[whatwg] Browser-as-Desktop: Widgets in the browser

Brett Zamir brettz9 at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 31 21:02:56 PST 2012


This idea is more of a browser feature request, but it impinges on 
language features which could conceivably be allowed in HTML to trigger 
the feature. The idea would work best in browsers which allowed 
toolbars/full-screen-mode to be configured on a per-tab basis, but does 
not require it.

The idea is to bring the desktop view to the browser--for web pages to 
contain instructions indicating they were to be treated as widgets 
(though browsers could allow any page to be so converted as well). Note 
that this idea is NOT for widgets to be installed or displayed via an 
artificially separate mechanism from browsers, but rather for different 
tabs loaded in the browser to share a common user-determined canvas 
(though the browser might let the user drop the need for maintaining 
independent tabs, instead allowing them to be collapsed and allowing 
right-click to give options to remove or replace a widget).

Widget pages would be delivered with a truly transparent background (as 
opposed to a "background:transparent" merely used for convenience in CSS 
but which tends to have an assumed empty background unless specified).

The underlying background could be:
1) the user's machine desktop
2) a browser-provided background
3) a simple choice by the user of a background color, image, WebGL 
object, or, their superset, another non-transparent website (which 
might, for example, provide an interface for one's FileSystem, etc.).

The main use case is to allow widgets to be distributed as regular web 
pages, useable at their direct URL without the need for independent 
installation mechanisms, while still working with persistent tabs as 
some browser offer, HTML5-driven offline apps and a "desktop"-like view.

If an earlier suggestion I made for a browser to allow iframes to be 
shown with a set of navigation controls were adopted, a widget might 
itself serve as a URL navigation bar, allowing it to be dragged around 
as a widget and load its own page.

Multiple widgets could be provided on a single page, allowing for those 
items z-index to be maintained in reference to one another (perhaps with 
WebGL objects also useable in reference to such a z-index if this is not 
already possible), while the browser could allow the user to control the 
position and depth of a widget set relative to other widget sets (where 
a "set" could be single or multiple widgets, depending on the number of 
top-level elements in the page).

Moreover, the background itself might allow full 360 degree rotation and 
placement in any direction or depth.

Fundamental applications such as sticky notes, could be zoomed in and 
out, perhaps rotated, and even websites not designed to be used as 
widgets could be zoomed and moved around within the background.

Best wishes,

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