About Tabs

By Mark Nuyens
3 min. read📱 Technology

Tabs may just be more than a simple metaphor for accesing information; they could extend beyond that and turn browsers into app stores.

Tabs are everywhere, from file explorers to web browsers, IDEs, and even vertically, in messaging apps like WhatsApp. While the metaphor may seem outdated in a time when physical folders and tabs have become less common, the concept has been able to survive by providing users with an easy way to organize and access information.

But what if we reimagined tabs as more than just organizational tools? What if we could leverage existing designs to transform the way the associated content is interpreted? Perhaps it’s time we reconsider the role of tabs, which is to serve as gateways for consuming distinctive, digital content.

Imagine customizing tabs based on their context. Instead of generic labels, websites could be represented by their icons and names, arranged in a vertical grid accessible through a new control. This wouldn't fundamentally change the web browser, but the design could evoke associations with apps or even an app store.

After all, the primary difference between apps and websites often lies in presentation and information design. By rethinking the layout and design surrounding web content, we could potentially elevate our experience with the content itself. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, "the medium is the message". In this case, the user interface becomes the medium.

This approach may hold the potential to align better with our expectations of modern operating systems, where apps are typically displayed as grids on home screens, or horizontally in docks. More importantly, it could pave the way for web browsers to evolve beyond their traditional limitations.

With the EU forcing Apple to allow third-party browsers on its platforms, I think we will see a new wave of innovative browsers that challenge conventional design paradigms. These browsers might even resemble super apps, offering a more integrated and immersive experience as a result.

The main goal of this blog post is simply to highlight the often-overlooked impact of design and its role on how we perceive and interact with software. A fresh and clever design might just hold the key to unlocking the full potential of web browsers while repositioning their place in our digital lives.