Our Dream Browser

Dream Browser Head

The other day, Sebastiaan de With of Cocoia wrote a blog post entitled “My Dream Browser”.

This immediately grabbed my attention and reminded me of a few ideas I had a while ago for changes in the browser space.

Here is one of the images he posted to visualise his ideas:

Dream Browser 01

The internet browser market is currently moving quickly in terms of new competition with the release of Safari for Windows, and Firefox 3 in beta, but in terms of design and UI it has been a while since any major changes took place.

The problem with current browsers is they are not designed for the new ways we are using the internet – RSS feeds are a late addition in the whole scheme of things, downloads are resigned to a small window in the background, and other media such as video and photos are still embedded into pages with no easy way of cutting through the clutter.

With this growing multitude of content flying around, perhaps a more organised approach would enable users to collect and share information online easily and efficiently.

Looking at iTunes, the most popular media software in the world, media is organised into groups of Music, Videos, TV Shows, Purchased Content, and then User Defined selection (Playlists). What if a similar approach was taken to the web? It would make sense – imagine being able to see all of the videos you have watched in the last week in a single list, with the ability to play any of them all from one page. Imagine you are downloading a 90 page PDF while also downloading a new app from your friend’s site, as well as downloading the latest movie trailer from the Quicktime site and being able to monitor all your downloads, and see what type of media each of them are, without even leaving the current window.

That’s our dream browser.

We also had some UI ideas of our own, some of which we are working on bringing into GoSquared itself sometime in the future.

You may remember, a while ago we wondered “why isn’t CoverFlow in Safari?“, well we still wonder, and it would definitely be in the browser of our dreams. CoverFlow wasn’t the only idea we had though…

Take this scenario:

I find an image I really like on a page and want to share it with a friend or a colleague. Currently, I copy and paste the image into my favourite email client (Mail), fill out the “To:” field with his or her name, and maybe leave a little comment in the “Subject:” field, then maybe another little “Yo, check this out” in the body field, and then I hit send.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could do this:

Drag the image to my friend’s name in the sidebar, and wait for it to arrive in his inbox.

Dream Browser Screen 01

The ability to do things like this would drastically improve the way people communicate ideas on a regular basis.

We have a few more ideas, and this blog post could run on for another few days, but for now we would love to hear what you guys and girls think.

We are actively working on the browser to make it a reality – Danny Greg from Crimson Sky Software is the lead developer on this project and he is just as passionate as we are about creating this awesome browser.

If you would like to help out, or have any ideas of your own, please let us know below!

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  • Nek

    Great ideas! And I’m really amazed to read you are making ’em real. I’ll keep an eye on your work.

  • Alex

    I think that would be a wonderful addition to a browser!

  • if you need some graphic design power, feel free to ask!
    Would be happy to help!

    all the best from germany, Oliver

  • I totally get what you’re saying in your blog post… I think introducing a new browser- or at the very least updating ones UI- would be totally cool. The only issue I have personally is that I’m very used to having my toolbar across the top of my browser.

    Yes. I am a Windows user.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Macs and certainly prefer them over Windows.. I just prefer to have all my toolbars across the top of my screen as it’s what I’m used to. Perhaps there could be an option to change the sidebar… I dunno. Maybe allow users to drag and drop it to their favorite location? Top, bottom, left, right. Much like you can do with the taskbar in windows. then Lock in in place when your done so you don’t accidently move it.

    It might sound a bit complicated, but it’s just an idea.

  • Tyson

    This is almost a given now a days, but having robust plugin support. (tools, UI, etc) would allow for user specialization. I don’t know what I’d do without my inline search and spell checker plugins for IE, and my web developer toolset for Firefox.

  • dinobib

    I enjoy your ideas.
    Give a look to flock and shiira, i think they could have good ideas sometimes.
    Maybe this DreamBrowser could be based on the new webkit (for the safari 3.1) with animations and local data store possibility.
    Sorry for my english.
    I ‘m waiting to see you ideas growing up.

  • G

    Wow thanks for the response everyone!

    Oliver, thanks – if we need any help, expect an email from yours truly@gosquared.

    Jeniffer – glad you like the idea. The sidebar is not set in stone – I like having an uncluttered browsing experience as well, so there will certainly be an option to at least hide the sidebar, and if possible, move it.

    Tyson – we have been thinking long and hard about ways of doing this, and allowing for plugins would definitely be the way forward.

    Dinobib – I have used Shiira for a while, although it is not my default browser (I stick to Safari and the WebKit nightly builds). We are pleased to be building this on WebKit because it is probably the fastest, most powerful rendering engine there is.

