Firefox Suggest: Mozilla is testing custom search and sponsored suggestions in the United States

Firefox Suggest is a new custom search and sponsored suggestions feature of Mozilla's Firefox web browser. The feature is being tested on a limited number of Firefox installations in the United States currently.

Firefox Suggest displays suggestions when users type in the Firefox address bar. The feature may look like search suggestions on first glance, a feature that Firefox supported for a long while. Search suggestions use data retrieved from the search engine that is used to suggest queries to users. If you type wiki, suggestions may include wikipedia and wikileaks among others.

Suggestions from Firefox Suggest are not offered by the search engine that is used, but by Mozilla's Firefox browser. These suggestions are divided into non-commercial and sponsored suggestions. Mozilla's support page does not provide much insight on the feature:

[..] find information easily and get to where you want to go quicker

It is not clear, for instance, how suggestions are picked. It is possible that Mozilla's Pocket service is used as the data pool for suggestions, but Pocket is not mentioned once on the support page.

Mozilla reveals additional information about the sponsored suggestions of Firefox Suggest. These come from adMarketplace according to the support page. When users click on results, data is send through a proxy before it is shared with the partner. Only technical data is send.

When you see or click on a Firefox suggestion, Firefox sends technical data to our partner through a Mozilla-owned proxy service. This data does not include any personally identifying information and is only shared when you see or click on a Firefox suggestion.

Firefox sends us data such as the position, size and placement of content we suggest, as well as basic data about your interactions with Firefox’s suggested content. This includes the number of times suggested content is displayed or clicked.

How to disable Firefox Suggest

firefox suggest

You will spot Firefox Suggest results in the address bar immediately, as they are labeled as such. Firefox includes an option to turn the feature off (or on), but only if it is available.

Since it is experimental, there is a chance that the feature won't find its way into stable versions of Firefox for all users, regardless of region. To disable Firefox Suggest, do the following:

  1. Load about:preferences#search in the Firefox address bar; this opens the Search preferences.
  2. Scroll down to the section Search Suggestions.
  3. Check (to enable) or uncheck (to disable) Show Firefox Suggest in the address bar (suggested and sponsored results).

If you uncheck the box, Firefox Suggest suggestions won't be displayed anymore in the address bar.

Closing Words

It is too early to judge the quality of suggestions displayed by Firefox Suggest. Some Firefox users may like that the suggestions come from a difference source, but ultimately, it depends on the quality of suggestions. Others may dislike the feature because it includes sponsored results.  Firefox Suggest can be disabled in the settings to turn it off.

Mozilla continues to test new revenue sources, both inside Firefox and outside, to reduce the reliance on search engine deals. Firefox may display sponsored top tiles on the new tab page. Plans to launch the commercial offering Mozilla Privacy Pack leaked this week as well.

Now You: what is your take on suggestions, sponsored or not, in the address bar? (via Techdows)

Summary
Firefox Suggest: Mozilla is testing custom search and sponsored suggestions in the United States
Article Name
Firefox Suggest: Mozilla is testing custom search and sponsored suggestions in the United States
Description
Firefox Suggest is a new custom search and sponsored suggestions feature of Mozilla's Firefox web browser.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Paul(us) said on August 12, 2021 at 12:07 pm
    Reply

    When there is a clear possibility of deciding for yourself of which of the suggestions are valid for me this so I can still decide to use, or not use the non-commercial and/or sponsored suggestions. It could be a new useful feature.
    Next to that I do not want to lose the already available options.

  2. LaughingFox said on August 12, 2021 at 12:43 pm
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    I won’t even criticize this. It is just a symptom of the overall mismanagement and cluelessness of their leadership. They must be desperate to finance their overpaid CEO at this point.

  3. Iron Heart said on August 12, 2021 at 2:17 pm
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    Wait a second, those are ads, right? Opt-out ads! They are also not locally generated, but run through a (supposedly) anonymized proxy, hehe.

    I don’t want to see any Firefox users criticizing Brave for its opt-in, local ads anymore. Brave’s ads also pay the user a share, what is the advantage of keeping the Firefox ads being enabled again? There is none for the user, hehe.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 12, 2021 at 3:30 pm
      Reply

      It is an experiment at this point. If it lands, it is probably opt-out, but it is too early to tell. It is also unclear how the (sponsored) suggestions are generated, unless you have a source on that.

      1. Iron Heart said on August 13, 2021 at 8:48 am
        Reply

        @Martin Brinkmann

        > It is also unclear how the (sponsored) suggestions are generated, unless you have a source on that.

        Unless Mozilla wants to do a Firefox update each time or use Brave’s model to introduce each new ad, it would make sense for them to distribute them from a remote server. If they were in fact using Brave’s model (downloading a non-personalized list of ads that are then locally picked by an algorithm), we would have read about that, I think. Mozilla generally doesn’t miss out on such an opportunity to market their supposed respect for user privacy.

        Plus, Martin, if they have to qualms to perform what amounts to remote code execution in the release channel of Firefox (Normandy / Firefox Experiments), then give me a reason to believe that they would suddenly do a 180° turn for ads (of all things) and generate them locally… Them mentioning a proxy instance also tells me that their model isn’t based on local ad generation.

    2. DrKnow said on August 13, 2021 at 2:11 am
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      Brave pays the user a share. Guess why they do that?
      https://brave.com/compare/chrome/earning/ is a joke. So much for privacy!

      That said, the Firefox ‘sponsored suggestions’ must be one of the dumbest things they’ve ever come up with.

