Ubiquity Changes The Way You Surf The Internet

Ubiquity A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of buzz about Ubiquity, a new Firefox extension released by Mozilla Labs.

Rather than following the sheep mentality and writing about it at the time, I decided to take it for a test drive first before posting.

Bottom line: if you get used to it, Ubiquity could change the way you surf the Internet.


Ubiquity is a command line-like interface that lets you interact with your browser using natural language. It’s usually hidden from view, and only activated by a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + space by default).

What does that mean?

It means a simpler life for you. How? Here are a few examples.

Let’s say I’m paying a visit to our Ottawa office, but I’m not sure where it is. I highlight the address on our website, bring up Ubiquity and type “map this”:

Ubiquity with maps

Easy, and much easier than opening up a new tab for Google Maps every time I want to look an address up.

Another example — translation. My standard way to translate things until I found Ubiquity was to head to Google and get it to translate foreign language pages for me. No longer.

The shot below is of the Ontario government’s French website (because it’s the first French language site I though of… and, yes, I know there’s an English version, smartass).

Once again, I highlight the relevant text, bring up Ubiquity and type “translate this”:

Ubiquity "translate" command

To make it even better, hit enter and the translated text is instantly inserted in the original page (you can insert maps, too):

Text translated in-page by Ubiquity

Wait, there’s more

That’s pretty neat already, right? There’s way more.

Like Firefox, Ubiquity is open source. That means people are free to create new commands for it. The ‘Ubiquity Herd‘ is a central resource for these. I’ve downloaded additional commands for TinyURL, delicious and StumbleUpon, among others. Now, I can just:

  • Type “TinyURL” to get a shortened version of the current page’s URL for Twitter
  • Type “delicious [tag1] [tag2] [tag3]” to save a bookmark of the current page (and any highlighted text will become the comment for the bookmark)
  • Type “stumble” to visit a random page from StumbleUpon, or “stumble-thumbs-up” to give a page my approval.
  • Type “convert this to PDF” to get a PDF of the current page

The list goes on and on.

Even more for the future

Right now Ubiquity is just “an early experimental prototype.” Here’s an example of where they want it to end up:

Where Ubiquity is headed - booking flights

I’m pretty excited about this… not because I want it to replace my mouse clicking, but because it simplifies the way I browse the web. No more jumping back-and-forth between different sites or services. I can do what I want to do, right from where I am now. Heck, I can send a Twitter message from any page on the web.

Twitter via Ubiquity

I’m not exactly on the fence with this one. It makes my life easier, so I love it.

Have you used Ubiquity? What’s your impression?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.