Mozilla plans to drastically speed up tasks in Firefox that typically start with a blank tab, like searching, reading Web mail or navigating to a new site.
“What do people do, what are they trying to do, when they open a new tab?” asked Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla Labs. “They’re starting a new task. They certainly don’t want just a blank page.”
To make it easier to shift gears from an active tab to a new, blank tab, Mozilla has come up with an extension, simply called “New Tab,” that puts likely destinations in a column down the side of the screen.
Unlike rival browsers, such as Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari 4, which fill a new tab with thumbnails of the most frequently-visited sites, Mozilla’s prototype mines the database of Places, the integrated history and bookmark feature that debuted in Firefox 3.0.
“We put up the sites that people most often visit after they open a new tab,” said Raskin.
Likewise, the small thumbnails are shoved to the side of the screen, out of the way of the user’s direct line of sight. Raskin called it “polite,” in that it’s meant to avoid distracting the user and load faster.
“If you’re going to a blank tab to get to another site, you don’t want Firefox to get in your way,” Raskin explained. If we start loading up the [new tab] page with large thumbnails, that slows down the ‘feeling’ of speed. What we don’t want to do is break [the user’s] train of thought.”