Firefox's new privacy feature stops Facebook seeing what else you do online

After more than a decade since launching its first Firefox browser, Mozilla has been steadily earning web browser converts with its newest browser Firefox Quantum.

(Credit: Mozilla)
(Credit: Mozilla)

After more than a decade since launching its first Firefox browser, Mozilla has been steadily earning web browser converts with its newest browser Firefox Quantum.


The revamped Firefox is faster, sleeker, and safer, with more native privacy tools, than past iterations of the browser. That’s undeniable. But the question is whether the non-profit browser can compete with Google Chrome, the world’s leading browser with 67 percent of the market compared to Firefox’s 12 percent.

The Firefox team says yes, especially in a time of increasingly creepy personalized ads and global Facebook scandals.

“If they don’t trust the web, they won’t use the web,” Mark Mayo, Mozilla’s chief product officer, told The New York Times. “That just felt to us like that actually might be the direction we’re going. And so we started to think about tools and architectures and different approaches.”

So, how does Firefox differ from Chrome?

In many ways, the two browsers come with similar features and performance ratings. For example, some tests show Chrome is slightly faster than Firefox in many of web use, but that edge seems to be barely noticeable.

Other tests show that Firefox tends to outperform Chrome when users open many tabs. Some analysts claims Firefox uses less battery than Chrome, but that seems to depend on how you’re using the browser.

Mozilla also seems to edge out Google in certain areas of privacy. Firefox comes with a tracking protection feature that identifies and blocks third-party trackers from recording your browser data across multiple websites. Chrome only offers this as an extension.


Firefox users can also download an extension called ‘Facebook Container’ that prevents the social media platform from following you around the web and tracking your data so it can target you with ads.

“Firefox does seem to have positioned itself as the privacy-friendly browser, and they have been doing a fantastic job improving security as well,” Cooper Quintin, a security researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The New York Times. “On the other hand, Google is fundamentally an advertising company, so it’s unlikely that they will ever have a business interest in making Chrome more privacy friendly.”


Another fundamental difference is that Firefox has been a browser that’s committed to the idea of open source software since it first launched in 2002. That means anyone can look at the browser’s code to see how it works and what it’s up to, unlike Chrome.

Beyond privacy, Firefox also offers many options for customization. Users can change the themes of the browser and even rearrange the address bar and buttons however they like. Also built-in to the browser are user-friendly options like Reading Mode and Tab Groups.

To be sure, Chrome does have certain advantages over Firefox: a greater number of apps, Chromecast capability, easier integration with other Google and Android services, to name several.

But for those who consider privacy and trustworthiness paramount in a web browser, Firefox does seem to be the best long-term choice. The reason is simple: Unlike Chrome, Firefox isn’t the browser making money off of tracking user data and advertising.

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

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Astronomers find more than 100,000 "stellar nurseries"

Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.

Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
Surprising Science

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."

Protecting space stations from deadly space debris

Tiny specks of space debris can move faster than bullets and cause way more damage. Cleaning it up is imperative.

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  • To prevent this untrackable space debris from taking out satellites and putting astronauts in danger, scientists have been working on ways to retrieve large objects before they collide and create more problems.
  • The team at Clearspace, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is on a mission to capture one such object using an autonomous spacecraft with claw-like arms. It's an expensive and very tricky mission, but one that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.

This is the first episode of Just Might Work, an original series by Freethink, focused on surprising solutions to our biggest problems.

Catch more Just Might Work episodes on their channel:
https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work

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