    Thanks everyone, loving your feedback on this 😉

  • Taylor

    I’m an animal researcher. Recently I researched 100 different dog breeds. I had to run 100 searches in Google Images to see a gallery of what each looked like. I suggest the following …

    Put a secondary, small (no wider than the side bar) search box under the Friends area. I would like to be able to type in a dog name, press enter, type in a dog name, press enter, and so on … without the page ever updating. It would kind of be a silent search box (because it doesn’t update the browser). When I was done entering 100 dogs in, there would be a vertical link list of each dog’s name underneath the search box. I could either label them as “Dogs” and then collapse the link list or let it hang open. Simply clicking a dog’s name would open up the Google Images gallery. It’s a much easier way to organize the many dog breed galleries I have to look through.

  • Taylor

    I also think that the whole top bar could be eliminated. Just like Steve and crew removed the 4 buttons on the first iPod iteration, it would be possible to eliminate the top toolbar.

    Simply re-shuffle the deck. Use a very small black outline of stop sign, refresh icon, and back and forward semi-circles (not ugly triangles). These would be arranged in a North, South, West, East look and occupy their own designated area off to the left somewhere. I am talking about no more than 1 centimeter for each black-filled icon, but the clickable area would be much larger around each icon.

    Alternatively, they could be arranged in a vertical orientation called Controls.

    Controls
    -Stop icon
    -Refresh icon
    -Back icon
    -Forward icon

    And, DUH, the user could simply type anywhere on the page to search or go to a website address.

    If the user starts typing www. or http://, it will instantly recognize that the user is going to a web address and not searching.

    If he types anything else and presses enter, it will just search Google.

    Presto, you have eliminated the title bar. Talk about a major UI change.

  • G

    Ooooh I see what you mean Taylor.

    We have had many ideas for interface design in search alone, before this Browser project ever came along!

    I can see what you mean, and will get to work on designing a little proto screen to show everyone else.

    Cheers

  • G

    Haha ur ideas are great!! Loving the spontaneity as these come in!!

    It would be astonishing if we could work out a way to eliminate the address bar from the equation as it uses up vital viewing space.

    I think the iPhone has done a good job in this respect – the address bar is there when u need it (at the top of the page), but as you scroll down, the address bar scrolls with it.

    We love ideas – keep ’em coming!

  • Chris

    The two things I find myself doing every day are:
    1) Saving: Pictures, Bookmarks, YouTube links, Files
    2) Inputing: Login Information, Contact Information, Shipping Information

    If there was a way to just drag a drop these items between the web page and the sidebar, life would be way more simple.

    I also second the notions to place the navigation controls into the sidebar and adopting the movable iPhone address bar. Imagine bookmarking a site just by dragging the site address into the sidebar.

  • Chris

    I may look at a few hundred websites per day. If I want to quickly find a page I saw this morning I would have to search through every one until I found what I was looking for. What if the same feature that is implemented in iPhoto for scrubbing quickly through “Events” was implemented for web pages? I could run my cursor horizontally or vertically over a rectangle and visually find the correct page. You could indicate that you wanted to scrub though the pages by month, week, day, hour via sliding bar.

  • Taylor

    I think what we’re realizing here is that current browsers are behemoths that are very inefficient. It’s almost like using a hammer with a lot of extraneous parts emanating from the hammer’s handle … when all you’re doing is trying to grip the handle to hammer in the nail. Or, the current browsers remind me of walking around the block 3 times and then straight on to your destination of your choice. Why have such bloated tools that aren’t perfectly suited to the task? It’s like using a rug as cover for your bed. It kind of works, but it could be so much better. Sure, browsers kind of work, but they’re not collection, communication, and research compilation devices. They’re like swamps, when they could look like the cool blue waters of the Caribbean.

  • Hey Jimmy,

    Thanks for posting about the browser project. I’ve had a chat with Danny yesterday, and we’ve agreed to formalize the project a bit, make a website, a design document, etc. – as it’s currently not very clear how we’re realistically going to handle implementing it. Danny and I decided that it’s best to create a design document and talk together about what we want to get out of this and where we want to go.

    I’m quite busy with projects but I expect to deliver a design document to Danny soon, as well as some more interface mockups and files (icons, elements). Feel free to ask my addies / addresses to Danny or drop me an email so we can chat.

  • I have a question… why would you want to get rid of the address bar? Forgive me, but I don’t have an iPhone and don’t know how Apple has implemented everything. I can certainly understand wanting to reduce clutter- but the address bar is important. That’s how we get around the internet.

