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Mozilla brings Twitter, RSS, other messages to Firefox with Snowl

Mozilla released a plugin for Firefox called Snowl yesterday that has the potential to completely change the way you use your web browser. Or it could just frustrate the heck out of you. Here's what it does: it brings messages from various sources (Twitter, RSS feeds, and eventually instant messaging services) to your browser.

The concept is interesting. Why rely on pop up notifications to let you know that you need to switch browser tabs or applications to keep up with conversations on Twitter, FriendFeed, or other locations when you can just see everything on one screen? Snowl lets you browse the web while keeping an eye on all of those conversations.

But the truth of the matter is it just sort of makes a browser screen look crowded. If you've got a 24 inch display, that might not matter. But if you've got a 15 inch, 1024 x 768 display, this is not the plugin for you. Snowl does present a few interesting ways of looking at your messages. There's an Outlook-style 3-pane view with contacts and sources on the left, headlines at the top and full text in the bottom. Or you can use a "river of news" style view that shows a newspaper-like list of updates.

Snowl is still in the early beta stages. Mozilla admits that there are a ton of known bugs, but the developers wanted to see if there was any real interest in the project before continuing. Thus the public release. What do you think? Is Snowl useful or just another distraction?

Tags: addon, firefox, messaging, mozilla, mozilla-labs, plugin, snowl, twitter