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Aurora and Google Chrome

We didn’t collaborate with anyone from Google on the Aurora project to envision the future of the web, so we were especially interested to see their new browser, Google Chrome, and the ways in which it echoes some of the same ideas we came up with for Aurora. For a tour of the more interesting user interface touches in Chrome, check out pages 18-24 of Google’s comic book about the product.

As we explored how people use tabs to manage the web experience, it became clear to us that the notion of the “browser window” as the top-level component of the experience made less and less sense. In Aurora, we completely did away with windows, having all the interface elements that are usually attached to them reside in the frame or radial menus, all of which would typically be off-screen. Chrome doesn’t go quite that far, but by decoupling tabs and windows and allowing dedicated chromeless windows for web applications, it does deliver a more componentized approach embodying some of the same principles.

Both Aurora and Chrome see the browser’s location bar evolving into something much more flexible and useful. In Firefox 3, the location bar became the “awesome bar”, enabling users to search any part of a URL, page title, or tag, in both the browser’s history and bookmarks. In Aurora, we envisioned the awesome bar becoming the “way awesome bar”, a general text interface to everything in the browser as well as to services on the web. Google Chrome takes a step in this direction with the “omnibox”, which adds full-text search of browser history and access to web search services. (Mozilla is experimenting with moving toward the way awesome bar as well, with a project called Ubiquity.)

Chrome’s “new tab page” touches on one of the most significant themes in the Aurora concept: the idea that the browser learns from user behavior. The new tab page in Chrome presents the most frequently accessed pages and search services for that user. Aurora’s spatial view gives visual emphasis to objects based on frequency of use as well, but adds into the mix an analysis of user behavior patterns so that you’re not just seeing the same nine sites every time, but you’re seeing a different mix of sites depending on where you are and what you’ve most recently been doing.

By the way, there are a lot of interesting ideas for evolving the browser being discussed in the Mozilla Labs Concept Series forum. Check ‘em out!


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