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Mozilla prototypes browser for iPad

'Junior' prototype does away with tabs for full screen experience

Mozilla can't take its rendering engine to iOS, but is bringing something new to the table by overhauling the mobile browser experience. The company's Product Design Strategy team have put together an iPad browser that "re-thinks the browser user experience from the ground up", removing tabs and the address bar to create a full screen view.

The only UI elements you see are a back button and a plus symbol that brings up a separate "interaction" screen. This screen contains a search bar, icons for your bookmarks and thumbnails for your recent pages, which can be used as an altenative to tabs. Tapping a bookmark or recent page brings the site up in full screen view.

Trent Walton told us he welcomed the new ideas: "Compared to click-based desktop browsing, I've noticed a fair bit of friction when it comes to browsing on touch devices. Because of that, I think competition and new ideas are a good thing. Having the extra space (afforded by the lack of an address and tabs bar) in Mozilla's Junior seems nice, though I wonder if those overlay buttons could become annoying over time. It'd be nice to see an option to hide those buttons, or only show them when users scroll or tap along the side rails.

"The absence of tabs is interesting. I do use them fairly often on tablet devices, but here they've essentially combined them with browser history in a full-screen view. Accessing multiple pages at the same time will be an extra step unless you're using the back button, but perhaps that's a fair tradeoff for a full screen, more immersive browsing experience."

Peter-Paul Koch is less enthused with the plan, dismissing Junior as just a skin: "I think Mozilla is taking the wrong direction here. Junior is a skin over Safari, and while that's great for web developers, who don't have to test in another browser, it doesn't really help Mozilla.

"What they want to do is compete with Safari and other iOS browsers on user interface, but as far as I can see that doesn't ever work. We've had skins over other browsers for ages now on traditional computers, as well as on Android and iOS, but I have yet to see one that is actually a huge success (millions of users). As far as I can see users are not terribly interested in other interfaces.

"What Mozilla should have done, in my opinion, is create a proxy browser like Opera Mini. Thus they could have used their own Gecko engine (on the server, but still) and significantly speed up the browsing experience of their users. (Of course the users would get less client-side interaction, because any JavaScript call would have to be handled by the server.)

"Opera has been very succesful with this strategy, but if the rumours that Facebook is going to acquire Opera are true, Opera Mini users may become concerned with their privacy. All their data, including their logins and passwords, will go through Opera Mini servers that are now Facebook's property, and some people may not like that. Thus they might be willing to switch to another proxy browser created by a trustworthy company: Mozilla. Unfortunately Mozilla does not have plans in this direction, as far as I can see. I feel Mozilla is ignoring a huge chance to become relevant on mobile here.

"So I do not believe Mozilla Junior will amount to much, because it addresses the wrong use cases and ignores the right ones. But I could be wrong."

You can watch the presentation at which this was unveiled here.

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