Mozilla gives the passionates one with Ubiquity

Mozilla just ensured I won’t use IE8 because it released Ubiquity.

What is it? It’s a box that lets you ask different questions and get answers. It’s sort of like search. But far more powerful.

It’s not for non-passionate Internet users. They won’t get it. It takes some time to learn how to use this feature. (To get what I’m talking about when I use the term “passionate” you should see my previous rant about passionates vs. non-passionates).

To really learn about how to use Ubiquity you need to:

1. Watch the video.
2. Read the instruction manual.

How many “non-passionates” will do either of these?

But for someone who is radically passionate about the Internet this is a feature that’ll keep us all using Firefox and will deepen the divide. I was talking with a group of journalists from USA Today and Business Week here in Berlin and they admit that most of their readers are on Internet Explorer. One told me that his family members didn’t know why they should use Firefox and don’t care to learn about it. They’ll just stick with the defaults on their computer and not question them.

I doubt I’ll show this feature to too many “non-passionate” people. It’s too hard to explain.

But when I get to a group of people who want to more productively use the Internet? You bet!

Oh, and Microsoft, you could easily do something similar and not just for Internet Explorer, either. Look into ActiveWords. Hook that up to Web services and you could have the same thing.

Why hasn’t Microsoft purchased ActiveWords? For the same reason they won’t do something like Ubiquity in IE8. Microsoft doesn’t really care about the passionates anymore and cares more about the people who read USA Today.

Oh, Over on FriendFeed they are talking about Ubiquity.

Ubiquity is also at the top of TechMeme
, which shows that passionates are the ones who still control that tech blogging site.

UPDATE: Brandon LeBlanc disagrees with me about IE8 and says that its “Activities” feature is proof that Microsoft cares about passionates.

97 thoughts on “Mozilla gives the passionates one with Ubiquity

  1. This is like looking at the first model-A. Something big is happening here. At first blush, it is not that impressive or a big event, but I do see this in the next few years becoming a major thing. Someone will come along and connect the dots with regard to the interface and make it into something that people will use.

    It reminds me of the mouse. At first, the mouse was a weird device that only a few people used. “how could you not use the keyboard for everything?” was the word of the day…here we go again. I am excited…

  2. So I tried it, and I think it will be very useful. I’m a passionate, but I’m an average geek looking for the useful, rather than the uber geek who will adopt anything. I can see how this might really produce material that’s useful for the person who receives it rather than just fun for the person who creates it.

  3. So I tried it, and I think it will be very useful. I’m a passionate, but I’m an average geek looking for the useful, rather than the uber geek who will adopt anything. I can see how this might really produce material that’s useful for the person who receives it rather than just fun for the person who creates it.

  4. OK, Buzz is “Mr. Outside” for ActiveWords but I am compelled to speak here.

    First, ActiveWords is truly ubiquitous, not “Ubiquity for Firefox.” ActiveWords provides system wide functionality that acts on text entry (and stylus/fingertip entry on Tablet/UMPC now, and hopefully voice in the future).

    Second, many have tried to set up fixed word – action “languages” but almost no users have made the investment to adopt them. ActiveWords offers each user the opportunity to define their own word – action relationships using their vocabulary and innate ability to name things. For those needing a fixed structure, ActiveWords can be locked down to fix these relationships for sets of users.

    Third, how do these user defined word – action relationships fit together? The preferred answer is based on the personal semantic preferences of each user. ActiveWords allows the user to use the same ActiveWord for multiple actions and multiple ActiveWords for the same action. Over time, the user self organizes these semantic relationships.

    Fourth, ActiveWords is extensible. It includes agent technology allowing third parties to create actions and suggested semantics (ActiveWords) to trigger events. Creating an ActiveWord agent that interfaces with Google APIs can duplicate everything demonstrated with “Ubiquity for Firefox,” and it can do so independent of a Firefox context (in any context or no context at all). For example, the actions of sending an email to Bob and inserting a Google map of a particular address can be triggered by one or more ActiveWords whenever the user thinks of it, not just when they are composing a new message in gmail.

    Fifth, what if I use multiple computers and grow accustomed to word – action functionality? The ActiveWords personal data store is readily transferable between Windows computers and will someday be “in the cloud,” ready whenever you are on whatever computing device you happen to be using at the moment.

    We continue to hope that projects such as “Ubiquity for Firefox” will spread the power and gospel of the word – action interface, ActiveWords. The productivity implications are important. The less time you are “computing” the more opportunity you have to create something of value.

