Ctrl+Tab, Ctrl+Tab, Ctrl+Tab

Custom new tabs as a creative platform

by Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director, BBH & BBH Labs

In our mobile first, VR-ready, always-on, AI-augmented, platform-agnostic marketing ecosystem it might seem wilfully perverse to build tools, services and experiences that best suit a digital environment that some might describe as passé— the browser.

But while our mobiles are always with us, a healthy chunk of our time is spent pecking at keyboards, working with and looking at the web through the big window. And happily, it seems that there are enough wilfully perverse developers out there who still view the browser as an interesting platform to code for.

Inspired by the release of Tab, the in-browser dating service (disclaimer: it’s the creation of ex-BBHer Shib Hussain), we had a little rummage around the chrome web store to discover what else you could do with a new tab. Here are just a few of the many, many things on offer;

First up, productivity. We’re here to work, right? If opening up word, a google doc or textedit is simply too much there are a good selection of note-taking tab apps (taapps?) on offer. We like Papier, a new distraction free writing tool that works on and offline and saves your words in chrome for retrieval the next time you open a tab.

Drafting without distraction in Papier

In the play store you’ll find dozens of minimalist task managers that launch with a new tab, many featuring ‘inspirational photography’ combined with elegantly presented time, date and task information. Momentum looks as good a bet as any if that’s what you’re after.

There are clocks galore, news readers and weather visualizers aplenty. Lots of these are presented as custom dashboards — providing a modicum of localized information (weather, news etc) artfully arranged over a full bleed photograph to make your browser look like you’ve borrowed a designer’s custom wallpaper. Indeed, minimalism seems to be the predominant new tab aesthetic, though simply not opening a new tab surely demonstrates a superior minimalist mindset.

Writers/strategists can get a new inspirational quote every time they ctrl+tab and designery types, who might quickly get bored with stock imagery of forests and mountains and mists and sunsets, god, so many sunsets, are very well served. There’s the Google Art Project extension, delivering a new piece of fine art every day, lots of modernist architecture, top picks from instagram and pinterest and behance and, rather nicely, an extension which delivers a new colour palette with each new tab.

But it’s not all about work work work — the internet is there for fun! distraction! amusement! and there are customized new tabs that deliver these.

You want a new tab that shows you Giphy TV? You got it. You want to adopt a puppy? You got it. You want to hear the sound of a can of Tab opening every time a tab opens? Get it here, delete it three tabs later. Kittens? So not a problem. Strange cartoon animated blinky cats with odd algo-generated names? Also not a problem.

There are tabs with a purpose too — Tab for a Cause donates money (over $200,000 so far, though from who I can’t tell) to a worthy charity every time you open one. And I’ve learned started to learn Japanese through tabbing, though currently my vocabulary consists of the words wardrobe, celery and cocoon.

Hopefully tab innovation will continue as long as people use browsers and developers stay perverse. If you’re developing something interesting, let us know and if you’ve got a favourite we missed out, drop a link to it below. It’s worth saying that only one custom tab can run at a time (except for the cola can opening one!) and that all of the extensions above are chrome extensions. Apparently other browsers are available.

And in case you get addicted to opening new tabs, a tab management extension (One Tab is our friend) might become very, very useful.

Ctrl+Tab. Ctrl+Tab. Ctrl+Tab

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.