A new idea in Firefox

Hello, everyone - Mike Hoye here, on behalf of the Firefox team.

We’re pretty excited to be announcing a new feature in Firefox, with a new service behind it, and we wanted you to hear about it from us directly.

We’ve been thinking a lot about an old idea, one that’s still baked into the lowest levels of the product - the idea that Firefox isn’t just a browser but a User Agent, an actor that could play a bigger role in people’s lives by acting on their behalf. That maybe a User Agent could play a role in helping you find a better experience of a better web.

Our expectations of what the internet is, and could be, are changing and evolving every day. But in two decades what we’ve expected from the browser hasn’t kept pace. Since the beginning, despite the ‘user agent’ idea, it’s long felt like the browser’s role was to enable web developer and publisher creativity, and stay out of the way; that the browser was a thin wrapper around web content, designed to disappear.

Over time, this has made Firefox a bystander in how people experience the internet, discover cool new things and connect with each other, and eventually - as the big tech companies that have shaped our experience of the internet grew and consolidated - that experience has been more shaped to serve the immediate interests of shareholders than the people who use and depend on the internet every day.

That has never been the experience of the web we want, or what we believe a healthy internet could be. Mozilla was designed to put people’s interests first, and our research has consistently shown us that people’s struggles to navigate information overload and making sense of the modern web are critical problems for us to address.

Challenging Mozilla’s thinking about how we might play an active role in internet wayfinding has taken us years of reflection and careful deliberation. Firefox has long had both an arms-length relationship with the ad business and a concern that knowing anything about our users meant we weren’t living our values. Over time, our decisions to not handle user data or play an active role on our users’ behalf went from a healthy distancing to us avoiding our responsibility to offer people a better way.

We’ve spent the last two years re-imagining what Firefox is; what it means to be Firefox, and what Firefox could be. Today we’re taking our first steps on that better way, we’re excited to announce a new Firefox feature called Firefox Suggest.

This is a new thing for us; Suggest is both a discovery feature built directly in the browser and the service it relies on, operated by Mozilla. Firefox Suggest aims to be a trustworthy guide to the better web, helping you quickly and easily get to places you’ve been and bring you to new sites and content that are a high quality, relevant experience for you, while preserving your privacy and agency in the process.

For us to reimagine and enable the role of the User Agent in people’s online experience, we will use and leverage data in ways we haven’t before. That’s a new thing for us too, one we’re approaching with all the care, caution and engineering acumen we can bring to bear. What we won’t do is compromise on our principles of privacy, security, transparency, trustworthiness and lean data. Our mission-driven, not-for-profit structure allows us to truly put the best interests of our customers front and center. Our only shareholders are them.

In short, Firefox Suggest is designed to let Firefox bring you a better Web that’s better tailored to you. It will feel like having a seasoned expert helping you navigate the web, getting where you want to go faster, and optimizing for your own needs rather than contorting yourself to fit a third-party’s business model. We’re offering a choice for people who want a purpose driven and independent company to create software for them that provides real privacy, transparency and valuable help with navigating today’s internet.

Today, Firefox Suggest is our first expression of this work, the first step on a long new path. As with all our work, we’re starting and developing in the open, and we welcome your input as we start, learn and grow this service from the ground up.

Thank you; we’re glad you’re here with us, and I hope you’ll give our big new idea a try.