New tabs are not an end by themselves, they are a means to get to the real content we need. This is the approach that Mozilla Labs has embraced when designing a smarter, more efficient new tab page to replace the current blank one we get whenever we add a tab.
Of course this is not new at all. Opera was perhaps the first browser to do something for a more efficient new tab page with its Speed Dial feature that added nine user defined links (by default) to new tab pages, making it easier for users to reach their most visited sites.
Google Chrome took a more dynamic approach including the most visited and most frequently visited web pages along with recently closed tabs.
And since last year, the idea has been floating around Mozilla with attempts like Ed Lee’s AutoDial (frequently visited sites), Atul Varma’s Ambient News (web feeds approach), and Aza Raskin’s new tab concepts video (context search and sequences).
about:tab is a new Firefox extension developed by Dan Mills that merges all of these concepts providing a clean interface with links to the most visited web pages, web feed items,Â context search, and a way to restore recently closed tabs, while following three basic principles: no configuration, streamlined, and polite.
While I didn’t get it to work consistently (I may or may not get an option to restore a closed tab or a link to search a selected text) and I’m still getting page suggestions I’d swear I don’t visit that often so I don’t find them very useful, this dashboard approach looks like the right way for me.
And it could be even more if it is designed in an extensible way so add-ons could add content to this page like recent Tweets, web mail, weather forecasts, and other small pieces of information that may help the user get to the content he wants.
about:tab requires Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 or a nightly. You can get it from Mozilla Labs.