Mozilla adds Suggested Sites feature to New Tab Page - gHacks Tech News

Mozilla adds Suggested Sites feature to New Tab Page

Mozilla pushed out a New Tab feature with today's Firefox Nightly update that introduces Suggested Sites on the page.

If you are running the most recent version of Firefox Nightly, the cutting edge version of the Firefox browser that receives all feature updates first, you may have been greeted with a prompt introducing a new feature for the browser's New Tab page.

Firefox's New Tab page links to a selection of sites based on several factors. First, it links to sites that you have visited in the past based on popularity.

You may modify that behavior by pinning sites to the New Tab page so that they are displayed on it permanently.

The third and final type are sponsored results that Mozilla may display on it provided that you have not disabled the feature. Sponsored tiles are clearly marked as such on the New Tab page.

Today's update introduces another type of tile that you may see when you open a New Tab page in Firefox: suggested tiles.

The core difference between sponsored and suggested tiles is that the latter are suggestions based on your interests and not paid for by sponsors.

firefox suggested tiles 1

firefox suggested tiles 2

firefox suggested tiles 3

You may not see sponsored or suggested tiles on the New Tab page if you have used Firefox for a while already.

When you remove enough sites from the page, suggested sites may be displayed after all. These sites are displayed with a suggested tag similar to how sponsored sites are displayed with the sponsored tag on the page.

firefox suggested site

The only site suggestion displayed on my computer's new tab page was one for Since this is a commercial site, it could as well have been displayed as a sponsored result.

I did browse several travel related sites in the past week though. Mozilla has not revealed yet how Firefox comes up with the suggestions.

It is likely however that it uses the same system as the Interest Dashboard extension that Mozilla launched as an experimental add-on back in November 2014.

The extension analyzes the browsing history and sorts visited sites into categories like sports, technology or arts. It includes a recommendation engine based on interests and that is likely being used.

It is unclear right now however if Mozilla uses a whitelist of sites for the suggested tiles feature. It would make sense to limit suggestions as it could become a highly problematic feature otherwise when users are not satisfied or even offended by the suggestions.

Turn Suggested sites off

It is easy enough to turn off the suggested sites feature.

  1. Open the New Tab page in the Firefox browser, for instance with the shortcut Ctrl-t.
  2. Click on the cogwheel icon on the page to display a configuration menu.
  3. Remove the checkmark from "include suggested sites".

To turn it back on, add the checkmark again.

Closing Words

I have never been a fan of suggestions or recommendations based on an analysis of the browsing history. The main reason for that is that the suggestions are either not very good or not safe bets. I have never seen a suggestion for a site that is not mainstream.

That does not mean that other Internet users may have the same objections. New users may find it useful but if you are a veteran Internet user it is unlikely that it will be of use to you.

Mozilla adds Suggested Sites feature to New Tab Page
Article Name
Mozilla adds Suggested Sites feature to New Tab Page
Mozilla added suggested sites recommendations to Firefox Nightly's New Tab page in the most recent update. Find out what it does and how to turn it off.

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    1. tomhawack said on May 15, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      If sites are suggested it means a server is informed of the sites I visit, compares it to a database and sends back the result. The number of add-ons which perform the same, for whatever service, is amazing.

      I do not want to be tracked. I do not want to be told what is good for me. I do not want to be brainwashed. I do not want to be so smart that I’d accept my brains giving the vulgar work of knowing itself (I was about to write himself!) to dedicated algorithms.

      We know that Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter and many others consider tracking as a free service for the user. Mozilla is all the same. Fed up. But Mozilla is less smart. Conclusion : Mozilla is bound to disappear. Within a few years only Firefox forks will be available, as well as forks of other browsers, the battle will be between the big established companies and a myriad of forked, parallel, open-source applications, browsers included. And Mozilla will be a souvenir. Unless the company changes, radically, it won’t survive. Being dishonest is one thing, but being stubborn, blind and deaf is another. No hope with the latter.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 15, 2015 at 7:33 pm

        Tom, the extension that Mozilla created did everything locally as far as I remember. Cannot say if this is the case for the native feature as well but it seems possible.

