My New Favorite Web Browsing Tool

If you are a Firefox user, I highly suggest installing Ubiquity. It’s a current experimental plugin for Firefox but it’s beginning to change how I surf the web, send things to people and in general, how I interact with the browser.

Ubiquity is an attempt to use natural language to interact with the browser. You can do things like email links, map addresses and search the web using natural language instead of trying to mentally map what you want into the language of the browser.

Just a few quick examples: Lots of times you run across a page that you’d like to send to a friend. To do that, you have to copy the link, open up your email client, type their address, write a subject and then paste the link in which typically doesn’t include any information about what the link is or why you’re sending it. Enter Ubiquity. Let’s say I want to send the Ubiquity announcement above to Kat. First I call up Ubiquity by hitting Control-Space which launches the small screen in the left corner of the browser as you can see below.

Once I’ve done that, I can tell Ubiquity what I want to do. In this case, I want to email it to Kat. Currently, Ubiquity only supports Gmail but since everyone and their dog has a Gmail account, I don’t see this as a problem. I type the “email this to Kathryn” in the Ubiquity window. Ubiquity knows that “this” refers to this page and it looks up Kathryn in my contacts. I can arrow down to the entry I want.

When I hit enter, I get a new email message with everything filled out for me. I can add some text but all the manual stuff is done.

There are ton of other ways to use Ubiquity including maps. One of the coolest is ways happens when you’re already on a page with some text that you’re curious about. You can highlight the text and then call up Ubiquity to give you suggestions about. For example, if you highlighted a city in a story and started Ubiquity, you’d have the option to map it, google, get the weather for it, search Wikipedia for it, etc.

This is where the web should be going in the future. There are still some rough edges to Ubiquity but it’s a pretty damn cool start.