Mozilla's Johnathan Nightingale Has Big Things in Mind for Firefox

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 10, 2013

Over at Mozilla, there are huge sea changes underway. The company is aligning itself agressively around its new mobile focus as smartphones and other devices are poised to arrive running the company's Firefox OS platform.  And, there are giant leadership changes afoot. Mozilla has detailed significant changes to its executive management. CEO Gary Kovacs, who has been running Mozilla for three years, will step down later this year.

Amidst all the changes, Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox engineering, has been making the rounds in the press recently, with some interesting things to say. He's been discussing the new Australis interface that is coming to Firefox, WebRTC (which imbues Firefox with Skype-like capabilities), and more.

PCMag has a video interview with Nightingale up, in which he goes into detail about Australis. Those of us who use Firefox may find it to be a big change. Nightingale told PCMag:

"Australis encompasses a bundle of design changes. We've got a modern competitive browser, but the way humans use the Web these days is becoming a lot more sophisticated. The tab strips is going to get a major refresh and there will be a new customization system."

It sounds like Mozilla should tread carefully with Australis. Ever since the company moved to a rapid release cycle with the browser, users have occasionally been miffed at interface and performance issues in Firefox.

Nightingale is also enthused about Firefox's Social API, which we covered here.  The Social API enables developers to integrate social services into the browser in many flexible ways. Mozilla has a Developer Network page available with complete documentation on the Social API.

Meanwhile, Nightingale has also done an interview with Engadget.  He discusses WebRTC at length, and notes the following:

"There are plenty of providers of video chat right now, but they all do it in their own little walled garden. If you're an app developer and you wanted to build Skype integration into your app, that's just not a choice you have. In fact, even if you wanted to do something trivial, like you're a social network and you just want people to be able to take a new head-shot for their profile picture or something -- operating systems have been able to do that for a decade, but you can't do it over the web, which is stupid. WebRTC will make all that stuff really easy and we're going to try to use our scale to push it."

We've covered open replacements for Skype before, and the fact is that they are not great. If it's done right, WebRTC could become a meaningful open standard for online chat and interaction.

Nightingale makes clear that even though Mozilla is going through a big shift in terms of Firefox OS and its mobile strategy, it is still focused on the Firefox browser in a big way.