Future Browsing Idea – Server Accounts

Mozilla is a cool insitution.  I dig what they are doing.  This is a perfect example.  They are asking for prototypes or ideas about the future of web browsing.  I find many of the ideas interesting and inspiring, but I also find most of them disconnected from real world examples.  Especially when you strip away the usual “speed improvements” and “fancy animations and transitions”.  The only things left are graphical polish.  It’s helpful when predicting the future to start with the past:

  1. Hyperlinks.  You clicked on a link and went somewhere else.  Wikipedia is still like this 100%.
  2. Javascript, Flash, Java browsing made things worse, not better.  Can’t bookmark/crawl flash easily.
  3. Tabs.  Whoo Hoo, something different.
  4. RSS.  You could aggregate website content and read it without browsing.
  5. Mobile iPhone.  (Mobile non-iPhone is horrible)
  6. Social Bookmarking.  (StumbleUpon, Digg, etc)

Here are some ideas floating in my head:

Browser makers should consider “server-side enabled accounts“.  Here are some use cases first:

  • My wife and I share one computer.  She has her gmail and I have mine.  I go to gmail and her mail is right there for me to read and vice-versa.  Plus, our bookmarks are always in each others way.
  • I am visiting my mother-in-law’s house for dinner.  I go to the living room and want to check my work email, but I always forget the URL.  It’s bookmarked at home.
  • My kids can’t remember how to spell nick.com.  Wherever they go, they want to go to nick.com.  Additionally, I want to block them (from anywhere) getting to playboy.com.
  • I get an email from Netflix and it asks me to rate the movie that my kids received.  When I click the link, the cookie is already set for my wife so Netflix gets confused and I end up in the wrong Netflix account.
  • I re-installed the OS on my wife’s computer, or bought her a new computer.  She complains the bookmarks are wrong and all her passwords, cookies and settings are messed up.

These are real world use cases that browser makers are not addressing.  I also believe that they would change the course of future browsing.  Here is how to make the UX of these cases work better.

  1. Browser should be enabled with a Login option. Mozilla could partner with Google and Microsoft with itself to host the data.  Aren’t there some OpenID type groups out there that could even make this a standard?
  2. Logging in would replace:
    1. bookmarks with your own bookmarks.
    2. cookies with your own cookies
    3. Browser settings (like accessibility options) with your own settings
    4. autocomplete…hmm, maybe security would limit this?
  3. Idle for too long would log you out.

Simple idea, but follow it to its conclusion.

  1. All the use cases are improved.
  2. Security is improved for shared machines.
  3. Mobility is improved.  This login could work on mobile too

I didn’t even need a fancy PowerPoint for it. del.icio.us stores bookmarks on a server, but not the other stuff, and it’s limited because it’s not embedded in the browser.  How cool would it be if you could even do it between browsers with a standard (now I am dreaming).

There are lots of good ideas, but this is one that is doable now and would improve things now.  I will try and think of others.  I have a very good idea for Netflix, but it needs a powerpoint to demonstrate.

3 replies on “Future Browsing Idea – Server Accounts”

Mozilla and Google could partner with Microsoft — that’s a good one! Ha!

And about reinstalling the OS on your wife’s computer — there’s already a solution for that. Try out the Firefox addon “FEBE” — it does everything that you want in that situation. I’d recommend something for Internet Explorer, but I don’t think one exists.

Fingerprint identification on computers. How hard is this. You put your finger on the pad and it loads your personal setup. Booksmarks, passwords, email, access to online apps, etc. As more and more programs are based online, each computer is just a hub to your online self. Fingerprints, the technology is decades old.

Whatya think?