It didn’t take long for two different developers to start replicating some of the best new features in Internet Explorer 8: WebSlices and Activities. Come on, you knew extension developers would jump on the chance to give users very few reasons to switch to Internet Explorer.


–WebSlices in Firefox–

WebSlices are a way for you to stay up-to-date with the latest news and information without actually having to visit a website. When a WebSlice is added to the toolbar you’re able to click on it to see a specially designed small-scale version of the website. For example, in the eBay example below you’ll see a brief overview of an auction that you’re trying to keep track of.

If you want to install WebSlices in Firefox here’s what you need to do:

  1. Install the extension
  2. Go to a page that has WebSlices available, such as http://ie8.ebay.com. Do a search for a product on that eBay site.
  3. When you see the little WebSlice icon appear towards the left side of the items right-click somewhere (don’t try to right-click on the icon) and click Subscribe to a webchunk:
    firefox webslice
  4. That item will be placed in your WebSlices toolbar where you can click on it to get an instant preview of the status:
    firefox webslice view

There are three things that I don’t like about this extension:

  1. It takes up an entire toolbar which I find to be a waste of space.
  2. I naturally want to click on the little icon that pops up to add the WebSlice, but I have to right-click for some odd reason? Just let me click on the icon to add it to the toolbar.
  3. This isn’t the fault of the extension, but there are currently very few WebSlices available.

–Activities in Firefox–

The Activities extension that has been developed is also a bit rough around the edges right now. If you use it in Firefox 3 you’re supposed to be able to see a preview of the site when you hover your mouse over one of the entries just like in Internet Explorer 8. I tried it out in Firefox 3 Beta 3, Firefox 3 Beta 4, and the Firefox 3 nightly builds none of which showed a preview (I even did it on a clean profile with no other extensions installed).

What I did find impressive is that installing the Activities is no different than Internet Explorer 8. The XML files are automatically downloaded into an “activities” folder in your Firefox profile. As of right now navigating to that folder and deleting the XML file is the only way to remove one of the Activities that you add.

Once you’ve added some of the Activities they will only show up in the list when you have text highlighted on a website, and then right-click. Here’s what it looks like:

firefox activities

If the previews worked for me it would be a lot more useful, but right now it’s really just another way to perform a search on a site.

[via Mozilla Links]

There Are 8 Comments

  1. Ok, this may be the wrong attitude to take, but instead of having web slices why not just keep a tab open with the auction in and a visual preview of the page when you mouse over it. As for activities as you say why not use a search. I could see slices being really useful if they were incorporated into the vista sidebar, but as it stands I don’t think firefox really needs them but all credit to the developers who have gone straight out to make them.

  2. WebSlices give you notifications when something gets updated. Having a gadget doesn’t do that.

    Activities are more that just search, just check out the other stuff Microsoft has:
    [ie.microsoft.com]
    The preview window speeds up simple things like getting a paragraph translated to another language or defining a word.

  3. Anonymous wrote:
    Ok, this may be the wrong attitude to take, but instead of having web slices why not just keep a tab open with the auction in and a visual preview of the page when you mouse over it.

    You could definitely do that, but some people (like myself) try to minimize the number of tabs we have open at any one given time.

  4. Beauty of Firefox: A great feature in another browser is turned into an extension:D Maybe if IE followed suit it’d be a LITTLE more popular.

  5. Amak wrote:
    Beauty of Firefox: A great feature in another browser is turned into an extension:D Maybe if IE followed suit it’d be a LITTLE more popular.

    It would be interesting to see Microsoft do something like that, but I’m not holding my breath. I think at this point too many people have become dedicated to Firefox, and will almost refuse to stop using no matter what.

  6. This Web Slices thing seems an awful lot like the Microsummaries that’s been in Firefox for a while now. Microsummaries doesn’t really seem to have caught on, and I doubt Web Slices will either.

    Update: Oh, they’re called Microsummaries ([microsummaries.org]), but yeah, looks like the same thing essentially.

  7. Ian Cammarata wrote:
    This Web Slices thing seems an awful lot like the Microsummaries that’s been in Firefox for a while now. Microsummaries doesn’t really seem to have caught on, and I doubt Web Slices will either.

    Update: Oh, they’re called Microsummaries ([microsummaries.org]), but yeah, looks like the same thing essentially.

    It is pretty much the same thing, and we provide Microsummaries on our site. The only thing is that the Web Slices actually have a nice interface to them whereas Firefox is limited to pure text at this point.

  8. LOL!
    Damn, Internet Explorer is so lame. Why is Microsoft even trying anymore? They should just back out of the browser game, they blown it.

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