    Pete Weldon
    ActiveWord Systems, Inc.
    http://www.activewords.com

  5. OK, Buzz is “Mr. Outside” for ActiveWords but I am compelled to speak here.

    First, ActiveWords is truly ubiquitous, not “Ubiquity for Firefox.” ActiveWords provides system wide functionality that acts on text entry (and stylus/fingertip entry on Tablet/UMPC now, and hopefully voice in the future).

    Second, many have tried to set up fixed word – action “languages” but almost no users have made the investment to adopt them. ActiveWords offers each user the opportunity to define their own word – action relationships using their vocabulary and innate ability to name things. For those needing a fixed structure, ActiveWords can be locked down to fix these relationships for sets of users.

    Third, how do these user defined word – action relationships fit together? The preferred answer is based on the personal semantic preferences of each user. ActiveWords allows the user to use the same ActiveWord for multiple actions and multiple ActiveWords for the same action. Over time, the user self organizes these semantic relationships.

    Fourth, ActiveWords is extensible. It includes agent technology allowing third parties to create actions and suggested semantics (ActiveWords) to trigger events. Creating an ActiveWord agent that interfaces with Google APIs can duplicate everything demonstrated with “Ubiquity for Firefox,” and it can do so independent of a Firefox context (in any context or no context at all). For example, the actions of sending an email to Bob and inserting a Google map of a particular address can be triggered by one or more ActiveWords whenever the user thinks of it, not just when they are composing a new message in gmail.

    Fifth, what if I use multiple computers and grow accustomed to word – action functionality? The ActiveWords personal data store is readily transferable between Windows computers and will someday be “in the cloud,” ready whenever you are on whatever computing device you happen to be using at the moment.

    We continue to hope that projects such as “Ubiquity for Firefox” will spread the power and gospel of the word – action interface, ActiveWords. The productivity implications are important. The less time you are “computing” the more opportunity you have to create something of value.

    Pete Weldon
    ActiveWord Systems, Inc.
    http://www.activewords.com

  6. Ubiquity looks impressive. I like your mention of ActiveWords too. Conceivably, ActiveWords would let you build Ubquity-like experiences across all our apps – not just FF, but IE, Outlook, etc. You’re right too about suggesting MSFT buy them. It makes so much sense for ActiveWords to be a built-in component of Windows that everyone can use. Imagine all the useful things that could be built if everyone had it at their disposal.

  7. Ubiquity looks impressive. I like your mention of ActiveWords too. Conceivably, ActiveWords would let you build Ubquity-like experiences across all our apps – not just FF, but IE, Outlook, etc. You’re right too about suggesting MSFT buy them. It makes so much sense for ActiveWords to be a built-in component of Windows that everyone can use. Imagine all the useful things that could be built if everyone had it at their disposal.

  8. Alan: Maybe you’re right, but then again, I’m passionate about ripe tomatoes but I don’t grow them myself. And I’ve known lots of couples who were friends before they became passionate about each other.

    Seems to me that to expect passion on the frontend limits products more than they might otherwise need to be. I think Activewords has it right. That’s something I’m actually using because of their babysteps approach. They didn’t expect me to be passionate immediately. It worked.

    I don’t like the word “non-passionate” anyway. I’m a very passionate person. It’s misleading and would likely offend people outside the tech world. Seems to me that to imply somebody isn’t passionate, just because they don’t like the kinds of things I like, is a bias seeking an -ism label.

    Why can’t we just say geek and nongeek. “Geek” is no longer an offensive term, right? Or is it?

  9. Alan: Maybe you’re right, but then again, I’m passionate about ripe tomatoes but I don’t grow them myself. And I’ve known lots of couples who were friends before they became passionate about each other.

    Seems to me that to expect passion on the frontend limits products more than they might otherwise need to be. I think Activewords has it right. That’s something I’m actually using because of their babysteps approach. They didn’t expect me to be passionate immediately. It worked.

    I don’t like the word “non-passionate” anyway. I’m a very passionate person. It’s misleading and would likely offend people outside the tech world. Seems to me that to imply somebody isn’t passionate, just because they don’t like the kinds of things I like, is a bias seeking an -ism label.

    Why can’t we just say geek and nongeek. “Geek” is no longer an offensive term, right? Or is it?

  10. I think IE8′s Activities feature empowers web developer to empower their sites for their users. Mozilla Ubiquity let the end-users empower themselves. I prefer the later.

    @Dawn, I don’t think you’re “passionate” if you need someone to download, install and show it for you. Passion comes with the initiative and desire to try it yourself. Scoble is right; Ubiquity is not for what he refers to as “non-passionate” people.