  • G

    Hi Sebastiaan – great! It would be awesome to have some icons from you – I love your stuff 😀

    Yeah, Danny and I had a chat the other day briefly. We’ve agreed to get the project hosted on GoSquared’s servers, with Subversion so we can collaborate effectively. That would help get some sort of formality to the project I am sure.

    I know what it’s like being busy – we’re working non stop at the moment with a major launch coming very soon!

    Great to be working on this project with you – I have been sketching ideas down for the last few days and look forward to having a chat.

    Jennifer – We’re not saying we’re definitely going to *remove* the address bar, but we are trying to find an effective way of hiding it when it isn’t needed. I agree – it is a very important interface element, but if we can find a way of improving this even further then we will.

  • Taylor

    Jennifer – check out Google’s http://www.searchmash.com

    After running an initial search, it doesn’t matter what your mouse clicks or highlights, you can still search from anywhere on the page without putting your cursor inside the search box.

    What I advocated was removing the search box from the top right and being able to run searches anywhere on the page, no matter what else you were doing. It saves you time because you don’t have to position the cursor somewhere to run a search.

    Then, when you think about it, why have an address field? There’s no need to position your cursor somewhere to type the name of a website. Just start typing www. or http:// and the name of the website and press enter to go directly to a website.

    Firefox 3 Beta 3 makes use of browsing history when you’re typing the name of a website into the URL field. Suggestions of past pages come up alphabetically automatically in a big enough field for each website to tap it with your finger.

    Typing www. or http:// anywhere on the page could simply a central square on top of the webpage you were on with the same list of past websites, brought up alphabetically.

    Positioning the cursor is a hefty challenge for speedy web browsing and history browsing.

  • Taylor

    What about incorporating the standard mail links like

    -Compose
    -Sent Mail
    -Spam

    Underneath a Mail header in the sidebar.

    By the way,

    -Minimize
    -Maximize
    -Close

    Can be grouped with the browser controls in the side bar

    -Back
    -Forward
    -Stop
    -Refresh

  • Taylor

    Also

    The little downward triangles are just clutter when you really think about it.

    Why not just put a highlight strip from the left side to the right side of the sidebar over the header that’s selected, i.e., News.

    News would be highlighted all the way across (in a light blue) with the selections underneath it.

  • Luke Smith

    Hi Guys,

    I came here after reading Sebastiaan’s original post and the project is both very exciting and a great testament to the very ideas that started the internet in the first place.

    I would love to see a new browser available as I definitely have Firefox lethargy. I do however, use the Firefox “All-in-one Sidebar” add-on which solves a lot of the problems you are trying to solve here. But expanding it in the ways you are suggesting (navigational controls especially) is a fantastic idea.

    Sebastiaan’s original idea about video in it’s own window is intriguing (and something more powerful is definitely needed), but it strikes me that a separate window is just another window to get lost behind the main browser – which was one of the main motivations behind the sidebar in the first place was it not?

    Finally I would second Tyson’s comments above – the ability to add plugins is a must. After all, Firefox became popular because it captured the web developers and designers (like your good selves) who could make use of indispensable tools like Firebug.

    Really looking forward to seeing this project come to fruition and would love to see come visuals as soon as possible to keep the appetite wetted!

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  • Jan

    Wow, Tayorls idea and the wholte thinking project rocks! I will write some ideas down in the next days too.
    Greetings

  • I’d be really interested in seeing this go cross-platform. If you want help doing anything, feel free to contact me: LinuxMercedesATTgmailDAWTcom.

  • G

    Thanks everyone again for your feedback!

    Mercedes – thanks for posting aswell!! Really appreciate it. I’ll talk to you on Google Chat when I get a chance – we’re pretty darn busy around here atm 😀

    Cheers.

  • Just thought I’d shout out an idea for the “Friends” area. Quite a few of us now use Twitter to communicate with a lot/most/all of our friends at the same time. Is there any possibility of adding in something to autopost a link to Twitter, just by dragging it there?

    I understand you could easily do this by using a service like Twittermail that allows you to send anything to an email address, and it’ll post it to your Twitter account, but what about native Twitter integration?

    Just a suggestion.

    Keep up the great dev work, guys!

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  • The thing I actually want most in a browser is the ability to hide all the UI cruft and just get a title bar with content under it. The standard toolbar toggle icon seems a very obvious choice, along with a menu item with a shortcut, say cmd-| to match Safari’s Hide Toolbar (with appropriate localization to match different keyboard layouts).

