Firefox Test Pilot: Page Shot, Min Vid and Tracking Protection - gHacks Tech News

Firefox Test Pilot: Page Shot, Min Vid and Tracking Protection

Mozilla launched the three new Firefox Test Pilot experiments Page Shot, Min Vid and Tracking Protection today on the official site.

The main idea behind Test Pilot is to showcase and test features that may one day be integrated into Firefox if feedback is positive.

The new system offers several advantages over how features were previously introduced and tested in Firefox.

Previously, new features were only discussed on Bugzilla and internally, before they landed in Firefox Nightly. This meant that they landed as code in Firefox already -- on the nightly channel -- which meant that it was harder to remove code again.

Also, new features were not necessarily showcased when they were launched which meant that Mozilla might not have gotten a lot of feedback about them, and that users were surprised when they landed in Firefox Stable because of that.

With Test Pilot, features come as add-ons that users may install and remove at any time.

Firefox Test Pilot: Page Shot

firefox page shot

Page Shot is a screenshot taking add-on for Firefox. You may know that you can use the browser's Developer Bar to take screenshots, but those are full screenshots.

Page Shot adds an icon to Firefox's main toolbar that you can click on at any time to switch to an edit interface. This enables you to draw a rectangle around content that you are interested in and want to take a screenshot of.

The feature does not support scrolling with the mouse, but you may use the keyboard to take a screenshot of a larger area.

You cannot scroll on the page while drawing the rectangle but you may do so inbetween drawing phases.

The add-on uploads the screenshot automatically to the Mozilla operated pageshot.net website.

page shot website

There you may download it to the local system, use share options to share it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, share it using email, or copy a link pointing to the  capture.

Last but not least, you may trash the screenshot there at any time, or change the automatic expiration interval from 14 days to another such as 10 minutes, 2 months, or indefinitely.

All screenshots are obfuscated by cryptic URL strings followed by the site the screenshot was taken on.

Verdict: The feature is not designed for local use but for sharing. So much is clear when you consider that all screenshots are uploaded to the Pagenet website automatically with no option to prevent that.

Firefox Test Pilot: Min Vid

minvid

If you like to watch videos while using your computer and browsing the Internet, you may find MinVid useful. The experiment adds options to videos to play them in a small popover window while you navigate to other sites using the browser.

Basically, what you do is move the mouse over the video area. If the site is supported, you should see an overlay icon that you can click on to launch a small popover window for that video.

You may switch to other tabs in the browser and will notice that the video continues to play in the foreground in its small window.

The mini player offers controls that you may use to pause the video, change the volume, load it in a new tab, or close it.

The option won't work across windows though so keep that in mind.

Verdict: MinVid's implementation has a couple of issues currently. Videos may play at the same time for instance, and there is no option to continue on to the next video. It is probably better to use a third-party program or even a custom sized browser window to play YouTube videos while you are doing something else on the computer. The only situation where the feature may be useful in my opinion is when the screen is not large enough for that.

Firefox Test Pilot: Tracking Protection

firefox tracking protection

Tracking Protection is the name of the third and final experiment that Mozilla added to Test Pilot today.

Firefox ships with a Tracking Protection feature since version 39 of the browser, but it is enabled only in private browsing mode.

This experiment enables Tracking Protection outside of private browsing mode. It visualizes the mode with a shield icon in Firefox's address bar.

A click on the shield displays information about the current page, a toggle to enable or disable Tracking Protection for the site, and to give feedback to Mozilla. The two options provided allow you to inform Mozilla that Tracking Protection works well on the site and does not cause accessibility issues, or that there is a problem because of Tracking Protection.

Verdict: The feature seems to work really well. The downside is that you don't get a lot of options to control what is being blocked or allowed. While some users may like that, others might prefer a more granular approach to blocking elements on a site. The feedback integration is an excellent way however to improve Tracking Protection.

Now You: Do you find any of the experiments appealing?

Summary
Firefox Test Pilot: Page Shot, Min Vid and Tracking Protection
Article Name
Firefox Test Pilot: Page Shot, Min Vid and Tracking Protection
Description
Mozilla launched the three new Firefox Test Pilot experiments Page Shot, Min Vid and Tracking Protection today on the official site.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Sören Hentzschel said on September 28, 2016 at 8:37 pm
    Reply

    I love the text recognition feature of Page Shot. There is a search field in the “my shots” view where you can search for text in the screenshots. That’s a really nice idea if you take a lot of screenshots.

