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Soo!… Thoughts on Firefox’s Panorama problem?

Back when Firefox launched Panorama, it was launched in a rather linear manner. Here’s a problem and here’s how to fix it. However the major problem was that it was a problem that so few seemed to have, rightfully so its legitimacy was questioned. The manner of the launch in hindsight was wrong and that’s lead to Panorama being maligned.

The initial approach with Panorama was far too linear. It was marketed from a work-flow feature and that’s where it went wrong. To begin with, so few of the browsers users are actually power users. In fact Mozilla’s own research data suggests that users were simply forgetting to close tabs in most cases (if I remember correctly) and further went on to suggest that most didn’t even grasp the concept of tabbed browsing. So if that’s the case, why would you market visual tab management as a work-flow feature?

The approach taken was met with opposition and in fact some users felt the feature was shoehorned in before it was ready. It wasn’t until it’s use was reframed as the ability to visually temporarily bookmark tabs that an interest started to grow in the possibilities of Panorama. But even if you take the feature and you reframe it in a manner to make it more marketable to the average user, there were some usability issues that can’t just be marketed around.

Sadly for Panorama, it meant or indeed still means that it’ll require a concerted effort by a team of developers to really make it into what it should be and deliver the type of punch that was imagined when it envisaged. Apart from making it follow default operating system behavioural patterns. There’s also other usability issues that affect the potential successful turn around of the feature. One of which appears to be based on the assumption that browsing is linear. In it’s current design Panorama currently doesn’t allow you to visually manage tabs in a different window. So if you have a group of tabs open in one window and want to open a group of tabs stored in that same window, you have to choose between groups.

Firefox is also a contradiction in terms of tab management. At the same time Panorama was launched, Mozilla also launched Sync which allows users to access tabs stored on different machines, devices and profiles. However the approach that Sync took was almost like night to Panorama’s day and instead of the taking the visual approach of thumbnails, it instead opted for a list view. It has been put forward that Firefox should refactor Sync into Panorama giving users a truly global tab management canvas but such a proposal has yet to gain traction and that’s a shame as two of the marquee features of Firefox 4 are lacking the polish in which their potential deserves.

It goes without saying that Panorama is an uncut diamond and should it get a push with some additional resources it can really become an asset to Mozilla. Only the powers that be at Mozilla know whether or not Panorama will be relaunched, but as of yet it isn’t on the road map for 2012 and that’s a real shame.

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