Firefox 17 is here, complete with baked-in Facebook Messenger functionality.
We’d known for a little while that Firefox was developing some sort of Messenger integration, but the Facebook functionality amounts to more than just a chat box. You can look at it like having your Facebook window always open in a smaller side pane of your browser — complete with notifications, likes, comments, friend requests and photo tags.
All of these functions can be accessed via the social API, using native Firefox code, buttons and commands, so it’s more integrated than simply having a Facebook plug-in. Actually browsing your stream still requires the full Facebook page, but it’s a handy way to keep you connected and cut down on unnecessary trips to another browser tab.
And Firefox has assured the world that this is simply the beginning. Mozilla’s social API is not a Facebook exclusive by any means; the framework is open to all developers who wish to integrate Firefox features into third-party browser-based social functions of all kinds. Peer-to-peer video and audio calling, and even data transfer, are a few of the possibilities that have already been mentioned by Mozilla. At the very least, you can bet that Twitter and LinkedIn won’t want Facebook to have a monopoly on Firefox for too long..
Mozilla’s director of Firefox Engineering, Johnathan Nightingale, clarified the social API goals with CNET [http://download.cnet.com/8301-2007_4-57537544-12/firefoxs-social-api-debuts-with-facebook-messenger/]. For those of you who consider the social API to be unnecessary (after all, you can simply open up Facebook in another tab, right?), keep in mind that social networking is more like communication than task-based browsing.
“It’s something that pervades that you’re constantly touching throughout the day,” said Nightingale. “People put it in an app tab, or keep it on their phone, constantly glancing back at it.”
Take That, Google!
Both Mozilla and Facebook have some reason to consider Google an adversary. At the very least, Google’s Chrome browser has stolen plenty of thunder from Firefox — often running neck-and-neck for the number two spot in browser market share. Although Google+ has not seriously threatened Facebook as a social networking alternative, various individual features (from the business-friendly pages to Search Plus Your World page rank shenanigans) continue to nibble away at the viability of Facebook’s tenuous post-IPO revenue structure. One can easily see why the two might be interested in a non-Google strategic partnership — the only thing missing would be to bring Microsoft further into the fold. Or Apple, but that’s just crazy.
Then again, many who defected to Chrome did so because of a feeling that Firefox was becoming too bloated. Surely the addition of an integrated social API won’t win back that market segment… but you don’t HAVE to turn it on, of course.