Thanks to its extensibility, Firefox quickly became the favorite browser for most power users. But while extensions are a great way to make Firefox more functional, Mozilla's designers are also currently thinking about a complete redesign of the way the browser looks and feels, in order to keep up with changing usage patterns. The most radical proposal we have seen so far would do away with the standard browser tabs, and replace them with an interface that looks more like iTunes than Firefox.
Look Daddy: No Tabs
Oliver Reichenstein and Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla, have been thinking about the future of tabs in Firefox, and some of the resulting mockups are quite intriguing.
Reichenstein argues that tabs were a good solution for an earlier age of the Internet, when users hardly ever had more than ten tabs open at any given time. Now, however, as browsers are slowly turning into operating systems, a new paradigm for organizing this information has become necessary.
The current generation of browsers does a decent job when it comes to keeping a current browser session organized, but Reichenstein wants to create a system that structures the browser more like a mutimedia file system. He proposes a new interface that looks more like iTunes than today's Firefox, with folders, libraries, and bookmarks in a sidebar.
Try Tree Tabs
If you would like to get a glimpse of what tabs on the side look like, have a look at Tree Tabs, a nifty addon that puts tabs on the side and that features a huge number of options for customizing the experience.
If you are on a netbook, for example, where vertical space is very limited, Tree Tabs (maybe in combination with Tiny Menu) will allow you to reclaim some of your screen estate.
Coming Soon: Built-In Ubiquity
Mozilla is also moving ahead with the integration of Ubiquity, a command-line style interface for common browser tasks, into Firefox's 'awesome bar.' Mozilla plans to add this project, dubbed Taskfox, into the main Firefox interface by the time version 3.6 of Firefox is released.
You can find an interactive demo here, or have a look at the mockups on this page.