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Mozilla today lifted the lid on an experimental Firefox feature that recommends content based on what you’re currently reading through the browser.
The new tool is available as part of the Firefox Test Pilot program, which allows early adopters and the generally curious to check out features that are still in progress.
The Advance web extension is available for anyone from today and can analyze content on current active web pages to recommend related tidbits you may want to “read next” from other websites. It will also surface recommendations based on your recent browsing history in a “for you” section.
With the extension installed, you just browse the web as you normally would and the little sidebar will show things that are relevant to what you’ve been looking at.
The extension is powered by Laserlike, a VC-funded, machine learning-powered “interest search engine” that delivers personalized content. As such, Laserlike will receive users’ browsing history — something Mozilla wants people to understand before they install the extension. But the company has also built in some tools to boost control and data transparency.
“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,” Mozilla said in a statement. “We’re interested in seeing how our users respond to their browsers having a more active role in helping them explore the web.”
This isn’t the first time Mozilla has explored content recommendations. When it launched the upgraded Firefox Quantum browser back in November, Mozilla introduced a number of integrations with Pocket, the “read-it-later” service the company acquired earlier in the year. Part of this involved showing recommendations in new tabs based on trending stories, and a few months back Mozilla announced plans to introduced sponsored content to those tabs.
This may provide a hint as to where Mozilla could take its latest feature in the future. Similar to how other online content conduits mix sponsored content in with other personalized recommendations, Firefox could seek to monetize the feature through affiliate links. The company hasn’t given any indication that this is what it intends to do, but it did indicate that it’s open to tweaking how it delivers recommendations in the sidebar.
“We’ll experiment with different methods of providing these recommendations if we see enough interest,” Mozilla said.
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