        1. Tom Hawack said on May 15, 2015 at 8:10 pm

          How is it possible to compare a user’s visited sites with the millions available, locally ? Or then it would mean that there is a data file downloaded to the user’s profile from which comparisons are established and suggestions performed, in which case the suggestion is more an incentive to visit one or more sites in the downloaded database… Am I missing something?

        2. Jan said on May 16, 2015 at 12:15 am

          It seems to me that you’re right, Tom.

        3. Hmm said on August 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

          Maybe you’d address Tom Hawack’s comment, because it’s quite clear that you’re the one missing something, not him.

    2. webfork said on May 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      I’m trying to see this from Mozilla’s perspective. Why both this feature and the Pocket addition mentioned earlier this week? Maybe they’re looking for attention to help shore up their user share or contrast all the attention Edge is getting? Firefox is supposed to be the browser that has all the great customizability via add-ons, but they don’t get any press until they add a new feature. Add-ons frequently don’t get press unless they work for multiple browsers. Additionally, many users just don’t do the add-on thing and want the base browser to do cool stuff.

      I don’t envy their position against Google or Microsoft. Software is hard and adding features that are already out there and working probably have a strong appeal. Still, setting aside issues transparency issues, are these really useful to the average user?

    3. Jeff said on May 15, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      I have my Firefox set to open about:blank on startup, and blank tab on new tabs. You can select blank tab from the cog wheel in the upper right corner of a new tab page.

      1. Tom Hawack said on May 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm

        Here with Cyberfox I’ve set browser.newtab.url to about:home, I think this is not possible with Firefox where the only alternative is about:blank

        user_pref(“browser.newtab.url”, “about:home”);
        user_pref(“browser.newtabpage.enabled”, false);
        user_pref(“browser.newtabpage.introShown”, false);
        user_pref(“browser.aboutHomeSnippets.updateUrl”, “”);

        Calling a new tab opens about:home, so no problem whatever with present and future Mozilla fantasies.
        I knew it from the beginning, when the NewTab feature landed (when was it, Firefox 4… ?) that it would be a source of problems.

        1. Ray said on May 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

          Same. I completely disable the New Tab Page functionality since I never use it. about:blank is still the best :)

          I do almost the exact same thing as Tom, but my browser.newtab.url is set to about:blank.

      2. S said on January 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        But I DON’T WANT a goddam ‘blank’ page, I want – and expect – to see the normal browser page when I open a new tab – not these boxes of shit!!

        WTF has gotten into Mozilla? Have they suddenly been staffed with google idiots? They’re certainly working very hard imitate that blundering, stupid, bloated, illogical, dictatorship.

        WAKE UP MOZILLA or you’ll lose those of us who left google in the first place, because you’re becoming no better than them!

        Stop making stupid changes just for the sake of change.

        Stop “fixing’ what isn’t broken.

        In fact, STOP making any changes without consulting your user base first! That’s why droves have abandoned google – because they railroad shitty changes through and don’t give a crap about their user base. Google (still) lives under the mistaken belief that users won’t leave them, while droves continue to do just that.

    4. Dave said on May 15, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Oh good, more positive changes. Time to go on Google again and see if any better builds popped up this week.

      [Ten minutes later…]


      1. gh said on May 16, 2015 at 1:38 am

        “third party builds” subforum at …have you tried any of those? I tested the v33 “Light” build and it certainly was usable. It’s hard for a builder to decide which features to axe and which to keep. For instance, Light dev had omitted ‘sync’ until several people whined to add it back (hmm, noscript or somesuch extension failed without sync available).

    5. Wminster said on May 15, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      So, just this week alone I had to manually disable in Firefox
      > EME DRM
      > Pocket native integration
      – new tab Suggested Sites feature

      But let’s all remember, status bar is gone because Mozilla needed to “get rid of bloat”. WTF?

      1. Sleeping said on May 15, 2015 at 10:50 pm

        I suggest that you use Pale Moon. It doesn’t have bloat and will not have :)

      2. Lestat said on May 16, 2015 at 1:26 am

        Downside is all new add-ons which require Australis do not work with Pale Moon and have to be rewritten.

        If you are no big add-on user, Pale Moon is for sure worth a try. If you are heavy into add-ons, give Seamonkey a try. Many Firefox add-ons can be converted and used thanks to Mozillazine’s add-on converter for Seamonkey.

