If you don’t like what you see, take a beat. Before you press the panic button and tell all your friends you’re ditching Firefox, remember that this is just a concept. It’s the brainchild of two Mozilla devs who wanted to re-think the web browser. These aren’t UI changes that will arrive in the next version of Firefox on your desktop or Android. Lightspeed is purely conceptual.
Michael Verdi and Philipp Sackl wanted to figure out what Firefox might look like if, like Chrome, it hadn’t been around so long — if Firefox had been born well after the web had matured instead of growing up alongside it. At its core: privacy, simplicity, and convenience. There are no settings to fiddle with. Plug-ins only run on whitelisted sites by default. There’s no support for add-ons.
If you’re a Firefox die-hard, the simplified UI and other changes might rub you the wrong way. No add-ons? Aren’t they a big part of what makes Firefox great? Whitelisting? Really? Those things might agitate geeks, but a lot of folks need the extra help protecting themselves. Sometimes we forget that there’s a much bigger audience out there that developers have to cater to. For the average user, Lightspeed could be a vast improvement over any of today’s browsers.
Instead of a new tab page, discovery bits are presented as you type in the Awesome Bar: your favorites (sites you ‘love’ in Lightspeed), suggested sites, search results, it’s all right there. If you’ve granted Lightspeed permission to access other sites like your Gmail or Flickr account, emails and photos that match your query could be displayed, too.
Yes, power users, putting important UI pieces in the title bar of an app can cause issues when you remote in, but this isn’t a browser for people who remote in. It’s a simpler browser for people with simpler browsing needs. Search. Shopping on Amazon. Checking their webmail. Watching a few videos on YouTube. For a lot of people, that’s all a browser — heck, even an entire computer — needs to be able to do. Make it easy to do those things really well, and they’ll be happy.
Lightspeed may never become a real thing, but it’s concepts like these (and the people who put their hearts and souls into them) that make our favorite apps what they are. Keep up the good work, Mozillans.