Mozilla Wants To Help You See A More Personalized Web Without Giving Up Your Privacy

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Mozilla is working on a project that would make the browser a central repository for a list of all of your interests. Today, the nonprofit behind Firefox argues, many websites offer personalized experiences, “but too often, users unknowingly trade their personal information for this better experience.” Instead of sharing your interest graph with lots of vendors online, Firefox could divine your hobbies and interests by simply looking at your browsing history.

The organization has played with this idea before, and today’s proposal comes at a time when Mozilla is involved in a long-standing argument with the advertising industry over how it should treat cookies and Do Not Track.

The idea behind the proposal is that users should be able to explicitly and transparently share their interests with the websites they visit. These sites then would be able to tailor your experience according to your preferences without having to create their own profile of your interests. This way, a site can be personalized even if you’re visiting for the first time.

“We want to give individuals more participation in their Web interactions so they can more easily get what they want, in a clearly defined way,” Mozilla’s senior VP of business and legal affairs Harvey Anderson writes today. “Our goal with UP (User Personalization) and other innovations in this area is to increase the quality of the user experience. In order to accomplish this, interactions must provide consumers with options on how much and which types of information to disclose in order to get the most relevant content and services on the Web.”

Mozilla is currently experimenting with these ideas, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll see any real implementations of them in the near future. When Mozilla first talked about this idea, however, it noted that websites would be required not to track the information you share with them (though it’s hard to see how this could be controlled) and at the time, the idea was to give users fine-grained control over how much information about themselves they want to share.

For the time being, though, Mozilla just wants to get the conversation started – something that should be pretty easy to do, given that the advertising industry is closely watching the organization’s every move.

Opera ditches its own browser engine in favor of WebKit

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Opera Software’s Bruce Lawson has taken to the company’s developer website to announce a some big news: Opera is switching over to the WebKit engine, the same one used by Google Chrome and Safari. The overhauled Opera browser will also be bolting on the same V8 JavaScript engine that Chrome utilizes. Opera’s first WebKit browser will be a mobile app that’s slated for unveiling at MWC 2013 in Barcelona, and the desktop apps will be transitioned later.

Up until now, Opera has relied on its own in-house rendering and JavaScript engines. Presto and Kraken had come a long way in recent releases and kept Opera nipping at the heels of the leaders in the browser race. It also meant that Opera frequently had to implement site-specific fixes in order to allow its users to be able to properly browse some of the most popular sites on the web. WebKit is much more widely used — and thanks to the popularity of Chrome and Safari (and mobile WebKit browsers), Opera’s incompatibility issues will be a distant memory after the switch.

With the move to WebKit, Lawson believes Opera will be able to refocus its efforts on the interface and Opera’s user-facing features like Speed Dial, the extension system, Turbo compression, and Opera’s synchronization component, Link. The company also fully intends to be an active contributor to both the WebKit and Chromium projects.

Lawson took the time to inform Opera extension developers that the engine switch won’t ruin their hard work. The company is already actively developing a conversion tool that will help existing extensions play nice with the WebKit engine in the new Opera browser.

When the transition is complete and all of Opera’s users have upgraded, there will be 300 million more WebKit users in the world, as Lawson also announced that the browser had crossed that milestone recently.