    By the way, I don’t have to use the keyboard for scrolling, the trackpad of my MacBook (which is my mouse replacement) works perfectly…

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 28, 2016 at 9:00 pm
      Reply

      Sören, you are right it works on Windows as well. I tried to scroll while drawing the rectangle, and that does not work. But if I draw, then scroll, then change the size of the rectangle, it works. I’ll edit the article right away.

  2. Jason said on September 28, 2016 at 9:42 pm
    Reply

    All very nice, but I’ll file it under the Hello / Pocket category. Can’t they just provide a barebones Firefox and let us add the extra functionality we want via extensions? Wasn’t that part of the point of Firefox? Screenshots and video minimizers are not core to the browser experience, and most users will never use them.

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on September 28, 2016 at 10:13 pm
      Reply

      Test Pilot experiments *are* extensions…

      And I disagree regarding Min Vid – Videos *are* core to the browser experience of most users so this extension does make sense. And by the way, Safari and Opera introduced both a similar feature like Min Vid as core feature, not as extension. Firefox is the *third* browser with such a feature – as extension.

      1. Jason said on September 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm
        Reply

        Yeah, but isn’t the idea here to eventually include these extensions as uninstallable “system addons”? That’s what I was talking about when I mentioned Pocket and the now defunct Hello.

        Regarding Min Vid, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’ll be surprised if even 30% of Firefox users end up using such a feature (I’m guessing 5%, but we’ll just have to see). Your argument of including Min Vid because the competition has something similar is…. exactly the problem with Mozilla development over the last few years.

        We’ve covered this ground before.

      2. Sören Hentzschel said on September 28, 2016 at 10:39 pm
        Reply

        > but isn’t the idea here to eventually include these extensions as uninstallable “system addons”?

        Maybe some of the features will be included, maybe not. Maybe as system add-on, maybe directly in the core, maybe they will stay extensions. I don’t think that there is a predefined path if a experiment is sucessfull, it depends on what makes sense. ;)

        If a feature is used by 5 percent, that’s really a lot. That still means ~ 25 millions Firefox users. Not that bad. Most Firefox settings are used by less users and I don’t think that you want the removal of most Firefox settings because they are not used so much, right? ;)

        But you misunderstood my point with Safari and Opera. My argument is that this feature can’t be an absurd feature, otherwise Mozilla wouldn’t be already the third (!) browser vendor developing such a feature. A lot of users use YouTube or similar platforms every day and it makes sense to do other things while watching videos. Yes, not every user need that, but that’s the case for most features. And a browser must offer a lot of features to make a lot of users happy because every user only uses a small part of a browser and there are millions of users…

      3. Jason said on September 28, 2016 at 11:00 pm
        Reply

        > If a feature is used by 5 percent, that’s really a lot. That still means ~ 25 millions Firefox users. Not that bad.

        I understand that, but if we follow this logic blindly we end up with a bloated Firefox. Besides, if 5% is enough to warrant something being included in the installation, I would think popular extensions like Adblock would deserve consideration long before Min Vid.

      4. Sören Hentzschel said on September 29, 2016 at 12:47 am
        Reply

        > Besides, if 5% is enough to warrant something being included in the installation, I would think popular extensions like Adblock would deserve consideration long before Min Vid.

        I understand your point, but blocking ads per default is a difficult topic. ;) I think nothing is wrong with ads under certain requirements such as not tracking users, so in my opinion ads should not be blocked in general… The tracking protection already blocks a lot of ads and I think that’s the correct approach – it solves a real problem, tracking. That’s why I think that there is no need to integrate ABP or a similar add-on directly in Firefox. Instead the tracking protection should be improved to give more control, for example different filter lists.

        But have a look at the top 3 Firefox add-ons:

        1. Adblock Plus – see above, the tracking protection goes in this direction
        2. Video DownloadHelper – It’s a completely different add-on than Min Vid, but both add-ons has to do with videos on YouTube and similar platforms
        3. Easy Screenshot – a screenshot solution, like Page Shot

        No add-ons have more users than these three add-ons. So there is a really strong correlation between the most used Firefox add-ons and the new Test Pilot experiments. That’s why there is no doubt that these are interesting topics for Firefox users.

      5. Jason said on September 29, 2016 at 4:44 am
        Reply

        Soren, those are tenuous connections between some of the add-ons you listed and the stuff in the Test Pilot program. I think you’re reaching. ;)

        Anyway, I used Adblock as an example of a very popular add-on. I could just as well have mentione Stylish. My point wasn’t that Firefox should integrate Adblock before it integrates Min Vid. Rather, it’s (a) that should be integrating as little as possible so that it doesn’t keep bloating; and (b) if a new feature MUST be integrated, there are probably a lot of extremely popular add-ons already that would be better candidates than a video minimizer.

