How Firefox real-time content recommendations could change the future of browsing

The web extension Advance uses machine learning to connect users to pages relevant to their interests, based on what they're currently viewing.

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On Monday, Mozilla unveiled a new feature in the Firefox Test Pilot called Advance, which offers browser users real-time content recommendations from across the web. The goal is to help them connect with pages relevant to their interests that they may not find otherwise, according to a Medium post from Mozilla product manager Chuck Harmston.

Advance is a web extension that analyzes what a user browses to provide recommendations based on what they may want to read next, via a sidebar in the browser. It will learn the user's browsing habits over time, and will make more personalized recommendations over time based on the user's interests, the post noted.

Mozilla is launching Advance in collaboration with machine learning startup Laserlike, which built a web scale content search, discovery, and personalization platform. The recommendations are driven by relevance, another Mozilla post said, with the goal being to give users the best and most timely content.

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For example, if you are browsing the internet and click a page with a list of the hottest restaurants in a given city, Advance will recommend similar content around the most popular restaurants, so you can compare lists without having to do all of the research on your own, the post noted. The recommendations are based on trusted sites you've already visited, and new sites you may want to explore.

If there is a recommendation you are not interested in, you have the option to flag it as "Not interesting, off topic/spam, block sites," or give direct feedback.

At this point, Advance is an opt-in experiment, and users can choose to pause its data collection at any time, the post noted. You can also view the data that the system has collected about you, and can request that it gets deleted whenever you see fit.

"We're trying to prove that we can use these technologies in the right way, and refuse to sacrifice user control to do so," Harmston wrote in the post.

Advance is now available for testing in Test Pilot, Mozilla's opt-in platform where developers can create or try out new features before they are widely available. But if a feature like Advance comes to mainstream browsing, businesses must have relevant links and proper SEO practices to ensure their content is included in the recommendations.

To learn more about the Test Pilot program, and how to become a part of it, click here.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • A new web extension in the Firefox Test Pilot called Advance offers users real-time content recommendations from across the web.
  • Advance uses machine learning to analyze what a person browses and to provide recommendations based on what they may want to read next, via a sidebar in the browser.
Image: Firefox