Mozilla Expands Its Universe With Weave

Mozilla is expanding its universe today, moving beyond desktop software products like Firefox (browser) and Thunderbird (email) and into cloud territory – web services.

The initiative, Weave, is a new project that will store user information – like bookmarks, passwords, history, preferences and customizations, and sync it to your Firefox account. Users can then access that information in the event of a hard drive failure, or if they are on a guest machine (say, at a cyber cafe).

An early version of Weave is available (you must be using the Firefox 3 beta) here. I have not been able to sign up for an account (the confirmation email won’t send).

The service clearly overlaps with initiatives by Google and Microsoft to store user information in the cloud (and Mac users can already sync some user information to the cloud via .Mac). And there will likely be a slew of casualties in the “web OS” space, as their main selling point is to store user settings and other data and make them portable for the cyber cafe crowd.

Based on the proposed architecture and use cases, Mozilla is not yet proposing to get heavily into the online storage space. Backing up non-browser content like photos and videos would compete directly with service providers who store this information online for customers (Flickr, YouTube, Photobucket, etc.). But by managing passwords to those services, Firefox is both supporting those service providers and encouraging users to not even bother keeping a desktop copy of content. Keep it all online, and use the browser, from any computer, to keep it all organized. And don’t forget, the social graph just may be hosted by Firefox, too.

Mozilla’s vision is clearly to become the operating system of the Internet, much as Windows is the OS for most desktops. Web applications already run through the browser, and now some of the user data will be stored on servers connected to the browser, too. While Google and Microsoft fire away at each other in the battle for users’ online life, they just may want to keep an eye on Mozilla, too. It’s a non-profit, but its brand is solid gold and they just might do an end around and grab all the users.