As announced during the summer, Firefox released a new version with social integration – for now only Facebook. Currently available in the Beta version of Firefox 17 and in the Aurora and Nightly braches, you can theoretically activate it just by visiting Facebook and accepting the prompt. That didn’t work for me, probably because I use the Aurora channel; in that case it can be enabled via an about:config entry: toggle on social.enabled.
Once the feature enabled and after logging in to Facebook, Firefox will gain an additional set of four buttons on the main toolbar bar, as well as a ‘Like’-button inside the address field, and a new sidebar filled with Facebook real-time updates and chat. The four buttons reflect the main actions on the Facebook site, providing access to the profile, friend requests, messages and notification without visiting the site. It’s like having a mini-Facebook following you all around the web.
Which brings me to my opinion on this idea: do you really want to have all the updates and notifications from Facebook in your face all the time? Thanks, but no thanks! You can hide the sidebar, but – for now, at least – you can’t remove the new Facebook buttons from the toolbar without disabling the social integration completely. I prefer to have the screen for browsing, I don’t keep the ticker visible on Facebook, why would I want it everywhere I browse? There is also the question of privacy: even if Firefox doesn’t ‘leak’ any extra data to Facebook, simply by being logged in all the time Facebook can gather information about the sites you visit through the sharing widgets on the web. This goes against other decisions Firefox made in the past, including enabling secure search for Google. Another possible problem for the future is how will new social providers be visually integrated with the browser; if Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, pinterest came on board, will they each add a new button to the address bar, possible even more? This will make for a very cluttered browsing experience – again, going against the need to make the interface as streamlined as possible.
So, is this the way Mozilla it trying to get back in the browser wars? Because it’s not a very original one. It’s been tried before and those browsers never gained any traction.