Ubiquity lets you browse the social web by typing, not pointing. In 2008, Mozilla Labs launched an ambitious project: a natural language interface for the web 2.0. It is now no longer in active development, but is still maintained to be compatible with the latest Firefox. So you can still enjoy this mature piece of research.
Every few years, natural language processing sees a little survival. In recent years we’ve seen Wolfram Alpha and Ubiquity. And with each iteration, the interfaces become better and better.
Ubiquity does not aspire at understanding everything you type. It’s goals are much more humble and therefore much more attainable. It offers a sort of command line interface to the web. But the commands you type have been so refined it feels like you’re typing in natural English.
In the past months, I’ve seen a lot of “social” browsers appear, like RockMeIt and Flock. All of them use a complicated graphical user interface to give you access to all your favorite social networks. Ubiquity offers the same flexibility, but in a very minimal interface. Some will like it for this, others will hate it.
Because of its command line style, it also looks like a great way to automate certain workflows. For instance, I’ve been looking at Ubiquity to optimize the way I do blog posts. Certain repetitive tasks, like image resizing and linking look like a great candidate for an Ubiquity command.
Although there’s no active Ubiquity development right now. I’m certain we’ll be seeing more of this. Maybe it will be a new version or maybe it’ll just be a completely new project. I’m certainly interested in finding out what’s next for natural language user interfaces.