Mozilla labs has just launched Ubiquity which sets out to connect the Web with language in an attempt to find new user interfaces that could make it possible for everyone to do common Web tasks more quickly and easily.
By way of example, they suggest that if you are writing an email to invite a friend to meet at a local restaurant that neither of you has been to, you would normally include a map. Currently, this involves the disjointed tasks of message composition on a web-mail service, mapping the address on a map site, searching for reviews on the restaurant on a search engine, and finally copying all links into the message being composed. This familiar sequence is an awful lot of clicking, typing, searching, copying, and pasting in order to do a very simple task. And you haven’t even really sent a map or useful reviews—only links to them.
This kind of clunky, time-consuming interaction is common on the Web. Mashups help in some cases but they are static, require Web development skills, and are largely site-centric rather than user-centric.
So Ubiquity claims to make this easier and having installed onto my firefox it certainly looks good. It is still a little American and has a few problems with UK information at the moment, but it is early days. Sadly, I can’t take an image of it in action as it disappears from my screen as soon as I pull up my image grabber.
Anyway, we have already put it to use within property by highlighting a list of properties that do not have map links and then plotting on a map, instantly. Basically, you launch ubiquity with the simple command of option+spacebar (on a mac,another simple command for pcs) highlight the text and type into the box that has appeared on your screen ‘map these’ - and it does. Bloody marvellous. You can then type in the same box ‘send email to john’ - and it does with the map and property details.
We will be playing with this and seeing what else we can achieve.