Microsummaries in Firefox 2

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One of the new features in Firefox 2 is Microsummaries, which essentially allows dynamic bookmark titles. This is useful when bookmarking volatile pages, since the title can reflect the current state of the document rather than the state when the bookmark was created.

The system works by registering XSLT transformations that generate a simple text string from the page content. The registrations are either done via a <link> element, or matched via regular expressions. The system is designed to target users (who can register their own microsummary generators), website owners (who can suggest a generator through a <link> tag) and 3rd parties (who can provide generators for other sites to users).

For Launchpad, I’d fall into the second category. It would be nice to provide microsummary generators for bug pages, so you’d get an indication of the status of the bug, plus an up to date bug title. Now while all this information is available in the page content, we can provide it in a much more efficient manner (if we know the user is only interested in generating a microsummary, why send them the 100 comments on the bug every time the bookmark title is to be updated?).

Being able to specify a transformation for the bookmarked URL that would be used instead for generating the summary would be one way of solving this. This would reduce the bandwidth requirements and processing time on our end. Another way would be for Firefox to include something in its request that would allow a site to know that the page was being retrieved for microsummary generation so it could ommit information.

Overall it looks like a useful feature, but I do wonder if it will suffer from the “RSS effect” and cause lots of needless traffic to web sites until people work out how to achieve the same effects in a less resource intensive fashion.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. xxx

    It’s pity one cannot specify separate microsummary page (like you RSS channels – you don’t create them using XSLT from the appropriate page!), it would be very small compared with downloading each time the page and then extracting microsummaries from it.

  2. mk

    I don’t know, this sounds like a rather useless feature to me. Most of the time, I give custom names to my bookmarks anyway; if they would constantly change, how can I find something in this mess?

    Thinking of bookmars, the first and most annoying thing which comes to my mind is that Firefox doesn’t natively support to store them on a remote server and thus share them with other browser installations.

    They should have focused on those features which increase, not decrease usability…

  3. xxx

    mk: well, it is because FF’s concept of bookmark is somewhat broader than the normal one. You can put “bookmarks” onto special toolbar and here the microsummaries DO make sense. (It would however make even more sense if one could put “microsummaries” – or even something like “nanosummaries” or “picosummaries” on gnome-pannel for example;).

    james henstridge: fortunatelly you don’t have to use generators, you can just create very simple (i.e. small) web page, that produces one-line text/plain with a summary. (I’ve implemented this on http://www.evangnet.cz/ and it works just fine).

  4. James Henstridge

    xxx: that’s interesting. The spec on wiki.mozilla.org only mentions using a <link> element to link to a microsummary generator.

    If I can link directly to a microsummary, then that solves my problem. I’d feel safer if they included this feature in the spec though.


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