Mozilla browser to learn from surfing habits

The latest test version of the open-source browser is inviting users to improve features by submitting their surfing data

Mozilla.org, an open-source browser project backed by AOL Time Warner's Netscape unit, has released a new test version of its software, introducing some new features and a scheme to improve the browser's auto-complete feature.

The beta of Mozilla 1.3 is the group's first release since December, when it launched Mozilla an updated version of the 1.2.1 browser with a dynamic HTML bug fix. Version 1.2.1 also included new features such as improved Java support for Mac OS 10.2.

Mozilla 1.3 Beta adds features aimed at improving the browsing experience, such as automatic image resizing -- shrinking large images so that they fit in the browser window -- the ability to switch user profiles without quitting the browser, and a spam filter for the email program.

Another new feature is a project aimed at making the auto-complete feature in the browser's location bar more useful by gathering browsing data from as many testers as possible. This location bar automatically pops open a list of addresses similar to the one the user is typing in, a feature found in most modern browsers. But the order in which the list is presented has little to do with how relevant the URL is to the user -- for example, the browser could list more frequently or recently used URLs first.

To improve the feature, Mozilla.org is encouraging beta testers to use the new beta software as their main browser for a few days and submit browsing data back to the project. "Once we have enough data, we'll use it to design and test different learning algorithms for predicting user browsing behaviour," Mozilla.org said in a statement. The programme could result in a new URL-sorting algorithm being introduced to the browser.

The project said it would give users complete control over what data they submitted to the programme: "We've also thought long and hard about privacy issues." A similar method could be used to improve other aspects of the browser, the project said. Details of how the autocomplete scheme works can be found on Mozilla's Web site.


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