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Firefox Offers Recommendations with Latest Test Pilot Experiment: Advance (blog.mozilla.org)
84 points by Kemet on Aug 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments

I'm confused about a couple of things. First, the tech. So my browsing history is sent over the internet to a third party who comes up with recommendations via some magic opaque system? Can some recommendations be prioritized by how much you pay this third party? I have all sorts of questions about Laserlike's use of the data, but I guess I can dig for myself. Sure, you can say "well, don't use it" but this is more about the health of internet users in general, not just me.

Second, the reasoning. Why? Is Mozilla altruistically trying to help people find new things similar to what they're looking at on the internet? Is this really a problem begging to be solved? What is the relationship with this third party company Laserlike? Which way is money changing hands and how? How do resources get allocated to projects like this as opposed to any other (i.e. curious about prioritization)? From the outside looking in, it seems to have little value, but of course that's why you test these things. It just seems like a strange direction to put resources in.

I personally hope this experiment fails and people do not use their browsers for webpage-like things such as recommendations. This is not the browser's role and I'm becoming increasingly concerned at what larger companies think the browser's role is vs little ole me. My only reason for not wanting it to fail is I know that people put work into it.

Nick Nguyen's post on Context Graph¹ touches on the motivation, but in short, we think the health of the Web is threatened by existing players building experiences that, like a casino, you can link into easily, but which are deliberately difficult to navigate away from. For example, Instagram has historically restricted² which users are allowed to include external links in their posts. That harms the Open Web and concentrates power over what you can see and discover online.

On the other hand, if the browser itself can offer links that break out of those walls, then we can sidestep the existing filter bubbles and make the Web a more competitive, plural medium.

Per the announcement post³, if this proves useful, we'll look at alternative means of generating the recommendations; the current implementation (sharing history) is an opt-in shortcut while we figure out if recommendations are worth pursuing at all.

While we are searching for privacy-respecting ways that we can diversify Firefox's revenue, and recommendations could play into that, that's not what this experiment is testing. Further, we will not pursue this outside of Test Pilot if we can't do it in a way that's private and which adds genuine end-user value.

¹: https://medium.com/firefox-context-graph/context-graph-its-t...

²: https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/10/instagram-will-now-let-cre...

³: https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2018/08/07/firefox-offers-reco...

It just seems like something that can happen client side. Say there are deemed 100 new interesting articles in a day, send those 100 links to the client, and let the client rank them.

Thats how the recommendation by pocket works, right? Whenever I see these types of systems, I worry they try to hard to show us things more like our past, and dont try hard enough to shape our future. A recommendation engine should be more focused on "this is interesting, this is good for you to learn about" in a healthy way, compared to "this is more of the same but we know itll keep your attention better than facebook."

These AI recommendation engines ALWAYS fall too close to clickbait, like a drug dealer, and never close to a medical healer, currated lists like techmeme/mediagazer/longform/longreads/redef/aldaily. Prismatic and Trove come to mind. I bet one could get better results just parsing those 6 sites for new daily links.


> I worry they try to hard to show us things more like our past, and dont try hard enough to shape our future.

I really don't want some third party trying to "shape my future" by influencing my browsing habits.

I do. How do you get your news now? Google, facebook, some kind of feed reader? This site youre on? Youre already being influenced.

What about the education system? You wouldnt go back to school if it was free?

The important part is that its either opt in, or very clear to opt out, and that I can choose the organization I get my, for lack of a better word, education from.

Thanks for the response. I think by your phrasing that this experiment is not testing revenue generation you are also saying there is no revenue relation at all, correct? (well, maybe for Laserlike, heh) Disclosure of monetization of data in any form IMO should be a requirement, so I hope that its lack of disclosure means it is not occurring.

While I agree in general that alternative web traversal techniques could be explored, I am not sure I want my browser vendor + third party doing it. I understand the places we put in our address bar may have restrictive rules, and it's why I don't enter those places into my address bar. In good faith, if this experiment is deemed successful enough to improve/continue, I would ask that the role that Laserlike plays be pluggable with an open protocol. I would also ask that if it's adopted more mainstream that it always remain opt-in.

