Wildcard

Research project by Geoffrey Litt and Daniel Jackson

The problem

Browser extensions and user scripts have shown that there are lots of useful ways to modify websites, ranging from blocking ads to adding entire new features to Gmail.

Many people have their own new ideas for modifying websites to meet their needs, but today, implementing these modifications requires programming in Javascript. If someone can't program, they have no choice but to accept the way the software was built.

What if things were different?

The Wildcard platform

Wildcard is a platform that empowers anyone to build browser extensions and modify websites to meet their own specific needs.

Wildcard shows a simplified view of the data in a web page as a familiar table view. People can directly manipulate the table to sort/filter content, add annotations, and even use spreadsheet-style formulas to pull in data from other websites. The key idea is that a table view is simple and easy to work with, but surprisingly powerful in the range of modifications it can support.

Eventually we envision a new web ecosystem where website developers expose more structured data in web clients, to support easier modification by end users. But Wildcard is also pragmatically designed to work with the existing websites of today, using adapters that map between the website and the table view. 

Demo

Wildcard is still in early-stage development. The video below demonstrates adding "sort by price" and Walkscore data to the Airbnb website using an early prototype of Wildcard.