Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Firefox tries to get Facebook friendly with new Social API

Firefox Start Page

Firefox's social API will soon launch for beta testing and offer users instant, in-browser social network access.

We’ve all seen search engines have been integrating plenty of social features, but browsers are also jumping on that bandwagon. Firefox announced today it will be integrating social features into its own browser and revealed preliminary support for a new social API that will allow developers to add social services right into its product.

Firefox has dabbled in social networking for some time now. Its social API stems from Firefox’s early and rudimentary feature called “Share,” which was released early in 2012. It made sharing URLs to your social network a breeze from within its browser. And back in March 2012, Firefox talked about how they were experimenting with social network, discussing early ideas for their social API:

  • Configure which social service provider(s) you want to integrate with your browser
  • Easily switch which service provider(s) should be active at any time
  • See which of your contacts are online and available for a chat (and start or join chats)
  • Share and read updates
  • Recommend, or express support, for things that you discover on the Web
  • Manage and receive notifications about activities coming from the service (friend requests, chat requests, etc.)

To sum it all up, the new addition means you won’t have to open up a new window and keep it open to check out the latest updates from your social networks. Hypothetically, apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can be accessed simply from the Firefox browser. “You can stay connected to your favorite social networks even while you are surfing the Web, watching a video, or playing a game,” says Firefox. But not only your social media accounts will be able to be integrated into your Firefox browser. It could easily expand to Gmail integration or the latest stock tickers. “The Social API will ultimately support multiple providers and has endless potential for integrating social networks, e-mail, finance, news and other applications into your Firefox experience.” The first service to integrate with the Social API is Facebook Messenger, so Firefox users will be able to get their Facebook chat fix without visiting the site. 

We noticed that the developer guide for the API has yet to be edited. In fact you’ll find a tag that denotes where a diagram would go, which currently just says: “<<<add an actual diagram>>>.” So when the beta version of the API is finally launched, some of the guidelines for developers are likely subject to change. In the meantime, it gives us a cursory look at how the integration will work. When the browser is opened and a connection to the Internet is established, you’ll immediately receive push notifications to the browser for the appropriate in-browser apps. If a chatting option is available, selecting chat will open up the service in new window.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook and Twitter especially play nice with a browser API, since that means fewer eyeballs on their proprietary sites. 

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