Opening a new tab in a Web browser shows a lot of prime but empty real estate, and now Firefox programmers are following their Safari and Chrome peers in trying to make it more useful.
Along the right edge is the 'quick-access bar', a stack of thumbnail views of your popular pages, selected on the basis of how recently and frequently you visited them. In the upper left are buttons that take various actions. For example, if you've selected some text on a Web page before opening the new tab, that text will be presented as a search that can be performed by clicking the button in the new tab.
Those with the latest developer build of Firefox 3.1 can try the new tab behaviour through a Firefox extension. To do so, see Raskin's three-step process, described on the Mozilla Labs blog.
Mozilla has been testing new tab options since January. "From the feedback from the last two rounds of new tab concepts, we know that the page needs to load instantly (even a small wait breaks user experience); that it shouldn't be visually distracting; and that it should be a launch point into your daily activities," Raskin said.
Safari 4, in beta, and Google Chrome both offer an array of popular Web pages when opening a new tab. Google's Toolbar can bring the Chrome behaviour to Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Raskin explained Mozilla's thinking about relegating the Web page thumbnails to a right-side strip thus: "It may seem strange that the quick-access strip is along the right of the window. It's there in order to be polite. If you've got your mind on opening a new tab and just entering a URL, it's outside your foveal vision."