What is it? That’s a really good question. It took me several passes to fix on the awesomesauce that is Ubiquity. I scanned the Techmeme coverage, thinking it was some translation tool, then speed read Scoble’s post on it. Sounded more interesting, but still the light didn’t come on, until I saw Noel (and a few others) tweet about it from Ubiquity.
Finally, I spent time digesting what it was and checked out the video, and boy, it’s pretty promising. Hooray for weak ties.
Here’s the video. It’s worth the time invested.
So what is Ubiquity? I’m struggling to define it, but as with a lot of good tools, a few good use cases show how it rocks, even if you can’t put words around what it is.
With apologies, I’ve always been underwhelmed by mashup tools. My experience as both a developer and a consumer of technology has led me to the following conclusion:
Functional people do not want to build. They only want to use. That’s why we call them “users”.
It’s a good thing I didn’t see the word mashups before I watched the video because I most definitely would have glazed over permanently, removing Ubiquity from my consciousness forever.
So, I installed the add-on and walked through the user tutorial. I’m floored by the number of really good use cases that the developers targeted. Phenomenal stuff. This is scratching the itch development at its best.
In fact, I just used the Wikipedia command to look up the link.
“w cathedral and bazaar”
Done and done. Ubiquity has a boatload of built in commands, many very useful, but they can’t possibly include everything. So, there’s a command line tool (and another tutorial) for those who want to write their own commands.
Awesome. I cranked out the obligatory “Hello, World!” example, but I’m a hack-by-example guy. So, I dug up some samples and set about building a MetaLink search command. Pretty simple stuff, I used my MetaLink OpenSearch plugin as the basis:
description: “Searches MetaLink for your keywords.”
And now I have a MetaLink search command. As with my Wikipedia search, all I have to do is:
And MetaLink opens in a new tab. Brilliant.
As with any good lab project, they’ve opened it up to the community, or herd. So, you can expect a lot more complicated actions and more useful commands will come from Ubiquity. I expect Eddie will spend some time tonight tinkering with it. He’s already tweeting about it.
Tools like Ubiquity emphasize: 1) how great a browser Firefox really is, 2) how the browser is becoming the computer for more people and 3) how motivated development can create great products.
I can’t wait for new commands (ahem, Thunderbird). I expect this effort to grow like Greasemonkey has, ideally faster. I am a bit concerned about Ubiquity’s impact on memory, since Firefox tends to use a lot already, more for each add-on you’re using. Since this a Mozilla project, I’m confident they’re hyper-sensitive to memory concerns, though.
Check out Ubiquity and share your commands with us, in comments or by trackback.
As always, sound off in the comments with opinions, etc.