When we visit various social networking sites, we're usually not just popping in for a quick pit stop in our web surfing. More often, we're constantly revisiting them while we're online to see what's new. But that requires us to either close and reopen the same window over and over or permanently keep a tab open to that specific site, neither of which are very elegant solutions to navigating an increasingly social web.
So Mozilla has released a beta version of what it's calling the open Social API, which provides a way for you to plug into your favorite social sites—starting with Facebook Messenger—without interrupting your web browsing.
"Social sites aren’t like other Web applications. Rather than being focused on a particular task, we use social sites throughout our day: we check back for updates, we chat with friends, we share," Mozilla explained in a blog post yesterday.
The Facebook Messenger integration in the latest version of Firefox brings a right-hand sidebar with ticker-style news updates from friends, a list of who's available to chat, and easy ways to see your notifications, messages, and friend requests, all without ever having to leave the site you're browsing to go to Facebook.com. You'll also see the "Like" button as an option in the address bar field. Clicking on this button can create a new entry on your news feed and timeline. All those red flags distracting you? One click will hide the sidebar, leaving you to focus on your work.
But Mozilla remains ever the online privacy advocate that has faced advertiser backlash over its Do Not Track feature that lets users opt out from allowing third parties to track their web-surfing activities. To that end, Mozilla writes that the Social API "doesn’t change what social providers can see about your online behavior unless you explicitly decide to share it."
Mozilla implies future Social API integrations are rich in potential that extends beyond just giving you another way to connect to your average social site. It suggests it might one day provide a way for you to keep up with group projects, email, and music.
Where the open Social API concept will get really interesting is when Mozilla begins to add in more (read: competing) third-party social networks. With only so much browser window real estate to work with, it's unclear how Mozilla would split up the space if it does eventually provide support for a super-social mashup of players, though Twitter's rather anti-open social current strategy and the fact that Google has its own competing web browser in Chrome leave the question of who those future players could be.
[Image: Flickr user teamstickergiant]