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Firefox 57 fights back and EPIC’s Google store tracking algorithm complaint (Page 1 of 2)

4th August 2017

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Note: This post has been moved from Latest Picks due to length of extended updates.

Firefox fights back (cnet.com).

Firefox 57
“Firefox 57, a massive overhaul due November 14, is ready for battle. Its main rival is Google’s Chrome, which accounts for 54 percent of browser usage today as measured by webpage visits using PCs, tablets and phones. Apple’s Safari has 14 percent, while Firefox has 6 percent, according to analytics firm StatCounter. Chrome lured tens of thousands of us away from Firefox after it debuted in 2008. But Firefox 57 could be the version that gets you thinking about returning—and maybe about saving the web, too. Mozilla began testing Firefox 57 on Wednesday, the culmination of more than a year of engineering work.”

The “version that gets you thinking about returning” or, especially for long term uses using for those long list of likely browser slowing down extensions that just are not available on any other browsers, finally turns some away for good with FF’s switch to Chromium web extensions, rather than actually adopting Chromium source as initially reported (theregister.co.uk, Apr. 2016, update at bottom of article):

“…change in Firefox 57 will break a venerable part of Firefox—the extensions technology that lets you customize the browser. For example, with extensions you can block ads, protect your privacy, download YouTube videos, translate websites and manage passwords. Extensions were a key advantage back when Mozilla first took on IE in 2004, but Mozilla is switching to Web Extensions, a variation of Chrome’s customization technology.”

Thankfully—and perhaps crucially for those I suspect would have finally said goodbye if it were not going to be available, Giorgio Maone’s indispensable for some NoScript is migrating to the WebExtension APIs (blog.mozilla.org) showing that Moz certainly see they need the author of the free third party extension on board rather than over.

Besides the crashes, sluggish speed and memory leaks—all invariably blamed on those damn extensions which are the reason most who are still using are using for—lets just hope they recall titling FF’s address bar the “awesome bar” (support.mozilla.org) did them absolutely no adult favours either.

It could perhaps also learn lesson from its implementation of its “Do not track” technology which soon stalled and FF was toothless to pursue being “almost entirely dependent on search-ad revenue through search partners” but unlike former semi-disgraced CEO Brendan Eich who is committed to finding new streams of revenue with his Brave browser—which is something you hear a lot until they realise that internet El Dorado is as mythical as that king/city/empire—that lesson might just be the one many wish it did not have to learn, being don’t indirectly try to bite the ad hand that feeds.

Still, at least it’s not as engaged on tracking your every move and prompting you with targeted ads for Kleenex as soon as you’ve used the last sheet:

Google asked to explain how it tracks what you buy in stores (cnet.com).

Keep calm while we steal your data
“Privacy advocates aren’t satisfied with Google’s assurances that it’s protecting consumer privacy when it tracks the success of online ad campaigns into ringing up sales in physical stores. On Monday, the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a formal complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission that asks the agency to begin an investigation into Google’s ‘in-store tracking algorithm.’ The algorithm lets the search giant tell advertisers how well their marketing campaigns are working in offline sales. … Giving marketers insight into how their online ads translate into physical store sales is difficult to do. Privacy advocates, like EPIC, worry information gleaned from these databases could reveal more about people’s private lives than they realize. That information could include medical conditions, religious and political affiliations, and other personal details. They want to make sure the data is protected because of Google’s advertising and consumer reach, ”

Which of course Google swears it protects but like its search algorithm that makes or breaks SEO ranking with every tweak—forcing nervous purchase and consumption of more SEO snakeoil when detecting with horror a drop in Google’s PageRank algorithm—it can’t or rather won’t tell you how it works.

Updated 7th August 2017

And if you use Firefox then there may something to look forward to before 57 is released—or maybe not, depending on whether you feel VR is a new take on 3D the cinema and later DVD popping up every couple of decades, swearing blind each time it’s the next big thing:

Firefox soon will help you lose yourself in the VR web (cnet.com).

Firefox WebVR
“‘WebVR is the major platform feature shipping in Firefox 55,’ the latest Firefox release calendar update says. ‘Firefox users with an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset will be able to experience VR content on the web and can explore some exciting demos.’ There’s plenty to do on the web with a PC, and plenty of apps to run on a phone. But for VR to thrive, there has to be plenty of stuff for us to do online virtually, too. WebVR is an important part of keeping keep us supplied with games, tourist attractions, educational lessons and other interesting things to do in virtual realms.”

Indeed, and much is made of VR’s day having arrived—and how, as you will need some pretty impressive specs to make use of it its that time for you to think think of buying new desktop, tablet or phone—but, you know, with regards WebVR I seem to recall museums and galleries were all swearing it was their next big thing before the turn of the Millennium and, well, with the web dev necessity of having to cater to the lowest common denominator of devices I’m still wondering if it could well be more like those Flash animations that danced around your screen before the “under construction” sign popped up after you watched you watched it for 20 seconds and while still paying per minute on 56K dial-up access.

But it seems Moz is banking a lot on VR being much more than a new take on those 3D glasses:

“WebVR is also important for Mozilla. The nonprofit organization is fighting to reclaim its relevance and restore its reputation after Firefox slid into Chrome's shadow in recent years.”

But it seems VR is already not the new thing for them, the new thing being AR—“Augumented Reality”:

“In the long term, [vice president of emerging technologies, Sean White] and his boss, Mozilla Chief Executive Chris Beard, think VR could be eclipsed by augmented reality. VR immerses you in fully computerized worlds of VR, but AR overlays computer-generated imagery atop the real world. ‘VR will beget AR pretty quickly as a mass-market opportunity,’ Beard said. ‘Browsers play a very meaningful role.’”

That being what Microsoft seems to be banking on with its HoloLens to give that Tony Stark designing another new Iron Man gadget appeal (wired.com, Apr. 2015) although calling it “mixed reality” but with plain VR still presumably disappearing the the next big thing revolving door of technological progress as did Google Glass.

Updates/Follow Ups

6th September 2017

But if you are one suspecting—for some adamantly—Moz may be throwing the baby of with the bathwater, what are your options for those add-ons that may not survive the web extensions migration?

Firefox: your options to run legacy add-ons (ghacks.net).

Firefox legacy add-ons
“Many add-ons that are available for Firefox right now will stop working. New extensions are created, but it is fair to say that WebExtensions will never be as powerful as Firefox’s legacy add-on system. … Some add-on authors may be working on a port, some may wait for APIs to become available, and some have announced already that they won’t port their extensions (usually because it is not possible, and won‘t be possible). Firefox users who rely on specific legacy add-ons have a couple of options to retain their functionality. The following options are available.”

The anonymity enabling TOR browser which is based on Firefox and relient upon the NoScript add-on taking the Extended Support Release (ESR) route which will allow continued use for until June 2018 of (most) legacy add-ons: Tor browser 7.0 launches with Firefox 52 “ESR” base, multi-process architecture (tomshardware.com, Jun. 2017).

Next page

Next page: It’s out, Firefox goes Quantum, but it’s no longer Yahoo for Mozilla, default search engine—and the much needed revenue for Moz it brings—returning to Google.

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