        I get where you’re coming from, though. Just keep in mind that one of the many reasons people are ditching Firefox is out of frustration with the gimmicks being added to it. Even the tracking protection feature in Test Pilot may be viewed as bloat by users (we’ll have to see) if it cannot provide a really powerful security solution that is currently achieved by some combination of UBlock Origin, NoScript, etc. Why would I want to have a half-solution taking up resources on my system when I’ll still have to install the “real” solutions on top of this? That’s the kind of thing Mozilla needs to consider as it moves forward. Remember the roots of Firefox: keep it simple and open, and let users extend functionality / increase resource usage as they desire. Don’t weigh the thing down too much.

      6. Sören Hentzschel said on September 29, 2016 at 9:20 am
        Reply

        > those are tenuous connections between some of the add-ons you listed and the stuff in the Test Pilot program

        No. This correlations cannot be denied.

        > Anyway, I used Adblock as an example of a very popular add-on.

        As I said, the basic functionality of blocking ads is integrated in Firefox for private mode and in regular mode with this Test Pilot experiment. It has not a lot of features and it’s blocks only tracking ads but most ads are tracking ads. And if you need more then it’s no problem to install an add-on. There is no reason why Mozilla should block not tracking ads.

        > I could just as well have mentione Stylish.

        That’s a core feature of Firefox, no need for an add-on: userChrome.css and userContent.css

        > My point wasn’t that Firefox should integrate Adblock before it integrates Min Vid. Rather, it’s (a) that should be integrating as little as possible so that it doesn’t keep bloating; and (b) if a new feature MUST be integrated, there are probably a lot of extremely popular add-ons already that would be better candidates than a video minimizer.

        First, Min Vid is as extension and what could be sometime in the future is speculation. And as I already said, this feature makes a lot of sense because almost everyone uses video portals. The fact that Firefox is already the third browser with this feature confirms what I said. By the way, I already noticed a lot of positive feedback about the idea of Min Vid on various websites. Just saying. Maybe you don’t need id, but that’s not important. There is an use case and there are users loving this feature.

        > I get where you’re coming from, though.

        I don’t think so. I am a Firefox user. That’s where I’m coming from. I’m sure that’s not what you meant. But I see a lot of Firefox feedback because I read a lot.

        > Just keep in mind that one of the many reasons people are ditching Firefox is out of frustration with the gimmicks being added to it.

        That makes really no sense. If I don’t need a feature it’s no disadvantage for me, but it’s great for ALL users who like the features. You can be sure that you also use features which are not needed by a lot of other users, that’s for every user the case because every user is different (yeah, 500 millions users, there will be users with very similar interests, but I think you know what I mean). Reasons for ditching Firefox are real problems like performance problems, website problems and so on. But you can’t say that users are ditching Firefox only because Firefox can more than these users need, really, it makes no sense.

        > even the tracking protection feature in Test Pilot may be viewed as bloat by users

        Sorry, I read a lot about Firefox from all kinds of people, aber that’s something i’ve NEVER heard…

        > Why would I want to have a half-solution taking up resources on my system

        You won’t find an add-on for blocking content which need less ressources than the integrated tracking protection. And as I already said, ads are no problem in general, various aspects of ads can be a problem. Such as tracking. But if you want to block *all* add-ons than it’s something for an add-on.

        > Remember the roots of Firefox: keep it simple and open, and let users extend functionality / increase resource usage as they desire.

        Again: all Test Pilot experiments are add-ons. And it was NEVER the concept of Firefox to have no features. There was a version 1 and new versions can more things. Like every other software. There is no disadvantage for you if Firefox can do things, even if you don’t need this. And it’s really egoistic if you only want to see features in the core that are needed by you and not by others.

      7. Jason said on September 29, 2016 at 7:25 pm
        Reply

        Soren… you’re getting way too defensive mate. Way too dismissive, too. That’s ok, I am not looking to convince you of anything. :)

    2. the Users Choice browser said on September 29, 2016 at 8:01 pm
      Reply

      > Remember the roots of Firefox: keep it simple and open, and let users extend functionality / increase resource usage as they desire.

      …Completely on board with Jason here!!! …and it was this “Principle” through which Firefox came into being as well as the creation of the addon industry … the users browser.

