Out of all the browsers I like that Mozilla were the first to point the finger to the elephant in the room while Microsoft, Google, Opera just turned a blind eye on privacy, although I don't think anyone expects much from Google these days.
Firefox has once again became my default browser on all my devices after like 6-8 years since I last used it. I guess as far as privacy concerns goes, if you are looking for a company/browser that will continue working on protecting you from trackers by default that'd be Mozilla.
Random observations that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the topic: Firefox for windows is perfect. I actually think it's faster on Windows than on OSX for whatever reason. Playing videos, like using Netflix or Youtube is extremely sluggish on Firefox OSX, but is fine on Windows. I always end up using Safari if I want to watch a video on a higher resolution because the performance drags a lot on Firefox, especially it Netflix's overlay UI you can literally observe it's lagging behind but not in Safari.
I appreciate DDG's privacy focus, but their results are often crap.
If there was one open source project that I'd support would be an open search, but are there any serious, well funded efforts?
I'd be very happy if DDG had that, since i'm so used to it.
But it doesn't.
I think https://www.qwant.com/ had something very simialar many years ago, but now it's gone, or i'm mistaking it for some other prototype/beta which had that.
Was excited to try it more after an initial impression, but this is a no-go for me:
> 1. We promote moral values.
Which of course is code word for "We promote our values".
Can't believe we're in 2020 and this is part of a pitch.
For me it is there, useful, and free to use.
Take it, or leave it, so to speak :-)
I have no idea if they do, but it’s foolish to even cause such questions and disambiguation with your brief (which you inevitably do when you do “morals”)
I was recently searching for information on how Slot Machines are programmed. I had questions about the OS that they run, the languages used to program them, information about the random number generators, etc.
There was a reddit post by someone in the industry that answered some of those questions. Unfortunately, it's quite old.
That makes me think, maybe I should write up a blog post about this as I find the answers I'm looking for. I'm certainly not an expert, but the information in search engines is lacking or I'm searching for the wrong things.
A search engine just for software, that crawls a whitelisted set of platforms and provides more relevant results (github's search is very poor, for example) would be perfect. Google seems to be the "best" at this right now, so while I use DDG to search most of the time, when I'm working I end up routing most of my queries to Google.
Somewhat tangential, but the word "niche" made me think about this.
Hard to tell what's authenticate or not in Amazon and even blog reviews found on Google.
Google collects your data to show you ads, but it also uses that to inform its search algorithm. Exactly how it does so is deliberately opaque, but it's no surprise that it knows that you probably mean the local restaurant rather than the one in Indiana by the same name -- and even that you mean that restaurant despite having mistyped it as the name of a different restaurant.
There is assuredly more to it than that, and it's not really a surprise that it can give you better search results if it knows who you are. Whether that's worth your privacy is up to you -- though many people don't really make that choice consciously.
To use the restaurant example, I'd be putting in the city-name explicitly.
So instead of returning a canonical list of the best results for a given subject, they use the copout that people want to see different things. IMHO this has led to problems like politicizing science to cover "both sides" when there is actually consensus. It's institutionalized ignorance.
I agree that search is primed for disruption though. The endgame for search is an artificial general intelligence (AGI) that acts as an oracle to answer any question put to it better than any human. Search is just a query over a very large search space, and is the basis for rational thought (or at least human memory). What we have today is more like a library of books where the user is forced to learn the categorization system and perform the librarian's job manually much of the time.
The problem is that despite google doing that (I wouldn't be as hard as you, but there was definitely a decrease in quality), they're still SO far ahead of everyone else ...
Just goes to show exactly how far ahead of the competition they were all that time.
In that case I fallback to Google which is usually helpful even though I have the feeling that it's getting less good.
In the end, my default search engine is becoming Wikipedia... (Mostly kidding, of course, even though I rely to Wikipedia for an increasing number of searches.)
IMO, correction is a feature. I'm more likely to typo a search term (especially on mobile) than to actually be looking for something with a deliberate mispelling or strange set of letters/numbers.
