Mozilla recently released its Social API, along with a preview of social integration with Facebook Messenger for Firefox. The project is designed to enable users to more easily get involved socially with websites, no matter where they are on the web.
Although the technology is designed to be open and extensible, and also simple to disable entirely if you don’t need it, questions have been raised regarding the Social API’s current Facebook focus and Firefox’s trend towards adding features rather than streamlining.
.net spoke to Johnathan Nightingale, VP Firefox Engineering, about these concerns and what we can expect from the Social API in the future.
.net: How does the Social API benefit the open web and web users? Isn't it just hooking into proprietary tech owned by massive corporations?
Nightingale: The Social API was built for users first. We provide a way for the social sites people are already using to integrate more deeply with their browser because we see how much our users already interweave their social activity into their online lives. The Social API is not specific to any particular provider; it is documented and interoperable, built for the open web like everything we do at Mozilla. The open web is not anti-corporate, as long as users have control and choice over their online experience.
.net: How rapidly do you intend to move beyond just Facebook?
Nightingale: We need to build a good user experience around managing multiple providers before we can start enabling others. Once that's done, it's just a question of finding other services that understand what we're trying to build, and who want to create something excellent for our shared users. Some of those conversations are already starting to happen.
Our design and engineering teams are already building support for multiple services. The work is still in its early days, and will evolve as we get prototypes out to our community of Nightly testers.
.net: Firefox was once known for speed and its streamlined nature, yet this addition resembles Flock. Are you not concerned about bloat?
Nightingale: We are more focused than ever before on performance, and have expanded that work to include both technical benchmark performance and the human performance of our users. The social integration features in Firefox help people stay connected through sites they would otherwise have opened in a tab, so the real world performance impacts are likely to be negligible or even positive; we'll continue to measure it carefully. The human performance benefits of having your social sites available at a glance are harder to measure, but early reports from our users are that they, too, are positive.