Since our last Firefox release, we’ve been working on features to make the Firefox Quantum browser work better for you. We added by default Enhanced Tracking Protection which blocks known “third-party tracking cookies” from following your every move. With this latest Firefox release we’ve added new features so you can browse the web the way you want — unfettered and free. We’ve also made improvements for IT managers who want more flexibility when using Firefox in the workplace.
Key highlights for today’s update includes:
Blackout shades come to Firefox Reader View: One of the most popular ways that people use our Reader View is by changing the contrast from light to dark. Initially, this only covered the text area. Now, when a user moves the contrast to dark all the sections of the site — including the sidebars and toolbars will be completely in dark mode.
All sections of the site will be completely in dark mode
Firefox Recommended Extensions and more: We curated a list of recommended extensions that have been thoroughly reviewed for security, usability and usefulness. You can find the list on the “Get Add-ons” page in the Firefox Add-ons Manager (about:addons). Plus we are making it even easier to report any bad extensions you come across. You can do this directly through your Firefox Add-ons Manager to ensure others’ safety. This new feature is part of the larger effort to make the add-ons ecosystem safer.
Popular User Requested Features added to Firefox for iOS: Users are at the center of everything we do, and most of the features we’ve added to Firefox for iOS in the past have been requests straight from our community. Today, we’re adding two new features which have been asked for the most. They include:
Bookmark editing – We added a new ‘Recently Bookmarked’ section to bookmarks and also added support for editing all bookmarks. Now users can reorder, rename, or update the URL for bookmarks.
Set sites to always open with Desktop Version – We know that some sites aren’t optimized for mobile, and for users the desktop version of a site is the better and preferred experience. Today, users can set sites to always open in desktop mode, and we’re also introducing a badge to help you identify when a site is being displayed in desktop mode.
Reorder, rename, or update the URL for bookmarks
More customization for IT Pros
Since the launch of Firefox Quantum for Enterprise last year, we’ve received feedback from IT (information technology) professionals who wanted to make Firefox Quantum more flexible and easier to use so they can meet their workplace needs. Today we’re adding a number of new enterprise policies for IT leads who want to customize Firefox for their employees.
The new policies for today’s Firefox Quantum for Enterprise will help IT managers configure their company’s infrastructure in the best way to meet their own personalized needs. This includes adding a support menu so enterprise users can easily contact their internal support teams and configuring or removing the new tab page so companies can bring their intranet or other sites front and center for employees. For shared machines and protecting employees’ privacy, IT managers can turn off search suggestions. You can look here to see a complete list of policies supported by Firefox.
We are always looking for ways to improve Firefox Quantum for Enterprise, our Extended Support Release. For organizations that need access to specific preferences, we’ve already started a list in our GitHub repository, and we will continue to add based on the requests we receive. Feel free to submit at the GitHub link on specific preferences you need.
To read the complete list of new items or see what we’ve changed in today’s release, you can check out our release notes.
We hope you try out and download the latest version of Firefox Quantum for desktop, iOS and Enterprise.
We are very happy to announce the results of our Mozilla Research Grants for the first half of 2019. This was an extremely competitive process, and we selected proposals which address twelve strategic priorities for the internet and for Mozilla. This includes researching better support for integrating Tor in the browser, improving scientific notebooks, using speech on mobile phones in India, and alternatives to advertising for funding the internet. The Mozilla Research Grants program is part of our commitment to being a world-class example of using inclusive innovation to impact culture, and reflects Mozilla’s commitment to open innovation.
We will open a new round of grants in Fall of 2019. See our Research Grant webpage for more details and to sign up to be notified when applications open.
“Amici support the principle that no one should be passed over for a job, paid less, fired, or subjected to harassment or any other form of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Amici’s commitment to equality is violated when any employee is treated unequally because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. When workplaces are free from discrimination against LGBT employees, everyone can do their best work, with substantial benefits for both employers and employees.”
People everywhere are demanding basic consumer protections. We want our food to be healthy to eat, our water to be clean to drink, and our air to be safe to breathe.
