The internet today is often like being on a guided tour bus in an unfamiliar city. You end up getting off at the same places that everyone else does. While it’s convenient and doesn’t require a lot of planning, sometimes you want to get a little off the beaten path.
With the latest Firefox experiment, Advance, you can explore more of the web efficiently, with real-time recommendations based on your current page and your most recent web history.
With Advance we’re taking you back to our Firefox roots and the experience that started everyone surfing the web. That time when the World Wide Web was uncharted territory and we could freely discover new topics and ideas online. The Internet was a different place.
We wondered, is it possible to recapture that serependitious moment of discovery, that opens people’s eyes to greater awareness of the topic they were seeking? We explored the idea of a ‘forward button’ to improve the way content is discovered, and launched our Context Graph initiative. It resulted in our first Context Graph feature, Activity Stream, which initially tested in Test Pilot, and shipped in November with our new Firefox Quantum browser. With today’s Advance experiment, we hope to bring the concept of the recommender system more to life. At a point where people no longer need to go backwards in search to move forward to discover new, relevant content.
Here’s how it works:
- Advance is a Web Extension that works by analysing content you’re into right now in order to provide recommendations based on what you may want to “Read Next” through a sidebar in the browser.
- Additionally, Advance shares recommendations based on your recent online history which is discoverable in the ‘For You’ section of the sidebar. The recommendations will be based on what you visited once you’ve installed the Web Extension.
- The Advance sidebar enables discovery without disrupting workflow.
- Recommendations are purely driven by relevance, the primary goal of this experience is to give you the best and most timely recommendations.
Advance Recommendations listed on the left side
For example, you’re just browsing the internet, and come across a page with a list of the hottest restaurants. Advance starts to recommend similar content around the most popular restaurants so that you can start comparing without having to do all the research on your own. These are based on the trusted sites you’ve already visited, new sites are recommended for you to explore. If there’s a recommendation you don’t want, you have the option to flag it as “Not interesting, off topic/spam, block sites,” or give direct feedback. The recommendations are personalised for you.
Not a foodie? If you’re a sports fan, an opera fan, or into the news, Advance makes current and relevant recommendations so that it’s easy to hop off the bus to explore. Just browse the web normally and keep the sidebar open when you’re feeling adventurous.
The Advance experiment is available for download on Test Pilot and powered by Laserlike, a machine learning startup that has built a web scale Content Search, Discovery and Personalisation platform. It enables content discovery based on web browsing activity and getting diverse perspectives on any topic. 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. We’re interested in seeing how our users respond to their browsers having a more active role in helping them explore the web, and we’ll experiment with different methods of providing these recommendations if we see enough interest.
Join our Test Pilot Programme
The Test Pilot programme is open to all Firefox users. Your feedback helps us test and evaluate a variety of potential Firefox features. We have more than 100,000 daily participants, and if you’re interested in helping us build the future of Firefox, visit testpilot.firefox.com to learn more.
If you’re familiar with Test Pilot then you know all our projects are experimental, so we’ve made it easy to give us feedback or disable features at any time from testpilot.firefox.com.