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Disrespect intended: Mozilla thinks it knows better

Matt Asay | July 14, 2016
To make Firefox more relevant, Mozilla Context Graph elbows out authors and decides what readers are interested in

In Mozilla's Context Graph, however, the author doesn't matter much. Instead, Mozilla's vision involves tracking user journeys and recommending links based on what others have apparently found successful: "There is an opportunity to disrupt how discovery is done on the web by setting up a parallel graph to the traditional map of the web that isn't based on direct linking and page-content analysis, but instead on how users in the past have interacted with the web and where they found success."

The masses may be asses, to use Alexander Hamilton's phrase, but they'll help you find a brave new web that you didn't know you wanted.

Beyond user privacy, which Nguyen insists will be totally fine because, well, trust Mozilla! ("There is no necessary trade-off to be made between user control and personalization, and we will prove that these products are achievable without violating user trust or privacy," he says).

But even if you believe that, there's still the issue of author intent. As Katz complains, "How is [Context Graph] anything other than Firefox thinking it knows better than authors what outbound links to highlight?"

This becomes even more important as we consider "entire ecosystems (like YouTubers) built on reciprocal links and raising each other up," Katz notes. Such ecosystems would be put in jeopardy by "Mozilla knows best" recommendation engines. Katz insists, "Firefox should not compete with authors' outbound links by giving users 'more important' outbound links."

Frankly, it probably has better things to do than try to compete with Google on semantic understanding of the web, an area where Google excels and Mozilla has limited expertise.

It's not enough, as Nguyen hopes ("Firefox, because of who we are and what we stand for, is uniquely suited to build this understanding"), to hope that large but diminishing numbers of Firefox users will somehow magically translate into deep understanding of user behavior.

But more to the point, if Mozilla cares so much about users, shouldn't it also care about the authors who serve them? Google and Facebook may offer limited choices on how users find authors' content, but Mozilla seemingly hopes to completely discombobulate the connection between authors and readers, making it all but impossible to coherently market to them.

This doesn't seem like progress.

Source: Infoworld


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