Over the past weeks, we’ve talked about ways to analyze data in Firefox and to share that data out of the browser while keeping users in control. Today we’re putting those pieces together with a proof-of-concept: Site Suggest. This simple add-on locally analyzes your browsing history to pick an ODP category that you seem to have interest in then makes a secure and privacy-protected remote request for a site suggestion to then display on your new tab page.
Conceptually, the flow is much like the add-on update mechanism in Firefox. Users install add-ons, then Firefox makes a request to see if any of those add-ons have updates, and then updated add-ons can change the behavior of Firefox. From a high level, here are the similarities of Site Suggest and add-on updates:
- The user creates activity in Firefox (browsing pages vs installing add-ons)
- Firefox analyzes that behavior (finding ODP categories vs listing add-ons)
- Firefox securely sends the data (sent to Site Suggest vs add-ons servers)
- Firefox updates with the response (new tab content vs add-on functionality)
For this proof-of-concept, we didn’t bother creating a large number of suggestions, so we don’t expect people to get high quality recommendations. In fact, we probably could have put all the suggestions in the add-on, and the site suggestion on new tab experience would be exactly the same. For many users, there isn’t a distinction between local suggestions and remote suggestions, and these users trust Firefox to do the right thing.
But by having this secure and privacy-protected remote request, the quality of suggestions can improve without requiring a Firefox or add-on update. And this is especially important as the number of potential suggestions increase, so instead of having millions of unused suggestions built into Firefox that can become outdated, Firefox can focus on just the newest suggestions the user cares about.
We would like your input on what you think about this privacy-protected flow of data that improves users’ Firefox experience. So install Site Suggest then open a new tab, and see if that triggers any ideas for you. As always, you can check the source on Github, provide feedback, and submit issues or suggestions!
– Ed Lee on behalf of the Prospector team