Beyond tabs: visualising ‘trails’ on the Web


I’ve been a user of the Web for around 21 years. Although it’s difficult to remember, I’m pretty sure ‘tabbed browsing’ pre-dates my first use of the Web. I can certainly remember in Microsoft Internet Explorer having to open a new window every time I wanted to visit a different website. It was one of the reasons I liked Netscape Navigator, later moving seamlessly to Mozilla Firefox.

While there’s been all kinds of wonderful innovation on the web, there doesn’t seem to have been as much innovation in tabbed browsing. Granted, you can mute certain tabs, pin them, and close all but the one you’re on. But, fundamentally, other than Tree Style Tab and the slightly unintuitive Tab Groups, tabbed browsing doesn’t feel much different than it was 20 years ago.

In a recent blog post I came across via Medium, Patryk Adaś made me aware of a Mozilla project that is focused on “evolving the standard tabbed browser towards a model based on trails”. It’s an interesting concept, shown visually in this 14-second video that demonstrates how it works:

The example used, of someone ‘deciding on a pizza joint’ is trivial, but I’m particularly interested in this from a new literacies point of view. Given that we’re at a time when we can’t necessarily trust information that comes from a particular domain (I’m looking at you, something that shows the trail people took to get to a website they trust would be a valuable tool.

Mozilla has a habit at the moment of shutting things down, in the hunt for ‘scale’. I hope this particular project sees the light of day, and I get to both use this myself and demonstrate it to others.

Comments? Questions? I’m @dajbelshaw on Twitter, or you can email me:


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