This might have changed because they've been bought by an ad company
I'll give you that the results aren't great and that Google's results were __MUCH__ better here, but it did get you to the answer you wanted with the first link. Maybe we search different, but at least in my experience I don't frequently have results like this. Rarely do I reach for "!g" and usually when I do the searches are so niche that Google struggles too.
Incidentally, nowadays I'm using DDG much more than back then. I don't know whether the search results improved or whether I calibrated myself so that I know better how to phrase my searches. I'm still using many !g, but only maybe half of the time.
The only time I ever find myself using the !g escape hatch is when I'm searching something brand new (e.g. a breaking news story). Duckduckgo has a recency filter but it seems to take them a few days to ingest the content.
So, my private life stays my private life with duckduckgo. And at work — I don't really care what google does to my "js shortest path algorithm"-kind-of results history.
Granted this is maybe once or twice in 3 - 4 months I end up using !g prefix.
I always hear this but myself have never had problems with DDG. I'm curious what you search for.(am I the odd one?) Image search is TERRIBLE, but web search I have no issues with. I actually like how DDG works with programming questions, how it gives the SO result on the side.
Whenever I try Google I never end up getting better results. But that may be because I've been off them for years and so they can't provide any advantage.
It's not easy to describe I guess. For my normal "John Doe" usage I have no problems using DDG. But when it comes to work where I need to narrow it down the best I can I guess Google will always come to the rescue (but not always, haha.... nothing like dealing with undocumented libraries).
I wish it was just language-specific behaviors at least I know there's always plenty to search on but... it's a little bit of everything.
However I've found that DDG has a really hard time when you have minor typos in your query, or when it includes really common words
When I type in semi-remembered song lyrics into Google, I'm usually able to find the song. I haven't had the same luck with DDG (one example of semi-remembered lyrics I tried to look up was "streetlight reflect piss streets". DDG doesn't give anything useful. If you add the word "lyrics" to the query, it gives you a list of maybe a dozen songs about lights and even some songs about urine, but not the one I was looking for. Even without adding the word lyrics, Google's first result is an infobox saying "Fat Cats, Bigga Fish|Song by The Coup", with the full lyrics and some links to listen to it.
I also had a hard time trying to look up info on DDG regarding Google employee benefits. Maybe that's intentional :)
At one point, the top search result for "Google vision plan" was a link to google.fr/maps (DDG actually gives some useful results now, but it didn't when I looked previously)
Another interesting query to compare for me was "subaru outback gate OR garage opener"
DDG just gives links to Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, and other places to buy garage door/gate openers. The first Google result is a video for how to teach a Subaru Outback how to open a gate/garage (which is what I actually wanted). Maybe I'm just used to the level of vagueness that lets Google give me useful results, which isn't explicit enough for DDG?
Searches in German (and probably other languages than English too) are pretty fucking horrible.
But on English searches it's my preferred search engine. It's definitely good enough in 98% of all cases and there's always !g if everything else breaks.
So I definitely accept the language limitation. Especially since I know what to expect. The privacy focus more than balances this out.
I use "smart keywords" , which work similarly to DuckDuckGo's !bangs  and most of the time I noticed that I know what the source I want is — if I want a Wikipedia article, I search with "@w" in front, if I'm searching for a dictionary definition, I search with a "@define", if I want to search for a location I search with "@maps", if I want a StackOverflow answer I search with "@so", etc, etc.
I have bookmarks for such search engines, neatly being synchronized between my Firefox instances (works on mobile too) and I got quite used to them. I prefer my own bookmarks, b/c I can always add custom stuff and b/c I don't want an extra round trip to DDG anyway.
Also DuckDuckGo is fine for English results, I often find that searches yielding bad results on DDG will often lead bad results on Google too. When not finding what I'm looking for, sometimes I search on Google too ("@g"), in order to double check. But you won't catch me searching for very personal stuff on Google — e.g. I'll never search for health advice on Google and even if DDG's results are bad, it's either that versus nothing at all.