This year people have started to demand more of the internet as well, however, there persists an expectation that on the internet people are responsible for protecting themselves.
This isn’t right, and it’s not where we stand. We aspire to put people back in control of their connected lives. To better equip people to navigate the internet today, we’ve built the latest version of our flagship Firefox browser with Enhanced Tracking Protection on by default. These protections work in the background, blocking third-parties from tracking your online activity while increasing the speed of the browser.
We’re offering privacy protections by default as you navigate the web because the business model of the web is broken, with more and more intrusive personal surveillance becoming the norm. While we hope that people’s digital rights and freedoms will ultimately be guaranteed, we’re here to help in the interim.
In a world where tech companies expect you to cobble together different tools to protect your privacy putting the burden on you, we are providing an easy-to-use solution with just one Firefox login to get the full benefit of all of the protections and capabilities we’ve built into our products and services.
By creating a Firefox account you can increase convenience while decreasing your exposure to some harmful parts of the web. An account unlocks the full potential of tools like Lockwise, which securely manages passwords, and Monitor, a service that notifies you when your email has been part of a known data breach.
We’re deepening our relationship with you because we know you can’t go it alone anymore. With Firefox you have a partner who knows the ins and outs of the tech industry, but who is beholden to serving you, not shareholders. We’re optimistic that together we can take back power over our online lives.
We choose to lead, not follow. Join us.
You know what we stand for and what we’ve been about for over a decade thanks to our Manifesto and our Data Privacy Principles. Today we’re making it even more clear what you get when you sign up with us by announcing the Firefox Personal Data Promise — our commitment to handle your personal information with integrity and decency — and best practices for others to follow when it comes to protecting consumers privacy and rights online.
We’re taking these steps and we’re offering new tools to increase your protection and control, but it’s only the first step in our new relationship with you. We will continue to push back against collect-it-all business models that are set up to monetize people in seemingly every possible way. In addition to the tools and services we offer, we champion efforts like the fight for net neutrality, combat surveillance tactics and push for standards and practices that promote privacy and competition.
I hope you can see we’re different, and that we work hard every day to earn your trust. I believe that the internet can be a tool to make the world a better place where everyone is welcome. And safe. And respected. It can be a place that enables a free exchange of ideas. I know it can be because it once was.
The web the world needs can be ours again, if we want it. Please join me and millions of Firefox users in choosing a safer, more connected world.
What if I told you that on nearly every single website you visit, data about you was transmitted to dozens or even hundreds of companies, all so that the website could earn an additional $0.00008 per ad! This is a key finding from a new study on behaviorally targeted advertisements from Carnegie Mellon University and it should be a wake-up call to all of us. The status quo of pervasive data collection in service of ad targeting is untenable. That is why we’re announcing some key changes to Firefox.
It seems that each week a new tech company decides to decree that privacy is a human right. They tout how their products provide people with “choices” to change the settings if they wish to opt into a greater level of privacy protection to exemplify how they are putting privacy first. That begs the question — do people really want more complex settings to understand and fiddle with or do they simply want products that respect their privacy and align with their expectations to begin with?
Privacy shouldn’t be relegated to optional settings
When thinking about consumer privacy online, I’m reminded of the behavioral economics studies which led to 401K plans (US retirement savings plans) moving from voluntary enrollment to auto-enrollment. Not too long ago most defined contribution retirement savings plans in the US required employees to sign-up and volunteer to start participating. Participation rates were very low. Why was that? Was it because people didn’t care about saving for retirement? Not at all! There were simply too many barriers to aligning with people’s expectations and desires and the benefits of saving for retirement aren’t felt immediately.
We are in a similar position with respect to software privacy settings. Pervasive tracking is too opaque and potential privacy harms are never felt immediately. The general argument from tech companies is that consumers can always decide to dive into their browser settings and modify the defaults. The reality is that most people will never do that. Yet, we know that people are broadly opposed to the status quo of pervasive cross-site tracking and data collection, particularly when they learn the details on how tracking actually works.
