11.16.2017

Mozilla Ends Search Deal with Yahoo

Google is Now the Default Search Engine in Firefox


With the release of Firefox Quantum, Mozilla has potentially created one of the most drastic web browser updates in years. Firefox 57, which has been given the moniker Quantum, makes Firefox much faster and lighter, once again becoming a contender for top web browser. Along with Firefox Quantum's official release, Mozilla has announced the end of a 2014 deal with Yahoo over the coveted spot of default search engine.

The change will affect users from the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Mozilla’s deal with Yahoo made it the default search engine, but provided other popular options like Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo as opt-in choices. Originally the deal was to last five years, but some consider the deal as one of the first moves in Firefox’s fall from grace, and this early termination as a step toward user’s best interests.

“The change will affect users from the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”

Mozilla Chief Business and Legal Officer Denelle Dixon said in a statement, “We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo! based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users. We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search."

Mozilla’s decision will leave Google as the most used search engine in the world with market share higher than April's estimated 77%. Some exceptions such as China’s Baidu and Russia’s Yandex exist, but Google currently controls the web by a large margin. 

In the past, search engine royalties have been the biggest driver of revenue for Mozilla. In 2014, $323 million of the Mozilla Foundation’s $330 million revenue came from search engine royalties. Neither Mozilla nor Google has released details of the deal, but hopefully Mozilla’s yearly financial statement will clear up some of the murky details.

11.02.2017

Amazon Goes All-In with Updated Kindle Oasis

A battle on two fronts against Kobo and Apple


Amazon updated their top-of-the-line eReader, the Kindle Oasis, this week. The device has been fitted with an aluminum chassis, larger storage options, a bigger screen, and waterproofing. Some of these features are differentiating in the long-stagnant eReader market while others are examples of Seattle-based eCommerce giant playing catch-up. 

Firstly, the catch-up features: waterproofing and a larger screen. There has been a niche for big eReaders ever since Amazon introduced the Kindle DX back in 2009. The device reached end-of-life three years later and left a glaring hole in Amazon’s portfolio that until this week was left unfilled.

Kindle DX, a 9.7-inch eReader discontinued in 2012. Credit: Amazon product page

Waterproofing is a feature that has been steadily making its way into smartphones for the past few years, and that element of high end devices has already trickled down to eReaders, including 2016's Kobo Aura ONE (a device reviewed here on D&theJM). That device also has a bigger screen than the industry-standard six inches and occupies the same premium segment of the market as the updated Oasis. The two are even priced identically, at a steep $249.99.

Amazon has a near monopoly on dedicated eReaders and much like Apple in the mobile space, lures affluent and upwardly mobile buyers into its walled garden with the promise of a complete ecosystem. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the inclusion of Audible audiobook support via bluetooth in this new device. Because Amazon bought the world’s most prevalent audiobook service with that that sweet, sweet eCommerce money, it can leverage it as a value-add to differentiate it from competing products such as the Aura ONE.

For buyers considering the new Oasis, likely owners of the mid-range Kindle Paperwhite or users of the Kindle smartphone app, the Audible inclusion may be the defining feature in this premium E Ink slate. Being able to have passages read aloud to you is something no other eBook retailer, whether it be Kobo, Apple, or NOOK, can offer. 

Kindle Paperwhite side-by-side with iPad. Credit: Amazon product page

The other eReader-firsts, the aluminum chassis and larger storage size, help the Oasis achieve feature parity not with devices from Kobo or NOOK, but from Apple and its category-defining iPad. It’s Apple that Amazon is competing with through its E Ink devices, and people unaware of their options may fall for this false dichotomy. What Amazon is essential conveying is that you’ve got two options: the Kindle or a tablet. That’s just not the case.

Amazon may be the biggest game in town, but it’s not the only one. You can borrow books from virtual libraries like OverDrive, a service run by Kobo’s parent company Rakuten but available on the Kindle, or download them free and legally from archives such as Project Gutenberg. Ultimately, Amazon has one-upped Kobo in terms of hardware, but the more open nature of the Aura ONE gives it the edge for those looking to buy their books elsewhere or read free of charge.

Mozilla Firefox to Stop Browser Fingerprinting

Firefox Borrows Privacy Feature From Tor Project


In its latest effort to protect users’ privacy, the Mozilla Foundation intends to block canvas fingerprinting in their upcoming Firefox version 58. Canvas fingerprinting uses the HTML5 framework to identify users by a browser’s unique characteristics. Rather than the familiar browser cookies, websites are able to examine installed fonts, widgets and other identifiers to track someone across the web.

Mozilla Firefox will be the first major browser to allow users to block browser fingerprinting. Rather than tracking users by default, Mozilla will make it so that users have to opt in to tracking and data sharing with websites.

"Even if a browser fingerprint can’t be used for tracking, other available information such as your IP address and stored cookies provide other means of tracking."

A step toward privacy is a step in the right direction, but experts believe it is not enough. Even if a browser fingerprint can’t be used for tracking, other available information such as your IP address and stored cookies provide other means of tracking. There is also the constant evolving nature of tracking techniques, which will force the Mozilla Foundation to make this an ongoing effort.

This new feature is the latest addition from Mozilla’s Tor Uplift Project. Tor is a Firefox-based web browser which uses layers of encryption and redirection to hide users’ identities. 

Typically features make their way from Firefox to Tor, but the Tor Uplift project hopes to borrow some of Tor’s privacy features for Firefox. But for now, Tor will remain the more secure browser option for the most privacy minded individuals.

Firefox 58 is slated for launch in January 2018. Any users who’d like to more about browser fingerprinting can look at their browser fingerprint here.