Firefox is introducing a new social API that allows people to access social web sites and other properties inside a sidebar on their browser. Users who upgrade to Firefox 17, which was released Tuesday, will be able to add Facebook Messenger, which is the first implementation of the Social API.
With the Social API, users will be able to see incoming messages and notifications and quickly begin chats with friends. The idea is to be able to have a quick view into a site without having to switch back and forth between tabs. Firefox is working with Facebook first but is expected to add more sites in the future.
With Facebook Messenger inside a sidebar, users can check notifications and see updates like comments and photo tags. They can respond right in the sidebar or they can hide it when they need less distractions.
This is interesting because it shows how social can be integrated into our browsing experience. We saw some of this with the Rockmelt browser but Firefox is a more mainstream product. It will be interesting to see what other websites connect to the API and how social Firefox and other browsers can get. Right now, this is just more of a quick short cut to some social content but there are a lot more opportunities to blend in social content with our browsing experience.
The Social API doesn’t have to work with only social sites. The API could be used by financial and sports sites to maintain a ticker or email providers could use it to make it easy to check in-coming messages. And since Firefox is open source, other browser makers could implement the Social API, though no other company has announced their intention to do so.
The Social API first appeared in beta last month, but now anyone with Firefox 17 will be able to use it. Future versions of Firefox will get the ability to handle more than one provider at the same time through the Social API.