Bees can see ultraviolet light that the human eye cannot see. Snakes and mosquitoes can see infrared light. The Firefox (browser) can see things that the human eye can't, too, but a lot of it doesn't get used for anything. So far.
Microformats are one thing that the browser notices while serving up web pages. This type of markup designating certain types of information has just begun to be leveraged in real use cases. Alex Faaborg, Principle Designer on the Firefox team, has some interesting ideas about how the browser could leverage the microformatted information it comes across.
FOOCamp about some of the concepts he'd like to see played out in the future of the browser.Faaborg gave a presentation at this weekend's
These are a few of the conceptual mock-ups he showed in his presentation; they aren't planned features - but it sure would be cool if they became reality.
The gist of this idea is that information marked up with microformats as locations, events, etc. on pages around the web could be aggregated by Firefox and made available for viewing in other applications. Information made machine readable with the right markup could be passively captured and reused in different contexts to add new value. That's a pretty smart idea.
In this first mock-up you can see a user doing a search across multiple sites for apartments for rent. The browser captures all the locations viewed in the sidebar for organizing and viewing elsewhere.
In this next image you can see one resulting use case for the data captured above: viewing browsed addresses together in Google Earth.
Location is just one type of microformat. Another is events listings. In the mock-up below, the browser has captured all of the events listings in a user's browsing history and made them available as a "ghost calendar" in Google Calender. Just a reminder - that event you stumbled across is happening later today!
Other types of microformats include designation of people, reviews, tags and more. All these item types could be pulled out of a person's browsing history and analyzed or viewed in new and different ways. There are websites and services doing this already but for the browser to do it too is a very interesting idea.
Firefox is a dynamic and widely used collection of software for which the future is wide open. This idea of capturing and leveraging microformats across applications is one of our favorite proposed directions for the future. The browser already sees this data, so doing something with it makes a whole lot of sense. To follow these and other ideas, check out Alex Faaborg's blog at Mozilla.
Firefox sunglasses image via Photobucket