There's been a lot of speculation about what Mozilla might do when it comes to browsing on the iPad, but up until now their lips have been sealed on the subject. That changed at a recent presentation from Mozilla's Product Design Team, when they showed off Junior, a WebKit based browser the company is building 'from the ground up' for iPad.
Mozilla's Alex Limi called browsing on the iPad 'a miserable experience' when introducing Mozilla's novel take on tablet surfing, and Mozilla's approach looks like it could actually make it feel that way after you've given it a try.
Mozilla is calling their iOS browser Junior (despite using the Firefox logo, they're not calling it Firefox just yet), and it looks like a pretty impressive, clutter free experience. Ergonomics generally isn't something that browser makers have to worry about, but that changes with tablets; to make sure everything is comfortable. In the planning stage, they even considered trying to do an entirely gesture based browser, but decided that that could be more of a barrier than a feature.
Ultimately, the team decided to move the back and a '+' button down towards the bottom of the iPad, placing them on the left and right sides of the screen. Perfect, it just so happens, for navigating with your thumbs.
The + button is more than just a tabs button, though. Co-designer Trond Werner Hansen says that the button will open a new screen "that lets you do the three vital things when you want to go someplace new." Those three things, of course, a recent pages bar (which consists of visual screenshots of the pages, a bit like the approach to tabs found in older versions of iOS), an icon based bookmarks page, and a unified search/URL bar at the bottom of the screen, which looks a bit like Microsoft's approach in the Metro version of IE10.
Junior is still very much a work in progress - so much so that the team hasn't decided what all of the buttons will do. The back and + button can both be expanded to reveal six functions, but they haven't reached a final decision on what those functions will be. Still, it's a really original approach to navigation, and it looks like it could be the perfect fit for tablets.
Another cool feature set to come with Junior is accounts, which does basically what you'd expect. Using a fairly traditional interface, you can cycle though a number of different accounts, which can be password protected. Each of the accounts can keep their own bookmarks and security settings, which makes it easy for a family or work group to share an iPad.
There's no release date for Junior just yet, but we really can't wait to hear more about it. It looks like it just might redefine the whole browsing experience on tablets, if it turns out to be as intuitive as the demos would have us believe. Be sure to check out the demo above to see Junior in action.