Google enhances search for Firefox users

A link prefetching feature supported by Mozilla browsers will speed up Google searches, but there are concerns that users will often be sent content they don't want

Google has added a new feature to its search engine that allows Firefox users to obtain search results more quickly.

Reza Behforooz, a software engineer at Google, announced on Wednesday that the search engine now pre-loads the top search result into the cache of Mozilla browsers.

"Now Google's faster than ever on Firefox and Mozilla browsers," said Behforooz in a posting on the company's blog. "When you do a search on these browsers, we instruct them to download your top search result in advance, so if you click on it, you'll get to that page even more quickly."

The search engine has used a link prefetching feature that is supported by Mozilla browsers, including Firefox. As Internet Explorer and other browsers do not provide prefetching functionality, they will not be able to use this feature.

But there are some potential issues. Google points out in a FAQ that "you may end up with cookies and Web pages in your Web browser's cache from Web sites that you did not click on".

A few Firefox users have expressed concern about this feature on the Mozillazine site. They say users risk unknowingly downloading illegal content, and could also end up using more bandwidth when surfing.

"You'll run into trouble if the first match is a porno site and your company's proxy logs it — you get all cookies of the first match without seeing the page," said one user.

Another user, Alex Bishop, said that even if you unknowingly download illegal content using the prefetch feature, the content is flagged in a different way to content that you have chosen to download.

"When documents are prefetched an 'x-moz: prefetch' header is sent with the request and the referrer header will match the Google search results page," said Bishop. "So that might convince them [that you didn't click on the prefetched link]."