The Mozilla Foundation has released a very early prototype of mash-up software called Ubiquity designed to make it easier to paste data from multiple sources together in a Web page or e-mail.
Call it the ultimate mash-up.
The video demo of Ubiquity – a reflection of the new media on the Web – shows how an e-mail can contain a live Google Maps entry showing off a local restaurant for a meeting, and then pasting in reviews from Yelp.com, the user reviews site. All of this content is live in the e-mail, rather than relying on external links, and is pasted into the e-mail.
“Ubiquity’s interface goal is to enable the user to instruct the browser (by typing, speaking, using language) what they want to do,” wrote Aza Ruskin, head of user experience at Mozilla Labs in a blog post announcing the software.
Ruskin said Ubiquity is smart enough to understand the context of pronouns like “this” and “it” and whom the person is addressing in an e-mail, as well as commands like “yelp Tapas near SF” as looking up restaurants of the Spanish cuisine on Yelp.com in the San Francisco area.
“Ubiquity treats extending the browser like writing Web sites,” Raskin said, but the difference is, “With search, users type what they want to find. With Ubiquity, they type what they want to do.”
Ubiquity is fairly Web 2.0-centric, with emphasis on inserting maps anywhere, using social network sites like Digg and Twitter, as well as searching Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Wikipedia, Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and YouTube.
Gartner analyst Ray Valdes has given Ubiquity a glance and acknowledges it is in an early state, but think it may be more of a power user product than one for the masses, as its name suggests.
“I think it will help for a certain class of users, the power user, the technically-minded user,” he told InternetNews.com. “Now it’s possible it could be a foundation on which others can build and package and create solutions for a broader audience. It’s going to evolve and others will build on it, but right now and for the near future it will be a niche tool for the more skilled user.”
Still, he said there is a need for a mash-up tool for the masses, Valdes added. “There have been a lot of other attempts to do mash-up. Internet Explorer 8 has Web Slices, Google has a mash-up editor, Yahoo has Pipes, but they don’t allow consumers to manage the flood of content on the Web. We’re being inundated with more and more Web content, so any tools that can help manage and consolidate data from the Web is always helpful,” he said.
Currently, the commands are hardwired, like “map.” Eventually, Mozilla would like users to define their own commands and add complex ones, similar to macros and scripts in applications.
That is likely to take some time. Ubiquity is only in its 0.1 state, making it a very early release with a long development cycle ahead of it. But judging by the responses to Ruskin’s blog post, it is being very well received even in its most primitive state.