Suggesting where to go next with Predictive Newtab

In most major browsers, when you open a new tab, you encounter a “speed dial” – a list of web sites you frequently visit. We’ve written a new Prospector experiment, Predictive Newtab, to explore the idea of supplementing the fixed list of top sites with a dynamic list that changes based on your behavior:

  1. make items on your speed dial more relevant to what you are currently browsing
  2. suggest potentially interesting and relevant websites that you’ve visited but forgotten about

In its current experimental implementation, Predictive Newtab works by starting from a website that you are currently viewing, e.g., Pandora:

Currently viewing Pandora

After opening a new tab from Pandora, Firefox searches both your bookmarks and history for similar websites that you may be interested in based on what you were recently browsing. This is currently displayed along with some experimental statistics such as score (which is how similar the tags are), frecency (which is a measure of frequency and recency) and others. A hub is a page out algorithms and heuristics believe is a good candidate for being a “home page” or otherwise important page in a website, and BM Engine is an indicator of whether the search result came from a bookmark tag. The results are ranked by no individual one of these but instead a combination.

Predictions based on Pandora

Typically, Predictive Newtab works best if you have a large number of well-tagged bookmarks, but it should work if you have no bookmarks too, though not as well, so we if you keep well-organized bookmarks, this is likely to help you a lot. The plugin does all of its computation inside the browser and no personal information is sent to the web. Please keep in mind that this is a very early stage experiment and not a polished product, and we believe that the ideas behind Predictive Newtab will help us advance in multiple areas:

  • improve the history search feature inside of Firefox
  • develop better methods for telling what pages are important to you
  • introduce a painless way for users to provide feedback to the browser about what they like so we can help them find it quicker the next time

We’d love to hear what you think about it, so go ahead and (restartless-ly) install Predictive Newtab. If you’re interested in how things work behind the scenes, feel free to ask us, or hack on the source code, and stay tuned for more interesting experiments from the Prospector team!

Abhinav Sharma on behalf of the Prospector team
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