We also know that traditional privacy features such as Chrome’s Incognito mode are failing to live up to consumer expectations. The feature might keep your spouse from knowing what you’re thinking about getting them for your anniversary by erasing your history, but it does not prevent third-party tracking. Our research shows that Firefox users are seeking out privacy protection, particularly through the use of Firefox’s Private Browsing mode. In fact, nearly 25% of web page loads in Firefox take place in a Private Browsing window. The good news for these users is that Firefox’s Private Browsing mode has long put users first by blocking tracking. The bad news is that this generally isn’t true for many popular browsers, which allow tracking even in private browsing/incognito mode. A recent study found that users don’t understand this and think their data is being protected, when it is actually not.
As was the case with retirement savings plans, what this shows us is that the burden needs to shift from the consumers to the companies whereby the complexity of privacy settings shouldn’t be placed on users to figure out. The product defaults should simply align with consumer expectations. That is the approach we are taking in Firefox.
Enhanced Tracking Protection by Default
As stated above, new Firefox users will have strong privacy protection from the moment they install. We also expect to deliver the same functionality to existing users over the coming months. Because we are modifying the fundamental way in which cookies and browser storage operate, we’ve been very rigorous in our testing and roll-out plans to ensure our users are not experiencing unforeseen usability issues. If you’re already using Firefox and can’t wait, you can turn this feature on by clicking on the menu icon marked by three horizontal lines at the top right of your browser, then Content Blocking. Go to your privacy preferences and click on the Custom option on the right side. Mark the Cookies checkbox and make sure that “Third-party trackers” is selected. To learn more about our privacy and security settings and get more detail on what each section — Standard, Strict, and Custom — includes, visit here.
For existing users, go to your privacy preferences and click on the Custom option, ark the Cookies checkbox
If you are new to Firefox, we’d love for you to give it a try. Download the latest version here.
When it comes to privacy, default settings matter! We hope that the actions we are taking can ultimately compel change in the industry. Afterall, consumers deserve better.
It’s been several weeks since I was promoted to Senior Vice President of Firefox, responsible for overall Firefox product and web platform development. As a long-time employee with 10+ years, I’ve seen a lot of things within the tech industry from data breaches, net neutrality and the rise and fall of tech companies. I believe that Firefox has and will continue to make a big impact in building the necessary protections to keep people safe online.
This past year, we’ve seen tech companies talk a big game about privacy as they’re realizing that, after several global scandals, people feel increasingly vulnerable. It’s unfortunate that this shift had to happen in order for tech companies to take notice. At Firefox, we’re doing more than that. We believe that in order to truly protect people, we need to establish a new standard that puts people’s privacy first. At Firefox, we have been working on setting this standard by offering privacy-related features, like Tracking Protection in Private Browsing, long before these issues were brought to light. With this new, increased awareness for privacy, we feel that the time is right for the next step in stronger online protections for everyone.
Last year, we announced our new approach to anti-tracking, and our commitment to help people stay safe whenever they used Firefox. One of those initiatives outlined was to block cookies from known third party trackers in Firefox. Today, Firefox will be rolling out this feature, Enhanced Tracking Protection, to all new users on by default, to make it harder for over a thousand companies to track their every move. Additionally, we’re updating our privacy-focused features including an upgraded Facebook Container extension, a Firefox desktop extension for Lockwise, a way to keep their passwords safe across all platforms, and Firefox Monitor’s new dashboard to manage multiple email addresses.
Enhanced Tracking Protection blocks sites from tracking you
For new users who install and download Firefox for the first time, Enhanced Tracking Protection will automatically be set on by default as part of the ‘Standard’ setting in the browser and will block known “third-party tracking cookies” according to the Disconnect list. We talk more about tracking cookies here. Enhanced Tracking Protection will be practically invisible to you and you’ll only notice that it’s operating when you visit a site and see a shield icon in the address bar next to the URL address and the small “i” icon. When you see the shield icon, you should feel safe that Firefox is blocking thousands of companies from your online activity.
