Web browser provider Mozilla is introducing the alpha version of “TowTruck,” a new open source service designed to ease online collaboration.

TowTruck users initiate a session by copying and pasting a TowTruck Javascript link and a TowTruck start link onto a website and then sending the TowTruck link to a colleague. When the colleague accepts the invitation, the user is notified and can begin real-time online collaboration on the site. Real-time collaborative features include content authoring (users can see each others’ changes instantly), text chatting (including link and resource sharing) and browser microphone-enabled voice chatting.

TowTruck is implemented via JavaScript with no software or plug-ins. Developers can customize a TowTruck experience without altering existing Web pages. Because TowTruck is currently alpha-quality software, Mozilla advises against using it in a production environment.

TowTruck Makes Sense, But Needs a Little Work

Early reviews on TowTruck are generally favorable. However, commentary from the Ghacks Technology News site gives a good example of pundit feelings that this alpha project still needs some fine-tuning. “There are quite a few examples where (TowTruck) may make sense,” states the article, citing instances such as editing code with a remote second developer or designer, obtaining real-time help in filling out forms, browsing long pages with more than one person and co-authoring blog posts.

On the flip side, Ghacks Technology News says additional capabilities such as immediately jumping to the page position of a collaborating participant and setting a lead whose activities are automatically followed by all other participants would make TowTruck better. But the overall conclusion is favorable -- “TowTruck is an interesting web collaboration service that could make life a lot easier for a lot of web workers and users. Definitely something to check out and keep an eye on to see if and how it evolves.” 

Mozilla Gets Social

TowTruck is Mozilla’s latest effort to make its browser more social. In November 2012, Mozilla partnered with Facebook to integrate its messenger tool directly into the Mozilla Firefox web browser’s interface. Firefox had previously introduced a beta version of Facebook Messenger for Firefox. With improvements to the Social API, Firefox changed the way the web browser interacts with social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and new sites.

When Firefox began improving its Social API, the team at Facebook did the same with Messenger and in their collaboration the two companies aimed to improve the web browser-social media experience. Starting in July 2012, the web browser’s main goal was to improve the overall user experience. They started by including recommendations based a person’s search history, before moving on to add support for notifications and moved onto integrated news feeds and chats, like Facebook messenger.

While TowTruck is not a “social media” feature per se, it does enhance the user experience and make it more social and interactive. The entire Web experience is evolving to become a highly personalized, flexible and user-driven environment, so Mozilla seems to be on the right path.