Thursday, July 8, 2004

Power Browsing: Firefox and Amplify Light Up Drowsy Browser Technology

As you may have seen in recent headlines Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser has been under attack by many virus developers trying to exploit some of its programmable features, so when I read about Mozilla's new beta of its Firefox browser I decided to give it a download and a spin around the block. I was prepared to be disappointed, but instead I have been very pleased with some movement towards features that empower individuals as content collectors far more effectively than the moribund Internet Explorer has been doing for quite some time. The browser itself seems to be simple enough and relatively problem-free, but the highlight of Firefox is its powerful tab features that allows users to display entire folders of bookmarks in one fell swoop. For us it is a gift from above, as scanning the Web for headlines, etc. can be a real chore for analysts. In just a few days of getting used to its features I'd reckon it's shaved at least 15 percent off the time that it takes for our headline production - and also allows one to have several discrete browser windows open at any time, each tuned to a specific range of content requirements. Plugins and functionality extensions are available to bring Firefox up into a more functional state, but the tab feature alone is very much worth a try.

On a more advanced note, The New York Times noted the debut of Amplify, LLC's new Web page content collection facility that allows a novice to compose custom Web pages out of text, graphics and other digital objects collected from Web pages. A simple download and registration hook one in to a toolbar gizmo that doesn't get in the way of typical browsing; when one wants to clip something into an "amp" page, just click on an icon, highlight the item (it's pretty intelligent about tables, style sheets and other Web page elements) and drop it into an "amp". Resizing and adjusting page layouts for amps is pretty simple, as well. Emailing someone an amp link makes it simple to help people get a handle on a wide range of content, and a community site at Amplify's home makes it easy for people to share their amps with one another in a blogging fashion. It's still a little buggy - my test of a clip from our headlines and weblog pages failed to save due to the software thinking that it was some erroneously huge quantity of data - and some of the features look and act kind of klunky, but conceptually it's a winner. People don't want to wait for I.T. people to put together content in the way that they want to use it for purposes both complex and simple. Think of Firefox's tabs as the simple and yet heretofore missing realtime content folder and Amplify as scissors and paste for scrapbook makers. It's amazing how just a little bit of technology made with humans in mind can brighten up content experiences so easily.
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