Did you know that the way you surf the internet may be influenced by your culture? In the U.S. and Europe, web surfers are leaning forward, one hand on the mouse and the other on the keyboard, typing and mousing equally. In China, however, the process is much different. Web surfers there tend to lean back from the monitor while keeping one hand on the mouse, the other hand dangling. The keyboard is used much less frequently as much of the navigation is done with clicks instead.
Mike Beltzner, Director of Firefox at Mozilla Corporation, recently returned from a trip to China where he had the opportunity to observe and learn about the differences between Chinese web surfers and those in the Western world. The Chinese, he noted, were "letting the information come to them and drilling down when something caught their interest, as opposed to seeking out relevant information and branching out from there." Search, though important, was very much a secondary task for the Chinese.
To address these cultural differences, the Mozilla Online in Beijing created Firefox China Edition (beta), a web browser designed with the needs of the Chinese web surfers in mind.
The browser contains several features which make it useful for Chinese users, including:
- New mouse-based controls for common functions that are often invoked by shortcut keys in North America and Europe, which isn't as common a habit of Chinese users
- Some Maxthon-parity features such as the ability to close a tab using double-click
- A drop-down button on the toolbar for launching common system utilities like a calculator, a notepad, a screenshot grabber and an image editor (editing images and pasting screenshots is a very common activity in China). Maxthon is usually included on the CD with the pirated copy of Windows XP that many Chinese have installed.
- A new sidebar called "Live Margins" which allows the user to drag any highlighted text to open a new drill-down search which will show you semantically relevant content as well as allow you to store pictures, videos and music you encounter so you can return to it or play it from the sidebar without interrupting your usual browsing tasks. (This sidebar is also available as the Juice addon - for more info, see our review).
These features are all bundled together in the software known as Firefox China Edition, an optional download for Chinese web users. It is not intended to replace the version of Firefox shipped in China, only offer extra functionality if one so chooses to install it.
In a way, the China Edition reminds us a bit of Fashion Your Fox, the specialized collections of addons for the different types of web surfers. However, where Fashion Your Fox only provides links to addons, Firefox China Edition is the whole Firefox browser, preloaded with addons and extra features.
It will be interesting to see how many Chinese web surfers download this beta software. If successful, we may see more localized browsers appear in the future.