I know that it sometimes seems unfair to ask for all these freedom-respecting things while the other guys get away with so much. But what seems like a double standard is what endears trust.

My prediction if the experiment is a success would be: Mozilla acquiring Laserlike and trying to find out how to implement their technology client-side as best as possible.

The comments always look the same when Mozilla announces something like this. Perhaps the content team should have a specific checklist they run through when announcing third-party collaborations, answering questions like:

- is anyone making money off of this?

- what is the motivation for the third party to take part?

- is this the default, and if not, what extra demands would it have to fulfil to ever become default?

- what user actions, if any, can trigger interaction with this third party?

I'm sorry, and I respect your work, but I think this is nonsense. Let's say Mozilla moves forward with this project. Assuming that it will be a source of revenue at all, the "recommendations" are going to be based on whoever has the money to pay Mozilla for ad placement (and let's be honest that it is ad placement; if it's keyed to the specific interests of each user that just makes it targeted ad placement). That results in the opposite of the supposed goal of decentralizing power online. To be honest I'm not convinced that adding "genuine end-user value" is not just a paper-thin justification for accepting new sources of revenue that are antithetical to Mozilla's historical values. [1]

But let's assume the most charitable and best case scenario, in which Mozilla continues the program but doesn't accept any money for payed spots or higher placement. How are they going to automatically determine what is valuable? If the algorithms go by what is popular, then it's just a new version of any other content aggregator with all the associated problems. (The listicle and click-bait articles shown in the screenshot on the blog.mozilla link are very telling in that regard.) On the other hand, if the algorithms tailor content closely to a user's particular interests and views, that is the very definition of a filter bubble. [2]

Even putting aside these two worries, I find it deeply counterintuitive to expect automated content to better provide what a user wants to see than they are able to find themselves - e.g. with search engines. This is entirely counter to any previous experience I have had with automatic suggestions. I would very much like to see any justification for optimism here. And even if it were largely successful here, I don't see how it would avoid leaving very small sites, bloggers, and their ideas in the dust. I'm sceptical that a centralized source of recommendations is going to provide a solution to concentrated power on the web.

[1] This is the sort of line we got about recommendations from Pocket. "Bringing valuable content to the attention of users" is the kind of BS marketing-speak I expect from corps which run on ad revenue, but not from Mozilla.

[2] "A filter bubble is a state of intellectual isolation that can result from personalized searches when a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user, such as location, past click-behavior and search history." - Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filter_bubble

Aren't deep hooks into the browser just making it worse? There are billions of websites and myriad search and sharing sites, and only a few browsers.

Not the job of a browser. But neither was DRM and an integrated search engine and yet here we are... There is a nice fork of FF for android that removes the Mozilla if anyone is interested


This seems to be one of those ideas everyone has had at some point, but that are hard to successfully implement.

I’d love to see it succeed. Don’t let the gratuitous negativity in this thread get to you.

Walls? When I jump over the 1 inch high wall and visit random sites, I'm risking getting spammed with modal popups and tracked and other shit. Yes I should use some script blocker, but they're too much effort to setup to avoid breaking things I need.

This is why I prefer to remain on a set of few trusted sites.

this is the market working as intended.

search is overridden with advertising, corporate messaging, politics and other moneyed interests. in contrast, users are looking for authentic content and information. those two things are increasingly misaligned.

mozilla is experimenting with a new way for users to find what they want, rather than deferring to google et al. to deliver subpar user experiences.

it may work, it may not, but i’m glad they are trying.

(edit: i probably won’t try it any time soon, due to the privacy concerns voiced here and elsewhere. hopefully mozilla addresses those with a v.2 release and maybe i will try it then)

> this is the market working as intended

Is it? I would love for a transparent market-driven motivation to be presented. But in its absence, we can only guess.

> mozilla is experimenting with a new way for users to find what they want

Why? Because they don't like the existing ways? Because they believe it fits their mission? Because there is money on the line? My TV vendor also experiments with new ways to host apps and use the internet too.