        1. Jan said on May 16, 2015 at 10:27 am

          There are still a whole lot of addons which works fine.
          Obviously there are a bit less available than without the australis one, but one who use 15-20 addons like me can easily find what he needs.

    6. alex said on May 15, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      I’ve put up with Mozilla’s questionable decisions up until now and I’m not sure if I can any longer. It really is getting ridiculous.

    7. Lestat said on May 16, 2015 at 1:14 am

      May i again recommend :)

      And for all the ones who love more Open Source:

    8. Rhean said on May 16, 2015 at 7:56 am

      Ads automatically disappear when you start using the browser or you can just press one button to remove them instantly. This only effects new users who will see some default sites in the new tab screen, after 10 minutes of using the browser it will be as if they never had suggested sites.

    9. disqursive said on May 19, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Regarding changing the newtab page to about:blank or other url of one’s choosing —

      Looks like Mozilla plans to remove the preference that lets users do this. Per bugzilla bug 1118285:
      ( ).

      Got this from here, toward bottom of page: ( ).

      The bugzilla bug speaks of “abuse” of the preference and frames the issue as one of security and seems to tie it in somehow, at least timing-wise, with the unrolling of extension-signing (see comment 10).

      For my part, I think the so-called “abuse” that concerns Mozilla here is users’ ability to evade sponsored tiles etc. Mozilla has apparently decided to close the escape hatch. As for the verbiage about security and “abuse” of this preference — it strikes me as disingenuous.

      1. Anonymous said on June 28, 2015 at 9:26 am

        browser.newtab.url is now officially gone.

    10. pd said on May 20, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      I’m so very disappointed in the direction Mozilla is going. The end seems nigh.

    11. limw said on August 13, 2015 at 2:08 am

      every time I update a new version,there are always something make me feel discomfort,because Chinese can’t connect to google ,and can’t update the plugin from google shop,I have to use firefox.but I don’t know how long I will still keep using firefox.

    12. Max said on September 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      Adding my voice to the choir, this is a decision that just makes the choice between Chrome and Firefox irrelevant. The team behind Mozilla does not seem to understand that most of its users are here because they absolutely despise Google Chrome and would like control over how we browse the internet. Suggested sites are ads, i gave it the benefit of the doubt, but finally turned it off today, and when I get more time I’ll try and disable whatever info Mozilla is collecting manually.

      It is always a let down to see when companies fail to understand their customers. I know “pain” identification is usually only relevant to start-ups but a company should not enhance this “pain”.

    13. fuck firefox said on September 15, 2015 at 2:36 am

      I’m sick of having to figure out how to undo all this new bullshit they keep shoving on us. Can someone please fork this POS and make it sane again?

      1. Tristar said on October 17, 2015 at 3:50 am

        Check Cyberfox, it’s how FF should be with more customizability, built-in functions and NO FORCED SIGNING for extensions.

    14. Matt said on September 24, 2015 at 2:09 am

      Googlefox. Seems like Mozilla is going down the ‘we are going to change our software into an advertising and data-gathering platform to exploit our loyal userbase’ path. This forceful shoe-horning of the userbase into an unwanted online experience is getting old. Next we may expect rolling updates to the privacy policy which gradually whittle away the concept of privacy at all. My Firefox days seem to be coming to an end.

    15. Jerry Carwyn said on January 22, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      It looks ok, but, if you just started using firefox, it will keep on bothering with suggesting sponsored websites, which, aren’t necessary close to your needs. A great alternative for that is, which i’m using for a while. has a huge data-base of websites. I mean there is a large variety of categories from which you can choose what websites to pin to your start page. Also it provides cool widgets you can costumize. Guess i’ll keep this feature turned off and stick with

    16. Dick said on March 1, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      What the hell is going on with Mozilla Firefox? Every release something regressive is introduced, from those dark blue title bars and backgrounds a few years ago which total changed the look to something ugly, to the tracking beacons in this release, and everything in between, I trialled PaleMoon 6 months ago and I think I’m switching permanently, see you later Firefox after 15 rough years, don’t need the hassle of looking over my shoulder after each release.

    17. gargoyled said on August 26, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Privacy Raping users for profit tempts the morally weak.

      Privacy is a right not explicitly enumerated. It needs protection.


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