Interview: Firefox 3's interface design guru talks

What progress have you made on a mobile browser?

With a mobile platform we want to bring the entire web to mobile, not a subset of the web. What we have seen in the past is that a site mostly works on your mobile device, but not entirely. Over the past three or four months, our mobile browser is working a lot quicker – especially with hardware providers like Nokia – to actually get the full Firefox experience on mobile devices.

"Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet has a WiMax version coming out soon. What you have on there is a full shipping version of Firefox. We're also working with them to make a more efficient version. The codename for that product is Fennec, which is a little fox with really big ears. It's a really fast browser with all the features of Firefox: tabs, the smart location bar, the bookmarking infrastructure.

All of these things that help users connect to their websites more quickly obviously pays off on the mobile effort, where keystrokes and time and effort spent by users need to be reduced. You should start seeing more and more mobile devices that are shipping a mobile version of Firefox or Fennec."

What are your thoughts on a browser OS where the computer is a thin client with nothing more than a browser and applications you click on in the browser?

"We think that the browser OS is pretty much here – there aren't a lot of applications you can't get on the web. There are movie-editing packages, photo-editing packages, Soho Office, and Google Docs and Spreadsheets that let you do all of your work online.

"Webmail was a killer app that started off this trend. We're seeing more and more applications that are leveraging the rich power of JavaScript, HTML, DHTML, scalable vector graphics, Canvas and rich multimedia programming, all within the browser. The browser OS is already here.

"In our use of the browser [at Mozilla], most of us already do 90 per cent of our computing in the browser, so we are living in a browser OS world.

"In terms of us making that real for consumers, we are actually looking at our Prism project through Mozilla Labs where you can go to a website and say,'I want this website to be its own desktop app'. And all it does is it saves a bunch of your preferences on your computer and loads up a separate instance of Firefox that just loads and shows that website.

"We take away all of the web browser chrome and just show you that website. So you have a Prism version of Google Mail where Google Mail looks like every other application. There are a couple things we need to do to make this just like any other client-side application, and one is to make it easier to integrate opening files with web applications at the operating system level.

"We also need to push hard on standards like offline browsing. Firefox 3 supports offline browsing which allows web developers to store offline information so even when you are disconnected from the web you can still use that information. Simbra, which is an email productivity client, gave a little proof-of-concept using the offline support we have inside of Firefox 3, and within a week someone who was not even a Simbra employee got it working so that when they reconnect, everything is synchronised properly."

What do you think about location-aware devices?

"There's a lot of information we can get from your system about where you are. We can read the time zone and make some inferences about that, and alot of operating systems expose the idea of the location you are in. And even beyond that there are sites like that know where I am based on my location.