Duck and Weave

So, Weave. Essentially, Mozilla wants to create a persistent desktop and services platform for your browser across any computer you run into with Firefox. It’s a good concept, and it works pretty well (as advertised) after you get past the buggy signup page and email server (I just gave it a few shots and on the fifth try the request went through). As far as I can tell from using it so far, it only really tracks your bookmarks and history thus far.

It will be interesting to see how the concept develops and evolves on its march to fruition, as Mozilla’s exact intentions aren’t exactly clear just yet.

The Internet is already the most pervasive and important persistent platform in existence. Anywhere you go, you can log into the same accounts on the same sites and services and – trifling details such as browser compatibility aside – be presented with the same experience as you would on your own machine. We all know this; this is why it’s so popular, why Google’s plethora of web-based applications, most notably GMail, are as popular as they are.

Mozilla appears to be unsatisfied with stopping there, and the basic concept behind Weave appears to be to extend this fundamental nature of web browsing up one level of meta to the browser itself. This, however, raises some interesting questions.

For instance, even in its current incarnation, Weave appears to displace at least one aspect of at least one major web service – del.icio.us. At least one reason of del.icio.us’s fundamental utility is that it allows its users to persist their bookmarks across the web. There are many, many other reasons for del.icio.us’s existence and popularity, but who’s to say that as Mozilla’s initiatives to push social browsing and persistence into Firefox via The Coop (speaking of which, whatever happened to The Coop?) and Weave, that del.icio.us won’t slowly be forced out of the equation? Mozilla’s well-being is based largely upon Firefox’s, and Firefox’s well-being is based entirely on the web. At what point does a browser cease to become a better browser and begin to impinge upon the sites and services whose job it is to render?

Of course, the above is just a question. There is no accusation, there is no prediction in that question. It’s too early to tell what Mozilla’s plans and direction for Weave is just yet. However, if we make the assumption that Mozilla will recognize such scenarios as being contrary to its interests and missions, all of a sudden Weave becomes a lot more meaningless, a hollow manifestation of its promise – after all, at the point that Weave is restricted to merely persisting the existing browser experience and functionality across multiple machines rather than extending that experience, we quickly find that Weave has already reached its full potential. After all, the only horizontal growth Weave could find in this regard is, as far as I can tell, to also provide each user’s favorite extensions across machines, which would make it, and Firefox immediately and immensely improved. However, this feature is a technical and security nightmare, and not likely to see the light of day.

Thus, color me skeptical about Weave thus far. However, it’s extremely early, and the Mozilla Foundation may yet surprise us all. Most of what I have presented are merely questions, and perhaps they will, or have already, answered them all.

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