      1. Iron Heart said on August 13, 2021 at 8:38 am
        Reply

        @DrKnow

        Brave pays users a share to incentivize them to enable the locally generated ads. That’s about it. It’s also the first advertising model that a) respects user privacy and b) doesn’t leave the user in the dust monetarily. I am a supporter of their model, if everyone were using it, the Internet would be a better place. The link you’ve posted just describes their ad model, so I don’t know what exactly you are trying to tell me here.

        As for Firefox’s ads – the user has no reason to leave those enabled, alright? The only benefactor would be Mozilla. The privacy aspect in Firefox is also questionable because, contrary to Brave’s ads, Firefox’s ads aren’t locally generated and rely on a (supposedly anonymizing – we have no way to verify this) proxy.

  4. Clairvaux said on August 12, 2021 at 2:52 pm
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    Waaaat ? Sponsored suggestions in the bloody address bar ? This, from a browser which has made its reputation over privacy and slandering greedy corporations ?

    What is it those guys do not understand about their customers ? Plenty of privacy-oriented and open-source services successfully use the freemium model. Why don’t they offer paid, extra features that people would actually want to use ?

    One also has to admire the fact this is an experimental feature, which might not be retained. So, run the risk to ruin your brand and alienate your customers, for a feature you’re not sure to keep anyway.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 12, 2021 at 3:35 pm
      Reply

      I think that these types of advertisements, even if they are more private than other forms, do more harm than good. Mozilla is (likely) paid by click, and these are likely very low.

      Offering a paid version of Firefox, with some extra features built-into the browser, such as a full ad-blocker and full privacy protections, would appeal to the userbase; this would reduce the reliance on search engine deals and improve the standing with privacy-demanding users.

      1. DrKnow said on August 13, 2021 at 2:20 am
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        Martin, suggesting a paid for version of Firefox is so far off the mark it’s hard to imagine you suggested it and would alienate the user base even more. There are already browsers with what you suggested and built better than current Firefox.

        I suggest you put down that bottle of wine before commenting further.

  5. Tom Hawack said on August 12, 2021 at 4:08 pm
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    Marketing campaigns often inspire irritation but when they induce pity then its more the company’s problem than ours. Firefox is my browser, I’m really fond of it. I don’t participate to bashing of any sort, never have. But when an innovation is obviously conducted by search of funding, obviously to the point it appears as flagrant given it doesn’t have the shoulders to argument itself (like someone who lies poorly) then one word comes to my mind : pathetic. I mean : I’d be willing to pay a year subscription but, please, Mozilla, count me out of your perimeter defined as an oyster’s IQ average user level.

    I do have the Firefox Suggestions in my FF91.0 about:preferences#search, all blank and locked as such.

  6. Herman Cost said on August 12, 2021 at 5:46 pm
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    This appears to reflect desperation more than anything else, and if/when it is rolled out it will simply generate Firefox more bad publicity without providing any significant revenue. I do think the CEO is a major part of the problem with this Company. Her support for internet censorship and cancel culture certainly makes me want to do anything I can to help cancel her.

  7. Anonymous said on August 12, 2021 at 6:14 pm
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    LOL imagine getting so much money from google, more than any other browser thus not being independent on BigTech and now they add more greedy tactics that will only screw the users who get these sponsored ads, we know it will not be optin but optout like everything in Firefox.

    I just laugh because the people who defend the Browser who supports censorship and spams android phones to join censorship campaigns and support deplatforming insult other browsers that are trying to fix Ads business like Brave, but Firefox is actually helping those nasty privacy invasion ads business with their “testing of sponsored results”. It is proven by using their proxy server because they know how it will have to send personal information if it was from users to partner server. Now Firefox will know your information but not the partner supposedly.

    Well, this is good. And I hope the people who still support Firefox finally will get some braincells and find an alternative because forcing yourself to use Firefox because “it is not chromium” is just not too smart. Firefox is dying because they caused it and it became a faster death since they fired.. I mean, Brendan and Mozilla came to an agreement for leaving the company. I mean, Firefox didn’t seem so desperate and weird until that happened, and all my hopes is how it will die soon because it is annoying to see it alive with so much BS on it and people just ignore crap because “but I can edit the config file and make it private” lol

  8. Tony said on August 12, 2021 at 6:18 pm
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    They should start with finding a new CEO,who isn’t an overpaid clueless piece of shit.

  9. Yash said on August 12, 2021 at 11:07 pm
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    I’ll be honest I didn’t criticised Mozilla CEO in the past as she steadied the organisation, but at this point its clear, leadership change is needed. She’s more Priti Patel than a tech CEO now. Literally this move is just bonkers.

    Anyways I still and will always love Firefox, its just that changes has to be made.

  10. Anonymous said on August 12, 2021 at 11:27 pm
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    Firefox is supposed to be run by a charitable foundation and staffed by community volunteers who work for free because they care about saving humanity. There shouldn’t be any adverts in Firefox. Firefox is supposed to be the showpiece software of the Linux world – created to show humanity what community volunteers working for free can achieve, not just with a web browser, but with an entire operating system.

    If they start putting adverts into Firefox, then the rest of Linux will be next.

  11. Sol Shine said on August 13, 2021 at 1:08 am
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    @Tony
    Agreed. The current managementt needs to go.

  12. not your ordinary rainbow dinosaur said on August 13, 2021 at 4:39 am
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    They need to make a new Mozilla logo, instead of the red dinosaur, make a dinosaur in rainbow colors with a magical wand and glitter which shoots from his mouth instead of fire.

    IMO they’ll just continue to make stupid decisions until the whole browser is fucked and “about:config” is done away with.

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