  11. I think IE8′s Activities feature empowers web developer to empower their sites for their users. Mozilla Ubiquity let the end-users empower themselves. I prefer the later.

    @Dawn, I don’t think you’re “passionate” if you need someone to download, install and show it for you. Passion comes with the initiative and desire to try it yourself. Scoble is right; Ubiquity is not for what he refers to as “non-passionate” people.

  12. I love what Ubiquity does, even though I haven’t downloaded it. I tried earlier when I found some time but found out I needed FF3. So out went FF2 and now I’m downloading Ubiquity. Sounds like I’m a non-passionate doesn’t it? I like to think I’m a passionate but with OCD and a bad memory problem it just never seems to work out :-(

  13. I love what Ubiquity does, even though I haven’t downloaded it. I tried earlier when I found some time but found out I needed FF3. So out went FF2 and now I’m downloading Ubiquity. Sounds like I’m a non-passionate doesn’t it? I like to think I’m a passionate but with OCD and a bad memory problem it just never seems to work out :-(

  14. btw, this conversation has made me decide something. When my site launches, I want TWO instructional videos. One for the passionates and another for the nonpassionates. :)

  15. btw, this conversation has made me decide something. When my site launches, I want TWO instructional videos. One for the passionates and another for the nonpassionates. :)

  16. Michael, I really don’t know how to explain it. I’m just not gadget inclined. If something comes with a lot of buttons, I don’t want it.

    Funny that you mentioned nuclear power plants. My husband was a Navy Nuke (reactor operator) for 8 years and he wound up working for Intel. But I was better at using software than he was. He was great at hardware, which I don’t even like to mess with.

    It’s something to do with the brain’s wiring I think, but I’m no expert, so I’m not sure I can explain it. I do read lots of nonfiction books (business) but I don’t do manuals. I can force my brain to go there when I have to, like somebody is paying me to do so, but I won’t on my own time. Even if I want to record something. :)

    Maybe the key is in your car example where you said you’d take lessons. So would I. I wouldn’t read a book to learn how to drive. I don’t want to read instructions to learn how to use Ubiquity. Like I said in my previous post, show me how it works.

    You know, I never thought of it this way, but maybe that’s why I like Robert and read this blog, even though I’m not a techie. Robert shows me stuff. I want to see it used and hear about how it’s being used and then maybe use it myself if I think it’s useful or fun. I don’t want to read an instruction book about it.

  17. Michael, I really don’t know how to explain it. I’m just not gadget inclined. If something comes with a lot of buttons, I don’t want it.

    Funny that you mentioned nuclear power plants. My husband was a Navy Nuke (reactor operator) for 8 years and he wound up working for Intel. But I was better at using software than he was. He was great at hardware, which I don’t even like to mess with.

    It’s something to do with the brain’s wiring I think, but I’m no expert, so I’m not sure I can explain it. I do read lots of nonfiction books (business) but I don’t do manuals. I can force my brain to go there when I have to, like somebody is paying me to do so, but I won’t on my own time. Even if I want to record something. :)

    Maybe the key is in your car example where you said you’d take lessons. So would I. I wouldn’t read a book to learn how to drive. I don’t want to read instructions to learn how to use Ubiquity. Like I said in my previous post, show me how it works.

    You know, I never thought of it this way, but maybe that’s why I like Robert and read this blog, even though I’m not a techie. Robert shows me stuff. I want to see it used and hear about how it’s being used and then maybe use it myself if I think it’s useful or fun. I don’t want to read an instruction book about it.

  18. Dawn, I’m confused. Can you explain more what you mean by not being a ‘task person’? After all, I also find it daunting to read massive manuals on new gadgets and things – I remember it took me ages to work my minidisc player years ago – but if I want to drive a car, I’ll take lessons, if you see what I mean?

    I don’t think everything can be intuitive – some very important things are complicated, like nuclear power plants. I think that it’s about being happy to try new things and invest time, rather than just waiting for it to hit the mainstream. It’s like my parents – they’re scared of operating the video because they don’t like figuring out how it works, but if they want to record something, they’ll do it reluctantly, and they’ll do it better next time. But they’re not passionate about it – they’ll say “aahhhh, that’s handy” when it works, but I don’t think they’re passionate. So I’d agree with Scoble’s divide.

  19. Dawn, I’m confused. Can you explain more what you mean by not being a ‘task person’? After all, I also find it daunting to read massive manuals on new gadgets and things – I remember it took me ages to work my minidisc player years ago – but if I want to drive a car, I’ll take lessons, if you see what I mean?

