Firefox 17 has gone mainstream, introducing to users the new Social API which allows social outlets like Facebook to create native controls and sidebars instead of sketchy add-ons.
Mozilla's blog was updated on Tuesday with news that Firefox 17 has escaped the beta channel and is now available for the general web surfing audience. As reported last month, this build supports the company's Social API which allows developers to display native, "in-chrome user controls" and sidebars instead of questionable, risky add-ons that must be installed.
The first to take advantage of this new feature is Facebook. The popular social network adds an embedded Facebook Messenger sidebar on the right side of the browser window, and toolbar notification buttons (sidebar off/on, friend requests, messages, notifications) mounted above so that social bugs know when someone sends them another Farmville request or other notifications. The sidebar itself is identical to Facebook's version, sporting the timeline on the top half and the IM list on the bottom.
Last month, Johnathan Nightingale, Senior Director of Firefox Engineering at Mozilla, said that as Mozilla worked on the new API, the Facebook Messenger team built the Firefox client, serving as the first supported social provider. Both teams worked together to "check assumptions and debug issues" all the while pushing each other to create "something excellent."
However, he pointed out that Social API is not provider-specific and, like OpenSearch, Mozilla is striving to establish a social standard on the Web with this new API.
"As services integrate with Firefox via the Social API sidebar, it will be easy for you to keep up with friends and family without having to switch between or open new tabs," Mozilla said on Tuesday. "You can stay connected to your favorite social site even while you are surfing the Web, watching a video or playing a game."
To get started, download the latest version of Firefox here, and then head to this Facebook page to install the Messenger client for Firefox. After that, you're all set, and it's easy to turn off and remove altogether. Social API doesn’t change what social providers can see about the user's online behavior unless they explicitly decide to share it, the company said last month.
"Today’s Social API is just the beginning of making Firefox more social. We’ll soon add support for more features and multiple providers," Mozilla said. "We’ll also be listening to feedback from our early users to understand how Firefox can do more to keep them connected to their social lives online."
Developers wanting to know how to take advantage of Mozilla's Social API can head here.