For those who want to see which companies we block, you can click on the shield icon, go to the Content Blocking section, then Cookies. It should read Blocking Tracking Cookies. Then, click on the arrow on the right hand side, and you’ll see the companies listed as third party cookies and trackers that Firefox has blocked. If you want to turn off blocking for a specific site, click on the Turn off Blocking for this Site button.
For existing users, we’ll be rolling out Enhanced Tracking Protection by default in the coming months without you having to change a thing. If you can’t wait, you can turn this feature on by clicking on the menu icon marked by three horizontal lines at the top right of your browser, then under Content Blocking. Go to your privacy preferences and click on the Custom gear on the right side. Mark the Cookies checkbox and make sure that “Third-party trackers” is selected. To learn more about our privacy and security settings and get more detail on what each section – Standard, Strict, and Custom – includes, visit here.
For existing users, go to your privacy preferences, click on the Custom gear and mark the Cookies checkbox
Latest Facebook Container blocks tracking from other sites
Earlier this year, Mozilla was honored as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. Notably our Facebook Container extension played a big role in getting us selected. With more than two million downloads since it launched, our Facebook Container is an add-on/web extension that helps you take control and isolate your web activity from Facebook (i.e. following and tracking you across the web). Today, we’re releasing the latest update for Facebook Container which prevents Facebook from tracking you on other sites that have embedded Facebook capabilities such as the Share and Like buttons on their site.
For example, when you are on a news site and reading an article, you often see Facebook Like and Share buttons. Our Facebook Container will block these buttons and all connections to Facebook’s servers, so that Facebook isn’t able to track your visits to these sites. This blocking makes it much harder for Facebook to build shadow profiles of non-Facebook users. You will know the blocking is in effect when you see the Facebook Container purple fence badge.
Facebook Container will block these buttons and all connections to Facebook’s servers
To add the latest Facebook Container Add-On, visit here.
Meet Firefox Lockwise: Manage Your Passwords Safely and Take them Everywhere
Last Summer, we brought you Firefox Lockbox for iOS, and in March of this year we announced both Firefox Lockbox for Android and an iPad-optimized version to expand the ecosystem. One of the top most requested features from users was to find a way to manage their passwords. Today, we are rolling out a Firefox desktop extension that offers this feature and completes this product family we are now calling Firefox Lockwise.
As part of the Firefox Lockwise product suite, formerly known as Firefox Lockbox, the desktop extension will give you more control over your stored passwords with shared access from every device. With the new desktop extension, Firefox Lockwise will provide an additional touchpoint to store, edit and access your passwords. The extension provides an enhanced experience for your saved logins, which will allow you to more easily manage and interact with your stored passwords in Firefox. You will notice a seamless integrated experience in Firefox when you move from desktop to mobile, with a similar layout of key features for easy navigation and access, and easy access to your logins and passwords.
The new Firefox Lockwise desktop extension includes:
Manage your saved list of passwords – The new dashboard interface makes it simple to update and manage your saved list. If you’re no longer frequenting a site, you can easily delete your saved password. And for the sites you access frequently, you can quickly reference and edit what is being stored, thus giving you an easy way to take control of your online privacy.
Access your passwords anywhere – Whether you’re shopping for shoes on your desktop or purchasing them on-the-go from your favorite site, Firefox Lockwise has you covered. Both the mobile app and desktop extension can help you quickly retrieve your password to access your site account, no matter which device you’re on to take advantage of member discounts or free shipping.
Firefox Monitor adds dashboard to manage multiple email addresses
Since the launch of Firefox Monitor, a free service that notifies you when your email has been part of a data breach, more than 635,000 people have signed up for alerts. Users have been checking multiple personal email addresses on Monitor since launch, and the ability to easily manage multiple accounts has been a top, frequently requested feature. Today we’re launching a central dashboard to help you track and manage multiple email addresses, whether it’s your personal email accounts or ones for professional use.
Through the breach dashboard, you’ll receive a quick summary of updates for all registered email accounts. You’ll be able to easily identify which emails are being monitored, how many known data breaches may have exposed your information, and specifically, if any passwords have been leaked across those breaches. Adding a new email address to your existing Firefox Monitor account is simple, and whether you’re managing one – or multiple – new email accounts, you will be able to select a primary email address to serve as the hub for all notifications and alerts. We added a safety measure to ensure that all email addresses are verified by email before they are activated.
