Firefox to get page translation feature, like Chrome

Firefox's page translation feature will work offline, with a local library, rather than cloud-based translation services.

Firefox translation

Image: ZDNet

Mozilla developers are working on adding an automatic page translation feature to Firefox, similar to the one included in Google Chrome.

However, Firefox's page translation feature will be different from the one supported in Google Chrome.

Instead of relying on cloud-based text translation services (like Google Translate, Bing Translator, or Yandex.Translate), Firefox will use a client-side, machine learning-based translation library.

Feature developed with EU funds

This library is currently being developed part of the Bergamot Project, which received €3 million ($3.35 million) in EU funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

"This shift to client-side translation empowers citizens to preserve their privacy and increases the uptake of language technologies in Europe in sectors that require confidentiality," Bergamot researchers said back in January after they secured funding.

The technology is currently under active development, and Mozilla has begun hiring neural machine translation engineers to integrate Bergamot inside Firefox. Once finished, the library will aso be released under an open source license.

Mozilla previously tried to ship a similar translation feature

Most of the work will be done on perfecting the actual Bergamot library, rather than modifying the Firefox codebase. Firefox already ships with a user interface (UI) to support a page translation feature.

This UI was added a few years back when Mozilla first wanted to add a page translation feature similar to the one in Google Chrome. Plans were scrapped after Mozilla realized that supporting the feature would incur massive financial costs it could not sustain.

However, Mozilla always wanted a feature similar to the one in Chrome, and the UI was left inside Firefox, while the API keys for various translation services were never added, with engineers hoping that leadership will eventually find the money to support it, or a better solution will arise in the future.

Users can enable this UI by going to the about:config options page, and enabling the browser.translation.ui.show and browser.translation.detectLanguage settings. Firefox Nightly users can enable these two options to see how work on Bergamot advances.

Last week, Firefox developer Kelly Davis published two demos of Bergamot in action, showing that the library has existed the concept phase and is now at a usable state.