Mozilla Ubiquity: a command line for the web

August 26, 2008

Mozilla Ubiquity: a command line for the web With the advent of graphical user interfaces, many people drifted away from the command line, and navigating an operating system morphed into a point and click experience. There are some signs that the command line is making a comeback though, particularly as web mashups become commonplace. Mozilla is driving that trend forward in a big way with its new Ubiquity plug-in for Firefox, which is essentially a command line for the web.

The web is a reflection of human beings in that it’s always changing and adapting to fit the needs of those around it an interacting with it. A human invention with human qualities. But as more applications find their homes on the web, pulling information from each of them becomes a disparate sequence of copying and pasting snippets of content into a new form. Mozilla is ready to change that with the launch of its new Ubiquity plug-in for Firefox.

Interestingly, a similar pattern has emerged with the Windows operating system, with applications throwing icons all over the start menu and  burying shortcuts in multiple folders. Command line is making progress there too in the form of applications like Launchy, which launches applications based on text entered into a command prompt.

In similar fashion, Ubiquity runs commands based on bits of text entered into a command prompt. For example to define a word in a web page, you would activate Ubiquity (I’m using CTRL+Space) then type “def this”. Ubiquity would then display a definition pulled from a dictionary on the web.

This has staggering implications for empowering the common web user to remix content more easily by controlling the flow of information around them.

For someone who reads a lot on the web, built in live page editing capability and highlighting are included. Imagine finding an article and adding a paragraph underneath one by the original author with notes about what you were thinking at the time. Then, highlighting a couple of words for emphasis. The only thing that would make it even better would be to share those edits with other people, right? And that’s when the “email this” command steps in.

Ubiquity has the potential to usher in a whole new way of interacting on the web, and I’m glad an open source organization like Mozilla is pioneering it.

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