Mozilla service opens up mobile web
Mozilla developers are experimenting with a service that lets users store online content on a remote server and access that information on cell phones.
The service, known as Joey, can help mobile users save time and money when accessing online content. While the service itself sounds relatively basic, its developers say users could essentially self-syndicate any online information or view videos that they couldn’t otherwise see on mobile phones.
Using the Firefox browser on a computer, users select portions of websites, including images, text and videos, and save them onto their personal Joey page. Later, the user can access that Joey page and all the stored items from a mobile phone. It requires a phone with a browser and a data plan.
Doug Turner, leader of the project, can see many interesting uses for Joey. For example, a sports page may have a scoreboard showing the score of an ongoing game. On a PC, users can simply refresh the page to get the latest score. Turner said: “On a phone, there are latency problems, and most of the content on the page isn’t related to what you want. The page has ads and images, but all you care about is that little scoreboard.”
Joey users can select that scoreboard section of the page and store it on their personal Joey page. Every time they visit that scoreboard on their Joey page from their phone, it will be updated with the latest data. “It’s like allowing users to self-syndicate any online information they want,” Turner said. Users could access information such as current stock price quotes or movie listings in a similar way.
In some cases, Joey can allow users to access content that may otherwise not be available from a mobile phone. For example, YouTube has a deal with Verizon Wireless that offers some videos to certain Verizon subscribers. “That is the walled garden idea, where the operator knows better than you what content you should consume. We want that to go away,” he said. Project Joey lets users link to a specific YouTube video on their personal Joey page and then watch it on their phone.
Anyone can start using the service now, but it’s still in development. Users sign up for Joey and download a small Firefox add-on program to their computer. The add-on displays a small icon in the lower right-hand corner of the browser. When surfing on any site, the user can click on that icon and choose ‘Joey Summary Capture’. Then the user moves the cursor around the page to select text or images that will be stored on their main Joey page, and create a title for each selected piece of material.
The main personal Joey page lists the title of each piece of content along with other information, including the date and time it was uploaded. In the future, the page will also display a small preview image of the stored information as well as the size of each file.
Users will also be able to include RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds on their personal Joey pages, though the feature isn’t available yet.
Joey developers are working on an application that will run on phones and may improve the experience. The client could become available at the end of this month and should work on about 130 different phones. The software will support some capabilities that a browser typically can’t. For example, it will allow users to click on a stored video on their Joey page on the phone and view the video without launching a third-party video player.
Project Joey is being developed in Mozilla Labs, a unit of Mozilla that lets developers experiment with ideas. For now, Mozilla doesn’t have firm plans to make an official product out of Joey. “This is just an experiment into this space,” Turner said.
Mozilla recently released a new version of a mobile phone browser, Minimo, that it has been working on for years. While Turner had also been running the Minimo development, he recently said he wouldn’t be spending much time on it in the future.