I'm also not super strict — we do use Gmail and Google Docs at work and that's fine, but I do prefer native clients for Gmail too and I prefer text files in my Dropbox for my own notes. I also pay for YouTube Premium, because otherwise my son is getting exposed to ads, plus I watch YouTube anyway and I'd rather have the ads-free experience on every device I own.
Really there’s no point in asking a middle man to do that for you, whether they claim to track you or not.
When I actually need to search Wikipedia, Reddit etc. I do use Google. I only use shortcuts when I know they will take me directly to relevant result(s), e.g. with many Wikipedia pages for well-known subjects.
German as well with the toggle to search German sites.
In DDG, I turn it on (mine is Germany toggle as well) for finding restaurants and local support sites, and turn it off when I search anything programming related. Works well so far. I used the infamous "!g" rarely in the last few months.
Another handy thing is that Duckduckgo has a flag for it so you can search DDG first then just add '!s ' in front of your search terms to have the search done in Startpage instead.
Also useful thing for iPhone is to set the default search engine for Safari to DDG instead of Google -- I can just type '!s' before my search terms to get Google results without the tracking.
Before good search was available the use of bookmarks and bookmark sharing was far more widespread, and discovering new content was somewhat of a social experience.
I've found that most crossplatform software runs faster on Windows than on macOS, even when comparing to a better Mac hardware.
The only option for privacy-minded search seems to be to use one of the bing wrappers, most notably duckduckgo.
I've used FF daily for 20 years on Mac/Linux and never been motivated to trade my security/privacy for a little speedup.
Initially it was FF's ability to block video and invasive JS (w/ or w/o plugins) that was a game changer for me.
Security is a multi-perspective problem. Often, false dichotomies are drawn to convince people to give up their own security in order to benefit someone else's security - eg saying "privacy versus security" as if they're in opposition, being personally disassembled and molested at the airport, "national security" in general, etc.
I have a small SAS project, and I am sad that just 2% of my users use Firefox, while 80% of them uses Google Chrome.
You can get a lot of analytics just by looking at the web request. If someone came from Google, the Referrer header will show what their search terms were.
I could write an article about how, in order to buy something in a store, you're expected to queue up and present your chosen products to a human who picks them up and scans them - wow, "super creepy", right. An actual human running their hands over your stuff, glancing at your face and probably thinking about who you are, and why you're buying these particular products. The human might even get a look at your bank card. "What a bunch of weird nonsense" is the idea that is probably going through your head (see how I lazily assume you think like me, the article author).
On the web, it's not.
I would counter that you often think you know it when you see it, but may be incorrect. Knowing more about the circumstances and why something is done often reduces or eliminated the creepiness, in that what you assumed was the reason behind the behavior wasn't correct.
The notion of "owning" something is a social construct.
The concept of transferring ownership from the store to you is likewise a social construct which requires a social action/interaction.
The stuff isn't your stuff until the transaction is complete. That would be after they "ran their hands all over it".
the concept of lining up imposes a standard of "fairness", another social construct which most apes seem to share. Because you aren't the only person buying stuff.
What is creepy is when a party deviates far from the norms established over roughly 100,000 years of trading/social interactions. Creepy is when one side uses a data collection asymmetry in ways which violate social expectations.
And yes, 100 years ago it was possible for a store clerk to be creepy. But back then, most store clerks weren't. Today, the company automates this data collection so every (large) store is effectively super creepy.
Firefox did lose market shares, but it's possible we see lots of chrome users also because they are more visible.
Related, although a different problem, one of the biggest stat providers is Google analytics, and a lot of sites make decisions based on those, but Google has no incentive to check if they are missing some non chrome users.
But the user agent isn't that important when we talk about tracking.
Somehow we have gone back to the dark ages of web where sites complain unless you are using one specific browser.
It was the more technical minded people who spread the word and mindshare of browser choice back then to get us out of that mess, and now the same group has gotten us back into it worse than ever.
I'll never understand how this happened.
But as others pointed out, the header will be rather meaningless in the foreseeable future anyway.