    I don’t think everything can be intuitive – some very important things are complicated, like nuclear power plants. I think that it’s about being happy to try new things and invest time, rather than just waiting for it to hit the mainstream. It’s like my parents – they’re scared of operating the video because they don’t like figuring out how it works, but if they want to record something, they’ll do it reluctantly, and they’ll do it better next time. But they’re not passionate about it – they’ll say “aahhhh, that’s handy” when it works, but I don’t think they’re passionate. So I’d agree with Scoble’s divide.

  20. Somebody else download it on my computer, show me how it works and maybe I’ll get passionate. I just don’t like having to figure things out. I once let a clock radio I purchased sit in the box for three months until my husband came back from sea and could set it for me.

    Now that my husband has passed away, my clocks on the microwave and the stove just blink, my clock in the car is an hour off, and I can’t use the our digital camera because I don’t know how to charge it or get pictures from it into the computer.

    I’m not stupid. I was Valedictorian of my high school and have an MBA which I received with honors. I use all kinds of software and have even designed a few applications by telling developers what I want done. I’m just not a task person. I don’t like reading manuals, directions, etc. for gadgety things. I won’t do it.

    I think that’s the key to understanding nonpassionates. The truth is we ARE passionate, we just need more help to get there. OR, better yet, make it so intuitive that we don’t have to read a manual to figure it out.

  21. Somebody else download it on my computer, show me how it works and maybe I’ll get passionate. I just don’t like having to figure things out. I once let a clock radio I purchased sit in the box for three months until my husband came back from sea and could set it for me.

    Now that my husband has passed away, my clocks on the microwave and the stove just blink, my clock in the car is an hour off, and I can’t use the our digital camera because I don’t know how to charge it or get pictures from it into the computer.

    I’m not stupid. I was Valedictorian of my high school and have an MBA which I received with honors. I use all kinds of software and have even designed a few applications by telling developers what I want done. I’m just not a task person. I don’t like reading manuals, directions, etc. for gadgety things. I won’t do it.

    I think that’s the key to understanding nonpassionates. The truth is we ARE passionate, we just need more help to get there. OR, better yet, make it so intuitive that we don’t have to read a manual to figure it out.

  22. I can’t think of any reason that I would have used IE8 for anyway other than making sure my CSS and JS works for it and figuring out what hacks I would need to do to make it work. Anyway, Ubiquity is awesome. I can see a lot of potential for it and am already imagining a dozen commands that I could add to it. It has a lot of features that could make web development and testing easier. I’m looking forward to working with it and developing for it.

  23. I can’t think of any reason that I would have used IE8 for anyway other than making sure my CSS and JS works for it and figuring out what hacks I would need to do to make it work. Anyway, Ubiquity is awesome. I can see a lot of potential for it and am already imagining a dozen commands that I could add to it. It has a lot of features that could make web development and testing easier. I’m looking forward to working with it and developing for it.

  24. UbiQ blows my mind away. Have been playing around with it all day. Just hoping that they imprve usability in the coming versions.

    Tweeting from UbiQ is a breeze, I’m guessing this is going to increase load on Twitter APIs like crazy!

  25. UbiQ blows my mind away. Have been playing around with it all day. Just hoping that they imprve usability in the coming versions.

    Tweeting from UbiQ is a breeze, I’m guessing this is going to increase load on Twitter APIs like crazy!

  26. Just one question…

    How many passionates were there 3 years ago, 2 years ago…

    I think the language between machines and humans will eventually converge in a middle ground between natural and syntaxy. Ubiquity seems like a very flexible, open and accessible awesome first step.

  27. Just one question…

    How many passionates were there 3 years ago, 2 years ago…

    I think the language between machines and humans will eventually converge in a middle ground between natural and syntaxy. Ubiquity seems like a very flexible, open and accessible awesome first step.

  28. So it’s exactly like having yubnub.org in your browser then? (and yubnub is awesome) Only it seems a bit harder to create custom commands. Nice idea though, and am sure it will catch on amongst the ‘passionates’ once the bugs and quirks are ironed out.

    I do think this kind of this – Command Line interfaces for the web – is the first step towards Web OS. But who knows what a GUI would look like?

  29. So it’s exactly like having yubnub.org in your browser then? (and yubnub is awesome) Only it seems a bit harder to create custom commands. Nice idea though, and am sure it will catch on amongst the ‘passionates’ once the bugs and quirks are ironed out.

    I do think this kind of this – Command Line interfaces for the web – is the first step towards Web OS. But who knows what a GUI would look like?