Identify which emails are being monitored, how many known data breaches may have exposed your information, and if any passwords have been leaked across those breaches
Being part of a data breach is not fun, but keeping track of and knowing where your private information may have been made public is one of the first steps in taking control of your online privacy.
Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security testified today on behalf of Mozilla before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy. The International Grand Committee, composed of representatives from numerous governments around the world, has gathered in Ottawa, Canada for its second meeting, hosted by the House of Commons of Canada.
Everything you share on the internet is a story. You read blog posts and watch videos that make you feel connected to people across the world. Virtual Reality has made these experiences even stronger, but it wasn’t available to most people as a storytelling tool, until now.
This breakthrough in accessibility comes from VR pioneer and award winning journalist, Nonny de la Pe?a, who is founder & CEO of the immersive technology company Emblematic Group. Their newest initiative was to launch a browser based platform that allows anyone to tap into the immersive power of virtual reality, regardless of their technical background. That is exactly what they did with REACH. With support from like minded partners such as Mozilla and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, de la Pe?a launched the platform at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. REACH completely simplifies authorship and distribution of virtual reality experiences using a simple drag and drop interface which anyone can access from any device, including a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
VR for Storytelling
De la Pe?a was one of the first to recognize that VR is a powerful way to tell stories. As an international journalist, she knew what it took to write stories that touch people on a deep level. Putting people inside those stories made sense to her, and as supporters of a free and open web, Mozilla wanted to support her mission.
The stories de la Pe?a tells in virtual reality are beautiful and sometimes, gut-wrenching. You feel the raw emotion of a protect at an abortion clinic and experience the loneliness of a solitary confinement cell.
The team at Emblematic wanted to do more than create, they wanted to make it easy for people without coding experience to tell their own stories in VR. REACH gives all VR storytellers a voice, something that Mozilla knows is crucial for the future of the internet.
VR for Creation
“What if VR took you somewhere you didn’t necessarily know you wanted to go, but needed to see to fully comprehend? That’s the goal of REACH.”
– Nonny de la Pe?a
REACH uses WebVR and other web technologies to allow anyone to create their own virtual reality experiences. It has a simple drag-and-drop interface that lets users place real people into high-res 3D environments and then share the results across multiple platforms.
With the REACH platform, you can host and distribute 3D models. These can be used by first-time content makers, veteran creators and news organizations to create innovative and inexpensive “walk around” VR content.
“I wanted people to feel the whole story with their bodies, not just with their minds.”
– Nonny de la Pe?a.”
VR for Journalism
Mozilla hosts Developer Roadshows to help people learn the skills to build the web. That’s why we partnered with Emblematic for a recent event. There, Rick Adams–a news correspondent for Los Angeles–who has been using an early version of REACH in news reporting said that it’s perfect for journalists with average technical skills.
“You can place yourself or any of your interviewees into the environment, create, and then open on the web with a link, which is revolutionary. You create a complex and rich story, allowing people to really feel like they are involved in the story themselves.”
VR for the Web
REACH is revolutionary for a number of reasons but especially because it is \ built in WebVR. WebVR was created by Mozilla to make immersive content accessible on the web. This means that anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone can use REACH. If you don’t have a pricey headset, you can still enjoy WebVR experiences like REACH through your browser. All it takes is a link.
This is critical if we want this new medium to grow and it’s why De La Pe?a chose to create a WebVR platform like REACH that lowers the barrier to entry and puts VR in the hands of the people.
Innovators like Nonny de la Pe?a have the vision, drive, and stubborn optimism to create positive change in the world. By supporting efforts like REACH, you can empower creators to build experiences that speak to you and tell stories that help break down the walls that divide us.
