Firefox is going social, at least in a tentative sort of way.
Mozilla announced today that its Firefox Beta for Windows, Mac, and Linux will support Social API, a framework designed to let developers integrate social-networking features directly into the browser. Mozilla was quick to point out that the Social API support is "preliminary" at this point, suggesting it isn't fully baked and ready for prime time.
Mozilla didn't offer many details on how the social features might be integrated into the browser. It did say that it envisions developers allowing the browser's users to "to keep up with friends and family anywhere you go on the Web without having to open a new Web page or switch between tabs."
Mozilla may not be waxing prolix about its social-browser plans here, but its previous steps in this direction give you a sense of where it might be going. Last year around this time, Mozilla launched Firefox Share, a browser add-on that made it possible to share out links to Twitter, Facebook or Gmail directly from the browser -- i.e., without needing to visit those sites directly.
Share, in turn, built on Mozilla's earlier, failed link-sharing add-on F1. Similarly, other "social" browsers like Flock and Rockmelt have integrated social functions directly. The Rockmelt browser, for instance, supports built-in chat, link sharing, reading recommendations from your social-network "friends," and access to newstreams from Twitter, Facebook and other services.
Social API is presumably aiming for something similar, though Mozilla says it doesn't expect the new interface to be limited to social uses. The organization hopes e-mail providers, news outlets, and financial sites will also use the interface to integrate their own features into the browser.
Mozilla will start testing the Social API "soon" and will open it up to Firefox Beta testings in the coming weeks. The first implementation will involve integration of Facebook Messenger, which will presumably allow users to send and receive Facebook messages without having to visit facebook.com.
A new version of Mozilla's browser, Firefox 16, was re-released yesterday, one day after the company yanked the software to address security flaws.