> it may work, it may not, but i’m glad they are trying

I personally am not glad they are trying. In fact, these trials help solidify my beliefs in the Mozilla's ideals regarding the role of a browser and can potentially alienate me or at the least prevent them from maintaining an air of righteousness in my eyes.

you seem disillusioned by mozilla's actions. i can't help with that, other than to say that based on past actions, i believe mozilla will course-correct if necessary here.

i'm not defending this new "advance" experiment/feature (i'm reserving judgement until i know more about it). i'm only expressing appreciation for them trying to address a user pain point (that search is crappy), while also responding to the general question "why?" posited by the GP post.

Nothing on the Laserlike website indicates how they plan to make money from their service, but I wouldn't bet on it not being overridden with advertising, corporate messaging, politics and other moneyed interests.

i'll bite just a bit: you're concerned with sending your browser history to a third party but i assume are happy to send your search requests, hence search history, to a third party? i kinda understand the want to minimize the amount of third parties that know anything at all but otherwise don't see much of a difference in principal and history tells us that the search history may actually be worse.

The critical difference being that a search engine of any usefulness requires transmitting a search request to that third party. Pocket's recommendation feature does not require any such transmission, so it's definitely possible to work around.

yes, search history is juicy personal data. i'm willing to trust duckduckgo with that info for now. laserlike doesn't have a track record yet, so it's on the wait-and-see list.

if anyone's made an affordable personal search appliance yet, let me know. =)

> Second, the reasoning. Why?

Given how they've positioned Pocket and how Firefox's new tab page contains "Recommendations from Pocket", Mozilla seems to want you to enjoy browsing. They want you to enjoy using the Web and to enjoy it using Firefox. It's an interesting play and I'm excited to try it.

Strangely, all their ideas to heighten our enjoyment of browsing seem involve giving third parties privileged access to the browser.

I don't get how this relates to Mozilla's mission, I especially don't understand how technologies that are core to their mission (open communication with Thunderbird, open identity with Persona) are left abandoned. I'm not offended by the extension, I'm more befuddled why they're wasting their time and money on something very few people want. My friends/social network are going to suggest cool stuff to read, not some startup's bot reading by browsing history.

Mozilla's mission is the reason people use Firefox. Chrome (and siblings) are better supported by developers and have significantly better performance. Mozilla's marketshare will continue to dwindle if they continue to invest their time in projects like this.

The really mystifying part is that one of the key value propositions of Firefox is "here is a browser that respects your privacy," and yet Mozilla keeps flirting with bolting things on to Firefox that actively undermine that value proposition. They repeatedly sabotage the success of their only product! It's astounding.

It reeks of a lack of integrity. They say they respect your privacy, but the fact that they're considering things like this in the first place means their convictions are negotiable.

> They repeatedly sabotage

As this is now (and has been for some time) a pattern of this kind of behavior, what's causing it? While other explanations exist, I believe it might be worthwhile to at lest consider the idea that sabotage is goal. Placing people into positions of power for so they can dismantle/sabotage has recently been a popular tactic (e.g. some of the current presidential cabinet appointments). Would anybody even recognize that this kind of tactic was happening before the damage to Firefox becomes fatal?

(to be very clear: I'm speaking hypothetically and not making any explicit or implied accusations about anybody at Mozilla)

It's too much to hope that products could just focus on doing what they do, and doing it well, rather than bodging on miscellaneous shit until it resembles the Homermobile.

Build a browser. Implement the standards fully. Make it scream. That's your job.

so the thing is they're building a browser but they also care about having an internet to browse on.

I, for one, will not donate a cent until this happens.

Not once have I opened a blank browser and thought “Gee, I wish my browser could tell me what web site to go to!” I’m almost convinced that “getting opaque product recommendations” is almost never an end-user desired feature of any product. It is a company-desired feature because it lets the company market, promote and editorialize anything it wants to, under the guise of being helpful.

Users are supposed to tell computers what to do, not the other way around. I’m afraid that so much more R&D and innovation is happening in the area of computers telling humans what to do and it’s mildly scary.

> My friends/social network are going to suggest cool stuff to read, not some startup's bot reading by browsing history.

Isn't that how we ended up with Facebook's ad targeting algorithms controlling most people's web experience? Running a cheap experiment testing how alternatives might work seems like important if you care about not having network effects giving a couple of companies significant control over the web.

