Mozilla's concept iPad browser eliminates the URL bar, tabbed browsing

Safari for iPad has a “pretty miserable” user experience and browsers for Android tablets are even worse, according to Mozilla developers working on an iPad browser of their own, called Junior. Their vision of tablet browsing, presented in a video made last week, removes the URL bar and strips away tabs to achieve a sleeker and simpler browser experience on tablets.

Safari for iPad feels like an application where Apple decided to take the desktop version of the browser, pulled out the user interface and slapped it onto the iPad, said Alex Limi of Mozilla’s Product Design Strategy team during a video created Thursday detailing the team’s plans for tablet browsing. “We don’t think that is the way to do the browser of the future,” he added.

The browsing experience on tablets should be more app-like, according to Limi. That’s why Mozilla’s concept browser looks like an app, eliminating tabs and the URL bar to display a full-screen webpage in an effort to create a magazine feel.

Junior is not fully gesture-based, and has two buttons on the left and right side of the screen that are operated by the user’s thumbs when the iPad is held in portrait mode, the video shows.

The left button is a back button that basically allows users to visit the previous page. The right button carries a plus symbol and takes the user from the current webpage to an overview page that has icons of favorite and recently visited websites as well as a search bar and a virtual keyboard. The search bar can also be used as an URL bar, the developers said.

Both buttons can be pulled into the screen to reveal four sub-buttons. Behind the back button users can find a reload and a forward button; behind the plus buttons users find a share and a print option. “With those six functions you cover everything I use the browser for, at least,” said Limi.

By simplifying the browser interface this way, Mozilla aims to make browsing on tablets more focused and more fun, Limi added.

Junior has multi-user accounts built in to make it easier for families who use the same device to switch between accounts, he added. Users are not required to log out but can simply switch to their own profile, he showed, adding that the team is thinking about adding PIN-protected profiles.

Limi emphasized that the Junior browser is still a prototype. It is built in Titanium, used by developers to code applications in JavaScript and then compile code into native iOS, according to Mozilla’s Trond Werner Hansen. But it has limitations for powerful apps like browsers, so at least part or maybe all of the current Junior code would probably have to be compiled to Objective-C, the main programming language used by iOS developers, the developers added.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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