Some hours after Google had released Chrome, I read a lot of comments about the Chrome experience. Most users seemed to be quite enthusiastic, some few were not. But one sort of comments caught my attention: Some folks argued that Firefox users will stay with Firefox. Why? Because of all these nice add-ons you can extend Firefox with.
My spontaneous reaction was: Who needs add-ons?
Before you laugh at me. I run Firefox with extensions like Firebug, Web Developer, ScrapBook and others. I use them extensively and like them a lot. Who wants to miss Firebug, for instance? Nobody, right?! I wouldn't use a browser without my beloved add-ons. And one is for sure. A browser without extension capabilities won't make it in the long run. (Ok, I'm not sooo sure.)
So what made me think "Who needs add-ons"?
I contemplated some time over my spontaneous reaction. Forgive me, I don't know much about how to write extensions for Firefix. I am an extension user, not an extension programmer. But my gut feeling tells me that the approach to extensions in Firefox is wrong. It's the worst Google could do to copy the extension mechanism of Firefox. I should rephrase my first reaction: "Who needs such an add-on architecture?"
Instead of criticizing Firefox's extension mechanism, of which I don't know much about, let me sketch an alternative approach to extensions.
Got it? The Controller is a program that creates a user interface that mimics Firefox. Or Chrome. Or IE. Or Opera. Or Safari. Whatever you want.
If you type in a url in the url field and hit enter, it's the Controller, which -- so to speak -- creates an IFrame and loads the given web page into that frame. So the web page remains fully under control of the Controller.
The idea is simple, isn't it? It thrills me.
The development of such a "naked" browser inevitably raises questions like:
- How do we guarantee that the Controller doesn't loose control?
- How do we compose add-ons? How do we avoid interference of add-ons?
- Do we need a component architecture? Or do we need a service-oriented architecture?
- How do we ensure safe browsing and secure execution?