REACH is currently in beta. You can sign up to be a beta tester at beta.reach.love
With the introduction of the new Firefox Quantum browser in 2017 we changed the look, feel, and performance of our core product. Since then we have launched new products to complement your experience when you’re using Firefox and serve you beyond the browser. This includes Facebook Container, Firefox Monitor and Firefox Send. Collectively, they work to protect your privacy and keep you safe so you can do the things you love online with ease and peace of mind. We’ve been delivering on that promise to you for more than twenty years by putting your security and privacy first in the building of products that are open and accessible to all.
Today’s new Firefox release continues to bring fast and private together right at the crossroads of performance and security. It includes improvements that continue to keep Firefox fast while giving you more control and assurance through new features that your personal information is safe while you’re online with us.
To see how much faster Firefox is today take a look:
How did we make Firefox faster?
To make Firefox faster, we simply prioritized our performance management “to-do” list. We applied many of the same principles of time management just like you might prioritize your own urgent needs. For example, before you go on a road trip, you check for a full tank of gas, make sure you have enough oil, or have the right air pressure in your tires.
For this latest Firefox release, we adopted the well-known time management strategy of “ procrastinate on purpose.” The result is that Firefox is better at performing tasks at the optimal time. Here’s how we reorganized our to-do list to make Firefox faster:
Deprioritize least commonly used features: We reviewed areas that we felt could be delayed and delivered on “painting” the page faster so you can browse quicker. This includes delaying set Timeout in order to prioritize scripts for things you need first while delaying others to help make the main scripts for Instagram, Amazon and Google searches execute 40-80% faster; scanning for alternative style sheets after page load; and not loading the auto-fill module unless there is an actual form to complete.
Suspend Idle Tabs: You shouldn’t feel guilty about opening a zillion tabs, but keeping all those tabs open uses your computer’s memory and slows down its performance. Firefox will now detect if your computer’s memory is running low, which we define as lower than 400MB, and suspend unused tabs that you haven’t used or looked at in a while. Rest assured if you decide you want to review that webpage, simply click on the tab, and it will reload where you left off.
Faster startup after customization: For users who have customized their browser with an add-on like a favorite theme, for example changing it to the seasons of the year, or utilizing one of the popular ad-blockers, we’ve made it so that the browser skips a bunch of unnecessary work during subsequent start-ups.
For today’s release we continue to bring you privacy features and set protections to help you feel safe online when you are with Firefox. Today’s privacy features include:
Blocking fingerprinting and cryptomining: In August 2018, we shared our adapted approach to anti-tracking to address growing consumer demand for features and services that respect online privacy. One of the three key areas we said we’d tackle was mitigating harmful practices like fingerprinting which builds a digital fingerprint that tracks you across the web, and cryptomining which uses the power of your computer’s CPU to generate cryptocurrency for someone else’s benefit. Based on recent testing of this feature in our pre-release channels last month, today’s Firefox release gives you the option to “flip a switch” in the browser and protect yourself from these nefarious practices.
To turn this feature on click on the small “i” icon in the address bar and under Content Blocking, click on the Custom gear on the right side. The other option is to go to your Preferences. Click on Privacy & Security on the left hand side. From there, users will see Content Blocking listed at the top. Select Custom and check “Cryptominers” and “Fingerprinters” so that they are both blocked.
Saving Passwords– Although you may enjoy what Private Browsing has to offer, you may still want some of the convenience from a typical Firefox experience. This included not having to type in passwords each time you visit a site. In today’s release, you can visit a site in Private Browsing without the hassle of typing in your password each time. Registering and saving passwords for a website in Private Browsing will work just as it does in normal mode.
Enable or Disable add-ons/web extensions – Starting with today’s release, you can now decide which extensions you want to enable or disable in Private Browsing. As part of installing an extension, Firefox will ask if it should be allowed to run in Private Browsing, with a default of Don’t Allow. For extensions you’ve installed before today’s release, you can go to your Add-Ons menu and enable or disable for Private Browsing by simply clicking on the extension you’d like to manage.