> Chrome (and siblings) … and have significantly better performance.

That was never generally true and it really hasn't been accurate for the last year or two, where performance has been very competitive depending on what you're measuring.

> Isn't that how we ended up with Facebook's ad targeting algorithms controlling most people's web experience? Running a cheap experiment testing how alternatives might work seems like important if you care about not having network effects giving a couple of companies significant control over the web.

A social network doesn't mean Facebook. It could be an open platform like RSS or Mastodon (the latter I think is more closely aligned with Mozilla's mission, and could use the funding). Friends sharing content with me typically do so over Slack or Discord. I don't know how many people could be convinced to use an app that will algorithmically find something cool if you let it watch what you do all day. That's creepy and the value generated is pretty minimal.

> That was never generally true and it really hasn't been accurate for the last year or two, where performance has been very competitive depending on what you're measuring.

In my case, performance has been slow/stuttery on macOS to the point where I keep actively trying to use it, even enabling WebRender, and falling back to Chrome or Safari. I've also noticed the performance issues on Android. It seems fine on Windows, but not noticeably faster than Chrome or Edge.

Why are Laserlike's ad targeting algorithms better than Facebook? The alternative to Facebook is not a smaller younger Facebook, it's open protocols.

If you want to send all your browser history into a black box and get recomendations on what to read use Chrome.

Think about what you're describing: if the goal is to offer a new UI feature and see how users react, do you a) spend years standardizing a new protocol or b) use a single source to try it immediately while you independently explore the long-term options?

The goal of that private company is take history data, aggregate it and sell it to the highest bidder.

The "recommendations" are ads. Ads are not "features", so they will never be protocols.

Otherwise they would be a news aggregator, and so competing with Huffington Post or the zillion others.

Mozilla is in a tough place. They build a product for an ecosystem where invasive tracking and surveillance are required to make decent money, and they have to monetize that product or die, all while presenting themselves as a benevolent non-profit that cares about privacy and keeping the web healthy.

Money? Are you paying for any of their products? Relying on Google's payment for selecting them as a search engine only goes so far...

They should really come up with paid services insted of these schemes.

agree, agree! mozilla have forgotten their root objective. someone should fork mozilla, remove unneeded features and publish a slimmer, focused version under a new licence.

There are plenty of forks of mozilla products. The real value that mozilla brings is their engineering organization.

i'm talking about the entire org, not their products. the org is not bringing in any value by making their engineers research and develop a website recommendation tool in their browser. it should be forked and re-booted by a community with new values and focuses.

You can't really fork concrete assets? Are you suggesting that someone starts a new org and tries to hire up as much mozilla staff as possible? If so, how would starting a new organization with all the same people change anything?

When I started reading the article I thought this was an enhancement to Pocket and that somehow, external data (context from other sites) downloaded periodically combined with local browser history, would help the extension to provide options on where to go next.

But later I understood that the browser history is sent to a machine learning startup called Laserlike:

“At Mozilla, we believe browser history is sensitive information and we want people to clearly understand that Laserlike will receive their web browsing history before installing the experiment. We have also included controls so that participants can pause the experiment, see what browser history Laserlike has about them, or request deletion of that information.”

I certainly wouldn’t try this experiment out. Not because my browsing history is scandalous in any way, but because it’s nobody else’s business to see what I’m doing with my browser, when and where.

I do commend Mozilla for being transparent and also for doing such experiments, even though as a privacy nut, I don’t see myself using this ever.

"We have also included controls so that participants can pause the experiment, see what browser history Laserlike has about them, or request deletion of that information.”

Where the hell are these controls? Since I installed this thing before reading that it'd send my data to some party, like an idiot, I'd like to request deletion of the data now, but I can't for the life of me find any sort of interface for it. What the fuck, Mozilla?

I found it in about 20 seconds. Right next to "Powered by Laserlike" there's a settings gear, and at the bottom of the dropdown is a link to "Account Settings". In there, you can delete your browsing history and 'other data'.

Ah, thanks. Clicking that settings gear doesn't do anything in my browser, I'm afraid. It just looks like a static image, not a menu or an interactable element.