    I see two major problems with Taylor’s type-anywhere idea: interface transparency – users should be able to see what to do, so there needs to be a visible location field – and the fact that web sites tend to contain things that swall ow keyboard input, such as text fields and Flash applets, which means you need a visible control to provide an explicit way to break out of a keyboard-eating mode. (On top of that the use of www. as a trigger is, frankly, a bad idea, as more and more sites drop that useless appendix. Having to type http:// before each URL doesn’t appeal. However, treating foo.bar as a URL rather than a search term shouldn’t be a problem.)

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  • As a power user of firefox, I’m starting to loathe the 3-4 rows of tabs and the default side scroll is much, much worse. It would be nice to have the entire top half of the browser – tabs / menus and addy bar – vanish. F-11 is not a workable alternative – the memory hog that is firefox just freezes up for enough valuable seconds to be annoying.

    I’m thinking multiple hot spots and hot keys to expose elements when needed. Clean tabs only on mouseover – move higher and the addy bar pops up. Mouse high and left and the menu comes up.

    some form of mouse gestures could substitute for navigation keys. hover on the right side and browser goes fwd (optional hot key or mouse click times x milliseconds to trigger). Same on left screen area navigates back. Dead center click once = stop, click twice = reload.

    hotkey + keyword = load bookmark

    alternate hover and click or key bottom pulls up bookmarks…..

    This is what happens when you spoil yourself with a 32 inch monitor and then suffer on laptops and 15-19 inch screens. I need more web space screen real estate!!!

    keep up the good work, I can’t wait to see the results 🙂

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  • Guli

    I-tune biais spotted. A file system inside a browser ? Commom guys.
    Organise by categories like pictures/videos/etc is so not adapted to next gen.
    This is your grandparents generation, XP friendly, for people who browse all their files manually.
    If it doesn’t include an automatic filter system there is ZERO innovation. Please work on improving the URL bar by understanding complex requests and reduce screen estate and click consumption.

    Trying to find everything without touching the keyboard is BS. Simply because you say you developed this for managing MORE stuff and you go visual and click click everywhere.

    You didn’t even though about focus on hover function didn’t you ?
    This maybe be great for some people but Internet is not about few people. Please include more customization and less old fashioned BS like: MY pictures, MY videos, MY friends, MY MY
    what about innovation guys ?

  • Hi Guli,

    Incase you hadn’t noticed, this project was conceived back in February of last year – 2008 – that’s more than a year ago. This was before Firefox 3 had been released, a long time before anyone had even heard Google were working on a browser, a year before Safari 4, and Internet Explorer 8, and some of the elements incorporated into applications like Apple’s iLife were only just becoming known and understood by the public.

    I must take issue with several points you made as I believe some of them are invalid. I believe the purpose of the internet browser is constantly evolving and we are still no where near a perfect solution – we won’t be for a while, if ever.

    First, we are not putting a “file system” per-se inside the browser. We are using intelligent filters to realise that there is a certain media type on a given page and pulling a reference to that specific file into a user-specified category – like a video on YouTube in a user’s Videos folder. This in my opinion is not “ZERO innovation”. Browsers may be getting smarter at determining what you are intending to do when you type something in the search / URL field, but there is still no seamless solution for organising info and media that you browse on the internet. To go back to a video you watched yesterday still requires you to visit an impossible to recall URL and load a web page filled with superfluous content that you most likely are not interested in. The innovation in this respect is being able to see that you viewed a video yesterday, and to call it up on its own and watch it just as you would with a saved video on your hard-drive in iTunes.

    The URL bar has received a lot of attention already from Google in Chrome – it’s getting much more powerful now that it can be combined with online search. I think there are other areas that aren’t being focussed on as much – that have been neglected.

    Your comment about the internet being for everyone and therefore this browser being for everyone is nonsensical. Of course, the internet is used by hundreds of millions of people around the World. That doesn’t mean, however, that our browser must be aimed at *every*one who uses the internet. This browser was conceived to deal with some of the tasks and problems we face while browsing the internet everyday. The concept appeals to us, and evidently from the response we have received, to a core group of others. I would prefer to aim to please a small group of consumers with a fantastic product, than to try and meet the needs of everyone and result in a half-assed, bloated browser.

    Either way, the development of Latitude (the proposed brand name for Our Dream Browser) ceased this year as all parties involved have not been able to devote sufficient time to the project. We are working hard on our core business to focus our efforts on building some great things, rather than a multitude of average things.

    /rant

    James
    GoSquared
    http://www.gosquared.com/

  • Is the project still alive? Email me at info@macstories.net if you need some help. We want this.

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