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Mozilla claims mass Ubiquity mobilisation

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Firefox developer Mozilla has claimed its decision to reinvent the command line to make mashups easier has received an overwhelming response from developers.

Mozilla Labs last week released an experimental plug-in called Ubiquity, which lets users call up a command line entry box and type in commands to carry out additional functions beyond those defined in the Firefox graphical user interface (GUI).

Mozilla project leader Aza Raskin said developers have already contributed thousands of new commands to Ubiquity. "In under a week, we have a roughly comparable number of Ubiquity commands as there are Firefox extensions," Raskin said.

For the record, Mozilla claims at least 8,731 Firefox add-ons.

Ubiquity is being touted as a way to make mashups easier by enabling data and functions to be shared between web pages. Users can call up the command line - much beloved by retro geeks - to bring data together from multiple web pages and perform functions that are not available through a GUI.

Project contributor Atul Varma described a simple example of Ubiquity using a basic text editor and email to point out a mistake in a web page text.

While the example shows the potential for the technology, it also touches on some of the problems.

For some functions, command line interfaces can be more efficient and with simple examples, it is easy enough to remember the few commands required and how they work. But if - as seems likely - the command set runs to hundreds or even thousands, the method of presenting them to users becomes critical; and rather than simplifying the mashup process, it will make it more complex.

Ubiquity is still in development and may well end up with a different name and form, if and when it finally makes it to production. Meanwhile, developers can have fun thinking up obscure commands and forwarding them to the Mozilla Labs team. ®

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