It seems to expand on mouseover so there's a number of things that could probably interfere with that.

The Advance extension disables itself (and its settings gear menu) if you have enabled Firefox's Tracking Protection or DNT.

So this is a violation of GDPR as well ?

You have to consent to use this, and Mozilla tell you exactly what information you are providing and what happens with it - how exactly does this violate the GDPR?

"I do commend Mozilla for being transparent..."

I too commend Google for the same reasons set forth in plain-speak in the 1st two paragraphs of their EULAs. I also choose to forgo their services for those same reasons. Mozilla has forgotten their purpose & been over-taken by the data miners. Full stop.

They have been overtaken by data miners because there is an addon that you have to install another addon first and both make it very clear that you might send data to third parties and the first addon makes it clear that you definitely send data to third parties while also offering you options to control this sending of data and delete it on request?

Tbh, it sounds more like they are experimenting if having website recommendations in the browser is something worthwhile pursuing, if it is, they'll likely buy laserlike and integrate it clientside without violating privacy in any way, similar to how they have done it several times by now.

Experimenting sgnals intent. Pocket, WebRTC, GA in about:pages are NOT add-ons & not easily disabled. Actions that contradict their own professed policies are indefensible. Above are just the most recent reasons why their market share has tanked & current Mozilla management is no longer trustworthy. IMO.

GA in about:pages was to my knowledge not intentional and covered under a special contract with google as they used that for their normal mozilla pages.

WebRTC is a standard and you can easily disable it. Pocket belongs to Mozilla and they opensourced large parts of it and will open source further parts.

Experimenting in this case signals the intent that they may want to explore the direction of "recommend websites to user" and they have, in the mailing lists, stated that if this will continue, they will develop the most privacy preserving option they can.

If you look at the stats their marketshare is increasing over the last few months (25->27% under non-chrome browsers)


Let's talk about the knee-jerk reaction we are all probably having right now: "Muh privacy!"

It's hard not to have that reaction. A couple days ago there was a front page post on HN about the DNS-Over-HTTPS features that Mozilla is experimenting with. Mozilla has this storied history of community reactions. So perhaps we can all be forgiven for being on edge with Firefox. Our news feed makes it seem like Mozilla is out to get you.

And yet, none of these stories ever end up bearing fruit. How often has Mozilla _actually_ violated your privacy. When rubber meets the road, Firefox is in many ways the most pro-user-privacy browser on the market.

Not to mention all the other work that Mozilla does. Common Voice (https://voice.mozilla.org/en) is an amazing project that could completely change the game for user privacy in the IoT industry. Let's Encrypt stepped up the level of encryption on the internet by an order of magnitude, and it did so for free when everyone else was gouging us. Rust is making many bugs a thing of the past, which will lead to far fewer instances of user data being leaked by security bugs.

Yet through all this work that Mozilla does to fight _for_ you, they get shit on by news articles and in these comment sections. Meanwhile Chrome, which we _know_ is harvesting our data, gets no news.

Perhaps it is because we hold Mozilla to a higher standard. We are used to Google's abuse with Chrome, so we don't talk about it. But any move by Mozilla that could possibly be misconstrued as them becoming corrupt raises all our alarms.

Or perhaps the Firefox team is simply struggling with PR. After all, these last two news worthy incidences are really just issues with communication. Firefox _isn't_ sending all your DNS queries and browsing history off into wonderland. These are experiments. But it seems like a lot of people miss that point. So maybe it's just a communication issue.

Or maybe this all has to do with Mozilla being open. When Google experiments, they do so mostly in secret. Mozilla's transparency might be making them easy targets for sloppy news.

Either way, my point is that a lot of us are happy to throw Mozilla under the bus at the slightest hint of corruption, but we never take the time to appreciate the good work they've done (for free, by the way).

Yes, Firefox is held to a higher standard of user privacy than Chrome. This is how it should be given that Chrome is a product made by one of the largest for-profit surveilliance and advertising companies that has ever existed.

