Trails is a new lossless web navigation experiment by Mozilla with the aim to fix the tabbed browsing issue of losing information during navigation.
The traditional tabbed browsing model has not changed all that much in the past 15 or so years. The majority of modern browsers supports tabs, and browsers keep track of the browsing history of each tab individually.
Mozilla visualizes the current — flawed when it comes to the preservation of information — tabbed browsing procedure in the following way:
- Imagine a search for a restaurant that makes the perfect pizza. You fire up your web browser, and start the search on your favorite search engine.
- Results are displayed, and you click on a result (Yelp in this case).
- You browse Yelp, find a restaurant that interests you, and open its link. This link is opened in a new tab.
- Problem 1: The new tab has no connection whatsoever to the restaurant search history.
- Imagine going back to the first tab to browse Yelp a bit more to find another restaurant.
- Problem 2: Loading content in tab 1 will lose navigation history information.
What Mozilla means by that is that the actual navigational trail does not include all user actions, not that the actual information is lost (as you may load opened sites using the browsing history for instance).
A look at Trails
Trails is part of Browser.html, a Mozilla research project.
The goal of trails is to construct not only a window into web content but a narrative of user activity. Our hope is that our work might help advance the state of browsing closer to the ideal of a tool that enhances our cognitive process, rather than increasing our cognitive load.
Mozilla tries to preserve the whole browsing of a user using Trails, not just what is preserved right now by tabbed browsers.
So, Trails preserve information that would otherwise get lost due to navigation but won’t change what users see when they use the browser.
Mozilla hints that Trails might enhance the user experience in other ways, such as providing options to share entire trails and not just URLs, allowing annotation of trails, collaboration, or persisting trails.
It is not clear right now how Mozilla would implement Trails in a browser like Firefox. A short demo has been uploaded to YouTube, but it shows Trails not in an actual browser interface, but on its own.
It needs to be noted that Trails is an experiment right now that may or may not find its way into Firefox at one point in time.
While it is certainly true that some information is lost, I’m not sure if there is a really a need for something like Trails as it may add complexity to the browser depending on its implementation.
While the actual trail “how did I get there” may be lost at times, tabs are usually opened in relation to one another, and users may open pages in new tabs when they don’t want to lose information displayed on the current tab. (via Sören Hentzschel)
Now You: What do you think of Trails?
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