Multitouch interfaces are all the rage, for good reason, and a Mozilla programmer has been working to enable the technology for Web applications in the Firefox browser.
Firefox today can be controlled with multitouch gestures--a three-finger sweep up and down to go to the top or bottom of a Web page, for example, or two-finger pinch gestures to zoom out. But Felipe Gomes, a Brazilian computer science student who just finished a stint as a Mozilla intern, has demonstrated how Web-based applications, not just Firefox, can use multitouch.
His demonstration shows multitouch controls to shrink and enlarge icons, paint, select a region of a photo, and play Pong.
Multitouch interfaces, for example on the iPhone and Hewlett-Packard TouchSmart PCs, let the computer interpret the contact and motion of multiple fingers on the screen. And Apple MacBooks are equipped with multitouch trackpads.
One issue for multitouch, though, is standardizing the meaning of various gestures. Firefox and Safari on a Mac both move forward and backward in browsing history with three-finger sweeps right and left, respectively, but Safari doesn't follow Mozilla's example of three-finger sweeps up and down.
This issue gets even more complicated if Web applications get multitouch interfaces. What touch actions are controlling Firefox or the Web application? Or, for that matter, the operating system? The same two-finger gesture that draws a selection box to crop a photo in a Web app could also be a Firefox multitouch command to zoom in or out on the Web page.
Before we get to the conflicts and issues of interface standardization, though, we need more computers and applications that can take advantage of multitouch. Even I, who has yet to find a rival for keyboard controls when it comes to speed for most operations, am a fan of multitouch. So I look forward to seeing its potential realized even if that means a bit of chaos in the meantime.