Ars Technica reports on Mozilla Labs (makers of the Firefox Browser) opening up to ideas on how to innovate on the browser concept...

Mozilla Labs this week took steps to open up its idea factory to wider outside input, asking for community help to develop the next big ideas that might power future browsers. Like any good research lab, the goal is not an immediate product but a set of innovative ideas that can be played with and debated without the pressure of an immediate implementation.

Mozilla Labs' "concepts" can consist of three parts: ideas, mockups, or prototypes. The idea of throwing open the lab to more voices was all about hearing from... new voices (surprise!), so Mozilla wants to make sure that plenty of people can contribute, even if they can't hack code.

Here's a pic of one of the concept designs...

aurora

The problem I have with this, and with Prism, and with all the rest of the honest to God creativity that's coming out of the Mozilla project these days is that I know it will never amount to anything.

It has become fairly clear that no one is actually going to "Win" the browser wars.  Given that fact web developers are always going to be targeting multiple browsers which means they'll almost never have the time and resources to devote to accommodating the special features of one browser in particular. 

So Mozilla can innovate in the browser space all they want and it will never amount to anything until the other major browsers jump on board.  Which they won't because companies like Microsoft and Apple don't play "follow the leader" when it comes to non-profit, open source projects. 

In fact, I honestly believe Microsoft and Apple would go in another direction just to avoid having to admit Mozilla Labs came up with an innovative idea.  Because admitting that means giving credence to the Open Source ideal and that is not something companies look to do when 99% of their revenue is made off closed source projects. 

Does this mean Mozilla should give up on this type of innovation?

No.  But what they have to realize is that this is separate from the work they do on the Firefox browser.  If they really want to innovate in this way they need to take the focus off Firefox and create a new project that focuses on bringing innovations like this to every browser. 

That isn't to say they can't use this type of thing to push Firefox.  One idea would be to embargo these type of innovations so they are completed for Firefox first and then rolled out to other browsers some time later.  That opens developers up to using the innovations while still pushing people to download and try Firefox. 

But one way or the other these innovations have to filter quickly down to Safari and Internet Explorer if they have any chance of being used.  That means looking for the future in plug-in technology and not full on browser rewrites.

Addendum: Here's the video showing the above screenshot in action...


Aurora (Part 1) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.