You can work around this by installing a tracking pixel on every page you have, a pixel that always hits your backend, which can then generate a log line that can be analyzed. But this requires extra development and it's much easier to just install Google Analytics.
So I'm pretty sure that most browser stats are not coming from analyzing 1st party data that's logging the user agent.
And speaking from experience in this space, the error margin for such analytics is somewhere around 10% - 20%, which is roughly the percent of people having ad-blockers installed and this number is growing — you can extrapolate of course from those that don't have ad-blockers installed, but then you have a selection bias issue, because you're not talking about the same kind of user; e.g. people that use ad-blockers are the people that are more likely to be computer literate and capable of installing their own browser.
With the prevalence of ads being served from the customer domain on larger sites these days I'd just think that enough parties have incentive enough to implement a tracking pixel or put a few lines of measurement protocol code somewhere to make sure that request data ends up in GA. But granted, I'm not in that space, the assumption that this data does not end up in the hands of some interested party for B2C sites just seemed weird, even in modern architectures.
Thanks for the error margin btw, that's far higher than I would have expected.
Around 70% of the Firefox users are blocking trackers. And Statcounter is using trackers for their stats.
So the stats are very misleading.
They might even prove that Firefox is very privacy aware.
They collect stats from user agents that are likely to be more accurate and probably cover more of the web than Stat Counter.
Why, though? As far as I can tell the only part of Google that competes with Firefox is Chrome, and Chrome doesn't seem to be profitable, or even intended to be profitable. As far as I can tell Chrome's just a moat to keep people from using the Facebook app instead of a web browser. So... why? Tell me why I'm wrong, teach me something today.
I can see arguments why Google needs to compete against Facebook: Those two compete for advertising customers. Funding one, two, a few browsers makes sense if the goal is to keep eyeballs on the web rather than letting Facebook tempt them into a walled garden. But why would Google care which of the browsers has most success? And if Google doesn't, why would regulators care?
Because they'd get less tracking info and have a harder time tracking people across the web? That seems the biggest point here.
I don’t know if Microsoft has any other motivation for Edge other than being the front end for Bing.
I am asking why people (appear to) think that Google's own browser is competing against the other browser that Google also funds.
I may be stupid here. Please excuse if so. But I don't see why Google would lose market share in a market that provides income if Firefox' market share were higher and Chrome's lower.
EDIT: I'd also like to know whether this is a robust difference, in the sense that someone who has both Firefox and Chrome is more likely to search using Google when running Chrome than when running Firefox. Do you know?
Firefox has nearly lost developers to Chrome, because (1) Chrome was designed for web apps and you can see this in their process per tab model and isolation, features which took a loooong time to be implemented by their competition, (2) Chrome's dev tools have been for a while superior and still are in some areas, (3) Chrome is popular, it makes sense to target the browser that's most popular, so might as well use it as a default and (4) Chrome really had better performance than Firefox, or at least perceived performance, especially when it comes to Google's own apps.
Nowadays Firefox has finally moved to having a permissions system for its add-ons and to using multiple processes for its tabs, while still being better in terms of memory usage, especially with a lot of tabs open, a use-case that was and is still viable on top of the latest Firefox.
I'm now more familiar with its dev tools and they've gotten better. Performance is sometimes on par with Chrome, sometimes better, sometimes worse ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ... people complain about the performance of Gmail, but truth be told the performance of Gmail is now crap on top of Chrome too and I'd rather use native clients.
And I'm super pleased with many of the privacy changes they've been doing — built-in blocking of trackers, DoH (yes, I think DoH is great), multi-account containers which also allows for sandboxing Facebook or Google, plus I'm pretty sure they'll continue to support uBlock Origin, which isn't something we can say about Google and their deprecations in manifest v3.
They still have a lot to work on — better dev tools, battery life on MacOS could be better, a customizable interface that doesn't rely on "legacy stylesheets" (primarily thinking of hiding main tab bar while using the Tree Style Tabs add-on), etc, but I'm sure they'll get there and I'm happy with how it is right now.
I used to use Firefox because I wanted to keep them relevant, but nowadays I feel like Firefox is simply the better browser and it will continue to be relevant for as long as software developers such as myself keep using it.
