Recently I've become convinced that desktop browser interfaces are too complex. Menus, options, tabs and sidebars are a legacy of browser wars, with each side adding many new features; it's also a reminder of how recently we've really started to understand the web. Now, with smartphones with tiny screens and fiddly keyboards finally gaining proper internet access, simplicity is even more important.
So I've developed a Firefox extension to remedy the situation - about:history (download).
It's the first of a series of extensions to fit a new set of principles I've come to believe in:
Shrink the chrome
The browser chrome - the menus, options, address bar and buttons around the actual content - should be as small as possible. After all, what users really want to see is their webpage.
The browser as a website
It's actually quite similar to Google Chrome's history page, with a few important differences. Most notably, it's got a URI (about:history). If the web has taught us anything, it should be the power of the URI. Also, of course, it enables you to selectively delete pages from your browser history.
All you need to do to open up this page is click on the history link on the bookmarks bar, or press Ctrl-H. Of course, since there is a URI, other sites can also link back to it.
Personally I think this interface is much better. It doesn't introduce any new visual features like the sidebar - instead, it works just like a normal page. It follows normal visual metaphors like web search pages. It's linkable, clickable, you can put it in your favourites or view the source or screenscrape it. And it doesn't require any space in the chrome!
Let me know what you think. If all goes well, I'm going to apply the same principles to other parts of the browser, all in the aim of reducing clutter.