plan to create an API along the lines of the search API that was introduced in the early days of Firefox which allowed search vendors to plug their services into the browser with relatively little effort. The social API would allow a service to supply a small number of URLs and other parameters to tell the browser how to interact with it.

On the frontend, the developers are proposing to create a new "Social Provider Sidebar" which will include the information from the different social services and will allow users to interact with them. Users can add new services from a provider list and turn different services on or off. Each service will have its own backend process that is sandboxed and pulls data from the provider at regular intervals; this is implemented by downloading a JavaScript file from the service provider which is then run and can store persistent data in the sandbox.

It has to be noted that most of the design is still only a proposal and that Mozilla is actively soliciting input from developers. The first elements of the backend support for the new API will land in the mozilla-central development repository in the next few days. After that, Mozilla first wants to add the ability for users to recommend web sites (this most likely means support for Facebook "Like" and Google "+1" functionality), with support for service notifications following as a next step. Further down the line, news feeds and chat should be supported as well.

Mozilla has not released any details about what kind of social services they are targeting, but the proposed system is generic enough that almost any kind of web service could be supported, from social networks to music services like and more.

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