Firefox has constantly violated my expectations of privacy in many ways, by removing important features, adding tracking in many locations (including Google Analytics on internal browser pages), and adding copious amounts of worthless features that use dark patterns in order to convince the user to hand over their data (Firefox accounts, Pocket, 'Take a Screenshot', many more)

> This is how it should be

Well, that depends. What if the effect is that Firefox's market share dwindles, it disappears, and everyone is forced to use e.g. Google's browser? All of a sudden your higher standards have resulting in only being able to choose lower standards...

Yes I hold them to a higher standard and Mozilla is their own worst enemy. Off the top of my head I can think of

> german cliqz partnership/expirement

> Mr. Robot ad forced extension install

> Forcing Pocket into base Firefox

> Naive reassurances of Cloudflare's, an American company, privacy policy for DNS-Over-HTTPS

> Google Analytics on mozilla pages (can't run extensions on these domains)

>Obtuse refusal to change Screenshots UI elements to be less confusing (increase chance for user to upload to mozilla's cloud)

> Today's experiment of recreating Stumbleupon in the core browser including sharing your entire browser history with a third party

Mozilla is such a confusing company, and I say this as a daily Firefox user.

How can you be claim to be serious about privacy when you partner with a startup to harvest complete browser histories? Makes no sense.

Since there are a lot of more hyperbolic articles from "ghacks" and similar ilk going around, I feel compelled to point out straight away that this is explicitly opt-in.

You not only have to install the Test Pilot addon, which is not installed by default, but you then have to enable the experiment.

The sky is not falling just because they're offering something like this locked behind two separate opt-in steps.

True. However, the fact that something nevertheless is driving even the company who brands itself privacy-first to still explore in this direction tells a lot either about Mozilla or about how strong the forces in the Web ecosystem are right now.

This is basically what the likes of Google and MS are doing already anyways.

I appreciate that Firefox has made this something users have to opt in to, and explicitly enable, and explained that the data is shared with a 3rd party in non legalese.

> I feel compelled to point out straight away that this is explicitly opt-in.


> The sky is not falling just because they're offering something like this locked behind two separate opt-in steps.

They did the same scam with Pocket. Now, tell me how to disable that again?

> Now, tell me how to disable that again?

You can disable it in about:config.

Even better: You can use a Group Policy (Windows) or drop a JSON file in the right place (all platforms) and you're done. https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/customizing-firefox-usi...

extensions.pocket.enabled => FALSE

is what you're talking about, right?

Why the hell is a bloody plugin compiled in with a browser?! I should be able to click "delete" on the plugin screen and purge this trashheap from my system. I shouldn't have to use "hope and prayer" that a plugin isn't used.

Instead, I have to go traipsing in about:config. It's not even in preferences, or plugins, or wherever.

You're better off just going the power user way and making your own user.js file


You can use version control, options persist between restarts if you accidentally change something, you can use comments, easily make new profiles that share the same settings

Or you can keep complaining until every piece of software have like 3 options inside a hamburger menu

It's not a plugin, it's a browser feature, like bookmarks and the web inspector.

The line between plugins and features is only useful if it's meaningful. Pocket is, by every appearance, a bookmark service. Why is that integrated into the browser? There's already Firefox Sync. It should be opt-in; I'm in agreement here.

I really like Pocket and use it all the time, but I still agree that it should be offered as a plugin, rather than built-in to the browser.

Pocket is cross-platform whereas Firefox Sync is not. You can still install Pocket for Chrome, etc.

I happen to agree, but it doesn’t really change much about how I interact with firefox after I disable it.

Have you checked out the alternatives? I remember IceWeasel at one point in Debian.

Pocket doesn't send your browsing history to a third party; it all works locally.

It is my understanding that Pocket by default phones home with the articles recommended to you as well as your interaction with them on the new tab page. Given that these recommendations are generated using your local browsing history they leak info. Based on your recommended articles they can determine what subset of the daily site set matches with your browsing history.

A more focused attack could purposely poison the daily site set with obscure bad site(s); any users that receive these recommendation should have some browsing history intersection with the bad sites.

The important bit:

"[...] we want people to clearly understand that Laserlike will receive their web browsing history before installing the experiment. We have also included controls so that participants can pause the experiment, see what browser history Laserlike has about them, or request deletion of that information."