  30. I installed it and have been playing around with Ubiquity for an hour. I agree it’s for the passionate users and I’ll probably use it often. I’m impressed so far but not for what it does today but what it will do down the road. My friends who run IE won’t get it.

  31. I installed it and have been playing around with Ubiquity for an hour. I agree it’s for the passionate users and I’ll probably use it often. I’m impressed so far but not for what it does today but what it will do down the road. My friends who run IE won’t get it.

  32. This is a nice implementation of Mac OS “services” (formerly NeXTstep services) for Web 2.0. The OS in this case is Firefox. It’s a step towards “the semantic web”. This iteration requires the user to initiate and hint at the semantics, memorize commands, and install each service into their browser. It’s a good sandbox for inventors to prototype and get some user feedback on semantic concepts. Over time these will be automated. I create a calendar invite in Google Calendar, when I type “sushi near Apple HQ” in the Location field, I get a Yelp or OpenTable popup sorted by rating, pick one, and send. My recipients email reader will use semantics to show a map, ratings, etc when they hover over the restaurant name.

  33. This is a nice implementation of Mac OS “services” (formerly NeXTstep services) for Web 2.0. The OS in this case is Firefox. It’s a step towards “the semantic web”. This iteration requires the user to initiate and hint at the semantics, memorize commands, and install each service into their browser. It’s a good sandbox for inventors to prototype and get some user feedback on semantic concepts. Over time these will be automated. I create a calendar invite in Google Calendar, when I type “sushi near Apple HQ” in the Location field, I get a Yelp or OpenTable popup sorted by rating, pick one, and send. My recipients email reader will use semantics to show a map, ratings, etc when they hover over the restaurant name.

  34. Color me underwhelmed.

    I think you’d call me passionate – I’ve submitted bugs for Firefox, I’ve written plug-ins for it, and my particular installation is quite customized. Heck, I’ve even written books about it. But I don’t (yet) see a use for Ubiquity.

    Why? Because it doesn’t solve any problems I need solved.

    For example, the first two examples they give in the instructions are searching Wikipedia and searching Google for a selection. The latter is already built into Firefox and requires nothing but a right click, and the former is easily solved with a search keyword. I’ve taken it a step further and have Quicksilver set up so I can click shift-control-W to pop up a Wikipedia search box, even if I’m not currently in a browser.

    I’m sure there are people out there who use Activewords for exactly the same thing and wonder why they’d need a browser command line.

    I realize it has potential far beyond that, but the thing about us passionate users is that we don’t use something for its own sake. We use it because it makes our life better, or more efficient. Eventually I’ll have a problem that Ubiquity is the perfect solution for, but for now it’s just yet another unnecessary command line with a confusing muddle of beta-quality features attached.

    Ubiquity looks a lot like a browser-specific version of Quicksilver, which is intriguing, but I’m hoping the real Quicksilver will continue to evolve so I don’t need a tool like Ubiquity that is tied to a particular browser.

  35. Color me underwhelmed.

    I think you’d call me passionate – I’ve submitted bugs for Firefox, I’ve written plug-ins for it, and my particular installation is quite customized. Heck, I’ve even written books about it. But I don’t (yet) see a use for Ubiquity.

    Why? Because it doesn’t solve any problems I need solved.

    For example, the first two examples they give in the instructions are searching Wikipedia and searching Google for a selection. The latter is already built into Firefox and requires nothing but a right click, and the former is easily solved with a search keyword. I’ve taken it a step further and have Quicksilver set up so I can click shift-control-W to pop up a Wikipedia search box, even if I’m not currently in a browser.

    I’m sure there are people out there who use Activewords for exactly the same thing and wonder why they’d need a browser command line.

    I realize it has potential far beyond that, but the thing about us passionate users is that we don’t use something for its own sake. We use it because it makes our life better, or more efficient. Eventually I’ll have a problem that Ubiquity is the perfect solution for, but for now it’s just yet another unnecessary command line with a confusing muddle of beta-quality features attached.

    Ubiquity looks a lot like a browser-specific version of Quicksilver, which is intriguing, but I’m hoping the real Quicksilver will continue to evolve so I don’t need a tool like Ubiquity that is tied to a particular browser.

  36. Absolute zero non-passionates as you call them will use the tool but the surge in passion is likely to go through the roof which should guarantee another couple of hears of the passionates convincing the non-passionates that Firefox is the best browser out there…which, if you look after it, it is.

  37. Absolute zero non-passionates as you call them will use the tool but the surge in passion is likely to go through the roof which should guarantee another couple of hears of the passionates convincing the non-passionates that Firefox is the best browser out there…which, if you look after it, it is.

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