Mozilla launches Snowl messaging prototype

The prototype Firefox extension will bring unified messaging to the open-source browser, if early experiments are promising

Mozilla has launched a prototype messaging Firefox extension that it says could eventually enable users to keep track of all of their electronic communications, including email, RSS, social networks and web discussions.

'Snowl' enables users to prioritise messages by importance and have a search-based interface for message retrieval, according to Mozilla developer Myk Melez.

"Could the web browser help you follow and participate in online discussions?" wrote Melez in a blog post on Wednesday. "Snowl is an experiment to answer that question."

Another key idea of the project is that browser functionality for navigating web content, including tabs, bookmarks and history, can be used to navigate messages.

The initial prototype supports RSS/Atom feeds and Twitter. Interfaces include a three-pane 'list view', and a continuous 'river of news' view for casual browsing.

Melez said Mozilla was looking for feedback on the project, and was interested in finding out from users if the concept has "promise". Possible additions to Snowl include support for additional message sources such as Facebook, AIM and Google Talk; an interface for writing and sending messages to enable two-way conversations; and an API to make it easier for developers to build new experimental interfaces such as an instant message view.

There is a caveat: Melez warned users that the initial Snowl prototype "is a primitive implementation with many bugs, and subsequent versions will include changes that break functionality and delete all your messages, making you start over from scratch".