Not sure what Microsoft's game plan is though, apart from preloading Windows with spyware.
The spyware is on a lower level, linked to the OS in a way that you can not remove.
Google never "sells" your data to third parties. They keep the data themselves for advertisement purpose. On the contrary, apple shares any collected data with advertisement partners. Apple fanboys don't realize this.
Apart from agressive and deceptive marketing, Apple is a shitty company that asserts patents on rounded corners of phones and optional chaining in programming languages (Swift). They are objectively more evil than Google in my book.
Apparently I am biased. I would not have been in CSE if Google didn't commoditize the market. My first encounter to programming was on an Android terminal. But that's another story.
Apple sued Samsung for billions on a ridiculous patent case on rounded corners in smartphones.
Apple patented optional chaining in Swift. Although there is lot of prior art, and the thing is fucking obvious for any PL designer.
People like to shit on Google. But Apple is just more evil than Google any given day.
Don't think too much of my ranting against the security argument, but I see it as a pure invention of politics from "hard liners" with a solid extroverted inferiority complex and a bad emotion driven risk assessment.
Otherwise I agree that Firefox stands for privacy and security.
I’ve noticed that Firefox dev tools are getting better over the last year or so.
They’ve got some neat things like their CSS Grid editor and websocket inspector.
I still find it easier to clear application data in Chrome and Google Hangouts echos for me in Firefox but I’m moving towards Firefox by default on every platform.
The only thing I miss from Chrome is "emulate focused page" checkbox, it's useful when you're debugging dropdowns, for example.
This also means decreasing referral revenue from Google, so fewer resources available.
I believe Mozilla should strike back with https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/open-letter-mozilla-please-of...
Personally I never had problems with Firefox breaking pages or having noticeable performance issues. Quite the opposite seems to be the case, since it feels faster and better with every update they released. I really can’t understand all the people constantly complaining about Firefox being slow and buggy. 90% of the time I had issues, it was because of poorly written browser extensions or ad-blockers breaking stuff.
It feels like most of the people complaining about Firefox are just looking for excuses to justify why they are too lazy to migrate.
The dangerous thing is when another new Chromium based browser, such as Brave or Edge, appears, which often makes it even worse for the user, since they just share your data with another company.
My experience has unfortunately been different, but the issues are mostly limited to "modern" over-engineered web apps. 90% I encounter one though, checking the console reveals that it's using non-standard Chromium-specific features (whether a FF counterpart exists or not) or just has a lazy browser == "Chrome" check instead of proper feature detection.
I also primarily use Firefox, but Brave is definitely a more serious effort at a privacy-focused browser.
You get the same with firefox plus ublock origin, while supporting a more open web by not using the monopolistic chrome engine.
Also, I doubt brave could fork the project for a long period after the adblocking becomes impossible with chromium
What is so very, truly disappointing is that they used to have a great, easy-to-use Sync security system which was immune to this sort of attack, but they removed it.
Anyway, I cannot advise using Firefox Sync for private information anymore.
I trust Mozilla to write Firefox and I trust Debian to package it. I do not trust Mozilla to be trustworthy on a live and ongoing basis.
Can I associate one login/password pair with multiple domains?
Anti consumer companies shouldn't get your money.
I agree that what Apple is doing here is wrong, but the alternative is worse on other fronts like privacy which is much more problematic (to me at least) than App Store restrictions.
This is the case of going with the lesser evil.... and there's no way in my mind that Apple would be the greater evil than Google when it comes to tracking users and learning all their habits while using Android.
Apple is not perfect and I hate it for being so anti-consumer when it comes to repairing... and I'd love they would fully commit to a privacy-minded iOS if they have the guts to do it.
Anti-trust regulations on Apple would also be very welcome, but irrelevant to the privacy problem.