Manage existing add-ons
Additional features in today’s release:
Online accessibility for all –Mozilla has always strived to make the web easier to access for everyone. We’re excited to roll out a fully keyboard accessible browser toolbar in today’s release. To use this feature, simply press the “tab” or “arrow” keys to reach the buttons on the right end of the toolbar including their extension buttons, the toolbar button overflow panel and the main Firefox menu. This is just one more step forward in making access to the web easier for everyone, no matter what your abilities are. To learn about our work on accessibility, you can read more on our Internet Citizen blog.
WebRender Update – We will be shipping WebRender to a small group of users, specifically Windows 10 desktop users with NVIDIA graphics cards. Last year we talked about integrating WebRender, our next-generation GPU-based 2D rendering engine. WebRender will help make browsing the web feel faster, efficient, and smoother by moving core graphics rendering processes to the Graphics Processing Unit. We are starting with this group of users and plan to roll out this feature throughout the year. To learn more visit here.
Smoother video playback with today’s AV1 Update –AV1 is the new royalty-free video format jointly developed by Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others as part of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia). We first provided AV1 support by shipping the reference decoder in January’s Firefox release. Today’s Firefox release is updated to use the newer, higher-performance AV1 decoder known as dav1d. We have seen great growth in the use of AV1 even in just a few months, with our latest figures showing that 11.8% of video playback in Firefox Beta used AV1, up from 0.85% in February and 3% in March.
To see what else is new or what we’ve changed in today’s release, you can check out our release notes.
Check out and download the latest version of Firefox Quantum, available here.
… with a few important omissions. Google’s tool meets four of experts’ five minimum standards
Last month, Mozilla released an analysis of Facebook’s ad archive API, a tool that allows researchers to understand how political ads are being targeted to Facebook users. Our goal: To determine if Facebook had fulfilled its promise to make political advertising more transparent. (It did not.)
Today, we’re releasing an analysis of Google’s ad archive API. Google also promised the European Union it would release an ad transparency tool ahead of the 2019 EU Parliament elections.
Our finding: Google’s API is a lot better than Facebook’s, but is still incomplete. Google’s API meets four of experts’ five minimum standards. (Facebook met two.)
Google does much better than Facebook in providing access to the data in a format that allows for real research and analysis. That is a hugely important requirement; this is a baseline researchers need. But while the data is usable, it isn’t complete. Google doesn’t provide data on the targeting criteria advertisers use, making it more difficult to determine whom people are trying to influence or how information is really spreading across the platform.
Below are the specifics of our Google API analysis:
Researchers’ guideline: A functional, open API should have comprehensive political advertising content.
Google’s API: The full list of ads, campaigns, and advertisers are available, and can be searched and filtered. The entire database can be downloaded in bulk and analyzed at scale. There are shortcomings, however: There is no data on the audience the ads reached, like their gender, age, or region. And Google has included fewer ads in their database than Facebook, perhaps due to a narrower definition of “political ads.”
Researchers’ guideline: A functional, open API should provide the content of the advertisement and information about targeting criteria.
Google’s API: While Google’s API does provide the content of the advertisements, like Facebook, it provides no information on targeting criteria, nor does the API provide engagement data (e.g., clicks). Targeting and engagement data is critical for researchers because it lets them see what types of users an advertiser is trying to influence, and whether or not their attempts were successful.
Researchers’ guideline: A functional, open API should have up-to-date and historical data access.
Google’s API: The API appears to be up to date.
Researchers’ guideline: A functional, open API should be accessible to and shareable with the general public.
Google’s API: Public access to the API is available through the Google Cloud Public Datasets program.
Researchers’ guideline: A functional, open API should empower, not limit, research and analysis.
Google’s API: The tool has components that facilitate research, like: bulk download capabilities; no problematic bandwidth limits; search filters; and unique URLs for ads.
Overall: While the company gets a passing grade, Google doesn’t sufficiently allow researchers to study disinformation on its platform. The company also significantly delayed the release of their API, unveiling it only weeks before the upcoming EU elections and nearly two months after the originally promised deadline.
With the EU elections fewer than two weeks away, we hope Google (and Facebook) take action swiftly to improve their ad APIs — action that should have been taken months ago.