So, this is basically a better Stumble Upon, where you can delete the data they have on you.

How are they monetizing the service?

There is a complaint on the Apple App store that while you can delete your history, you may not be able to delete your account: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/laserlike-search-discover/id...

I never trust that I can delete my collected data from anyone.

At the point you hit the delete button your data has likely already been spread around to backups (including offline/offsite), been aggregated with other's data, shared with "partners" and sold to other companies and data brokers. The idea that a "delete" button can somehow undo all of that and keep your data out of others hands is absurd.

Exactly. And there is nothing that verifies anythong gets deleted anyways. It could always just tell you it deleted it while never deleting anything.

> How are they monetizing the service?

How are they monetising Firefox bookmarks? How are they monetising the awesomebar? Which is to say: Mozilla doesn't necessarily add features to monetise them. (Although indirectly, most of their money does come through Firefox - and also their influence, in terms of being able to fulfil their mission. The motivation hence is most likely to be that they simply want more people to use Firefox. Another motivation might be that they want less people to be dependent on e.g. Facebook for the discovery of websites.)

I’d be open to this if it was built in Firefox and let you run the models on your own machine instead of blindly trusting a third party.

It sounds like you would prefer Pocket Recommendations then, as that is exactly how it works.

I don't like this kind of features. I understand that the rationale behind sites like Youtube is to feed you more content to be able to show you more ads, but I see it as a DoS attack to my productivity. Curiously, Google is starting to implement "Wellbeing" on Android to cut so many distractions.

I have commented this a couple of times already. I would like Mozilla to focus on fundamental things for a web browser like a good print dialog or syncing your search engines.

Reminds me a lot of StumbleUpon, which coincidentally, just shut down this year (June 30 2018).

Is it an accident that Advance starts with Ad ?

I don't think so.

The screenshot with the top100 restaurants exactly looks like an ad placement. It is probably not bad that Mozilla gets other source of income, but please call a spade a spade.

Haha, so many adtech companies start with ad- that is hard not to make that connection.

If you allow me to put on my red hat (when was the last time you heard someone say that ?) then I have to say that this feels like typical PR speak where the opposite is closer to the truth than the actual statement.

If the privacy settings are right for this, I'm very excited. This is exactly the kind of feature I would like to use but don't because it involves sharing so much of my browsing.

Looks like there is no privacy. They either get everything and you get the service, or you disable it.

I know it says you can "request" info get deleted, but I'm not going to bet a quarter on that working.

I imagine that when you request data deleted it’s only anonymized, and the actual learning data is kept.

Won't this explicitly fall afoul of GDPR? My completely lay understanding is that you no longer can offer give-us-your-data-take-it-or-leave-it services in the EU.

There doesn't seem to be much privacy in the test, but they do say,

> we will not pursue this outside of Test Pilot if we can't do it in a way that's private and which adds genuine end-user value.


We are at a time in history when we could benefit from reading _alternative_ points of view rather than remain trapped in our ideological bubbles.

This can not realistically end up as a addon and also will not gain any traction as opt-in option, it needs to be opt-out. So it's either going to be abandoned or end up baked in.

So, unless a considerable part of the userbase is "throwing a tantrum", this will be yet another thing I have to remember to turn off on fresh installs.

Not fighting this kind of erosion tooth and nail at every step endangers the only viable, fully featured, alternative to the Googles browser. Yes, Mozilla needs to be held to a higher standard, the alternative is the inversion of what it stands for.

I have honestly no idea how one can look at this and go yeah, that seems like its in tune with our values.

The next question that follows is "who at Mozilla instigated this and why?". The mindset at Mozilla seems to have changed somewhat.

It might be opt-out, but it needn't necessarily send your data to a third party or even Mozilla if it ever does get baked in. They're also experimenting with finding ways to do machine learning client-side.

i can't help but feel disappointed about mozilla proposing to have advertisement mechanisms built right into their browser. there's a blurry line between suggestions and plain advertisement. as a user online i don't need more relevant information. this is just marketing people baloney to make people buy more stuff.

"Firefox integrating targeted sidebar ads based on selling complete browser history".

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