(Edit: And having the position that 'mere avoidable advertising' can be avoided is also not necessarily evidence of fanboyism)
Tracking me and spamming me immediately makes my experience worse, with almost no exceptions (I've never seen an ad that was relevant or made me buy anything, but I often experience uncomfortable breaches of privacy), but patents and lock-in are often used to provide me with tangible benefits, with the only downside being that other companies are prevented from easily providing those same benefits.
I'll never touch Chrome again.
If anything, I've noticed more and more settings are getting pushed into Sync and automatically propagate across instances or upon new installation. Which is nice.
I had an issue with v73 being incompatible with whatever security software my Work PC was running and the main rendering thread crashing. After trying numerous things including rolling back to v72 and refreshing my profile, I came across a bug indicating it was scheduled to be fixed in an upcoming release which turned out to be v73.0.1 thankfully.
That's the first time I can recall where Firefox did me wrong.
Even better, it prevents ISPs and other parties that the user doesn't trust from tracking them.
This hypothetical is even less relevant when you consider that Mozilla protects you from Google using blockers and also from ISPs using DNS over HTTPS.
On every single release they add new hidden options regarding tracking by mozilla (see Normandy and shield for example, which you have to go to about:config to disable).
In addition to that about:addons uses google analitics and does not allow for it to be blocked by extensions, plus mozilla sites use tracking scripts (googletagmanager etc) that need modifications in about:config to be blocked (extensions.webextensions.restrictedDomains).
Finally mozilla does not seem to be taking any measures to make firefox more resilient to tracking - in fact they support more and more technologies that diminish it. (web fonts, webgl, geolocation, user agent mentioning the version language and OS, etc)
Edit: Sorry, by "web fonts" I meant the ability for sites to read the fonts that you have installed. I do not know if actual web fonts can be used for tracking.
"Ponzi" and "magic" are not descriptors one would use if discussing this [objectively].
Fortunately, BAT is opt in, and you can get all of the superior privacy benefits of Brave without BAT playing any role in your browser experience.
We're not dealing with a perfect world. Some of this has to do with intents and privacy protections outside of technology (i.e., policy). At least that's Mozilla's stance. For example, the analytics Mozilla collects on Firefox cannot be legally used by the analytics service for other things.
We need to be careful to not let perfect be the enemy of good in the way we praise the the _direction_ we want to go.
This is not in any way better than ublock origin. Anyone who knows to select the strict list also knows how to install an adblocker.
> If they default disabled web fonts, geolocation etc., they'd lose whatever little market share they have as those have become important web tech already
I am not saying that they should disable them by default, but they should at least make it easier for people who care about their privacy to disable them. (Although I do not think that any desktop user is going to miss geolocation)
In addition to that I am annoyed that they keep supporting such technologies that can be used for tracking in the working groups rather than push back on them.
I installed NoScript recently and was surprised to see so many sites linking to typekit or other centralized repos for JS related to rendering fonts. Why do sites using webfonts have JS dependencies? Is it something to do with licensing?
Between products like DTM and typekit, Adobe has been quietly positioning itself to be a tracking/advert power house.
I doubt people would even notice the font side of things.
Both are an issue.
> it is easier to track than Google Chrome due to fingerprinting
> or do you care about a company giving out your entire browsing history through a side.channel (Brave).
I do not use Brave but .
The issues are often weird and not obvious. Last weekend I stayed at a Hampton Inn and their Wifi authentication page kept refusing to accept my last name and room number. I called the front desk which ended up being a waste of time (I was hoping maybe there was a mix up in the data). I finally ended up hot spotting. Then the next day it occurred to me that maybe it was a browser issue. Sure enough, I was able to reproduce the problem in Brave, then copied to the url to Chrome and it worked fine.
Bottomline, these issues seem like a big impediment to a mainstream migration away from Chrome.
How many of your email conversations need to be preserved forever?
We certainly don't walk around with an audio recorder to record every word we speak in person to people in case we want to refer back to them later.
Email defaulted to storing messages years ago because it seemed cheap and valuable. Some value remains, but we no live an era of doxing and data dumps where saved communications can be a liability as well.
...not to play devils advocate, but...
No we don't need it, but just like with email...that would be quite useful in many circumstances.