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Mozilla offers do-it-yourself mashups for all

Experimental browser plug-in aims to connect the Web with language to help users perform common Web tasks more quickly and easily.

Mozilla released an experimental browser plug-in Tuesday that aims to connect the Web with language to help users perform common Web tasks more quickly and easily.

Ubiquity, created by Aza Raskin--son of Apple Mac pioneer Jef Raskin--is a command-line interface that enables users to use plain language to manipulate Web tasks, such as mapping, translation, shopping, or retrieving entries from Wikipedia, Yelp, or Twitter.

The free Firefox plug-in enables the creation of "user-generated mashups with existing open Web APIs," according to a post on Mozilla's site Tuesday. "In other words, allowing everyone--not just Web developers--to remix the Web so it fits their needs, no matter what page they are on, or what they are doing."

The challenge, as Mozilla sees it:

Mashups help in some cases, but they are static, require Web development skills, and are largely site-centric rather than user-centric.

It's even worse on mobile devices, where limited capability and fidelity makes this onerous or nearly impossible.

Most people do not have an easy way to manage the vast resources of the Web to simplify their task at hand. For the most part, they are left trundling between Web sites, performing common tasks, resulting in frustration and wasted time.

Ubiquity grew out of Firefox's new Smart Location Bar, or "awesome bar," which helps resolve incomplete URL entries into browser address bars. Ubiquity doesn't replace the awesome bar, but a separate command line is generated by typing Ctrl-Space for Windows or Command-Space for Macs.

Mozilla Labs released a prototype of Ubiquity for all platforms, as well as a tutorial, as an "illustration of a concept."

Mozilla says this is the type of mashup it hopes its users will be inspired to create.

Raskin, a Mozilla Labs engineer who worked to bring Firefox to the mobile platform, created the Ubiquity platform concept. "Ubiquity's interface goal is to enable the user to instruct the browser (by typing, speaking, using language) what they want to do," Raskin wrote in his blog post.

Webware's Rafe Needleman is taking the plug-in for a spin and has posted his impressions.