      My own ‘personal’ wish is that firefox would have seemless print-to-pdf integration. Chrome does this natively and unobtrusively, especially handy on windows systems where export to xps is the default.

  3. Maou said on September 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm
    Reply

    I don’t like pageshot auto uploading my images without my consent (when I copy things from a website I do for offline use), in the end this webpage will be filled with porn or worst :).
    Tracking protection feature may be redundant for privacy badger users?

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on September 28, 2016 at 10:30 pm
      Reply

      Nothing happens without user consent. If you don’t like to store screenshots online then you won’t use Page Shot. And Page Shot only does a screenshot if the user *want* to do a screenshot, you have to click a toolbar button and then you have to select a area, and finally you have to press a save button. It can’t happen accidentally.

  4. Dave said on September 29, 2016 at 12:04 am
    Reply

    I don’t want a built-in page shot feature any more than I want a built-in calculator, or a built-in filter set for photo uploads. These things can be extensions, and even that is a push. Keep them out of my web browser.

    Can we just collectively buy Mozilla and replacement the management? I’ll pitch in a fair chunk of money, knowing that the firing of their shitty directors would send the share price rocketing.

  5. Parker Lewis said on September 29, 2016 at 12:15 am
    Reply

    MinVid sounds nice. It’s not always worth watching a video, sound-only is often fine, and then keeping a loose eye on what’s up while visiting another website can be convenient. (But not worth opening it in another browser window or instance IMHO)

    Tracking Protection has its place within Firefox core as an opt-in, the other two would make proper add-ons.

    I guess what will happen will depend on user adoption and feedback. Test Pilot sounds like a less risky way PR wise to try risky features like Hello and Pocket. The question is, will there be enough users for it to be a complete replacement of the current way to run such experiments ? For the sake of innovation in the browser market, I hope so.

    It has proven to be pretty tricky PR wise to add UX-related features to a mature product with a mature userbase, regardless of the product. (This fact alone makes add-ons strategically priceless, provided good discoverability)

  6. Palemoon Atom XP said on September 29, 2016 at 2:02 am
    Reply

    — more options for tracking your habits —

  7. Ben said on September 29, 2016 at 7:47 am
    Reply

    So will they also fix their 10yrs old bug that a screenshot has a maximum size?
    Pretty annoying for long pages.

  8. earthling said on September 29, 2016 at 4:34 pm
    Reply

    I love that they don’t just include those new should-be extensions for everyone anymore.
    I really hope it stays that way and they’ll just offer those new things as extensions or slightly worse but still okay provide them as extensions in the /browser/features folder so we’ll be able to delete them if we don’t want them.
    Including those new features in the core would be the absolutely least desirable way to add them to FF; then at least give us a pref in about:config to fully disable it.

    Page Shot: looks nice and could be handy in rare cases for me. I usually don’t take screenshots to share them.
    As Martin wrote: “You may know that you can use the browser’s Developer Bar to take screenshots, but those are full screenshots.” — there’s another and better built-in way and that’s my preferred solution to taking screenshots:
    http://winaero.com/blog/take-a-screenshot-of-a-specific-web-page-element-in-firefox/

    Tracking Protection: I don’t see how this is anything new to what’s already available.
    I think TP needs to be included in the core but in a way that allows users to disable it and use something superior, just as it is at the moment.

  9. Do the Maths said on September 29, 2016 at 7:48 pm
    Reply

    Tracking protection
    and
    Safebrowsing
    in the same browser
    is equal to an
    Oxymoron.

  10. pd said on September 29, 2016 at 8:11 pm
    Reply

    Please get the smelling salts out and shunt them up my nostrils … the words Firefox, new, useful, features … all in one sentence! I’m stunned :) Pleasingly stunned.

    Screenshotting/annotation is such an enormously overdue feature. Various addons have proved the desire for it but done it somewhat poorly in different ways. This test feature sounds like it could be done better but hopefully it’s the start of something good, not the end point.

    That it’s taken 3 years after Snowden to get genuine native tracking protection is hugely disappointing. The web’s privacy and permissions model needs a huge overhaul and could learn a lot from smartphones and smartphone security could take look at the browser encryption UI.

  11. Ted said on September 30, 2016 at 7:30 am
    Reply

    Firefox needs an about:flags page like Chrome has. Then they can run many experiments at once. Two or three at a time with Test Pilot wastes everybody’s time.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 30, 2016 at 10:22 am
      Reply

      You mean something like about:config?

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