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Mozilla's 'Context Graph' finds the website you'll want next

Engadget Engadget 7/07/2016 David Lumb
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How much of your content do you find while scrolling through Facebook or searching Google? To counter a small number of companies controlling what parts of the internet get exposed to users, Mozilla is announcing a solution: the Context Graph. By studying browser activity at scale, they want to build a 'recommender system' that aims to provide personalized search results based on previously-found solutions to similar problems. Until they release more details than the aspirational hopes for what it will do, however, it sounds like a first-party version of StumbleUpon.

They key word for the system's future use is 'context': a Firefox search using it will bundle in relevant info like previous browser behavior and your location to suggest results that worked well for you (or users like you) in the past. While ingesting all that personal data sounds worrisome for privacy wonks, Mozilla is testing data collection with a group of volunteer users first to refine recommendations but not infringe on agency. There shouldn't be a trade-off between user control and personalization, VP of Firefox product Nick Nguyen said in a post.

One of Context Graph's features, Activity Stream, actually went live back in may on the Firefox add-on Test Pilot. Using it loads each new tab with a digest of info from your top websites, but it will soon evolve to suggest new, personalized content, Nguyen said. It's a small move toward the curated discovery Mozilla is promising with this system and the only one we know about right now. We'll just have to sit tight until it reveals more than just an escape plan from Facebook browsing and Google searches.

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