Firefox 56: Activity Stream target

Mozilla targets Firefox 56, out in the second half of 2017, as the first version to feature the organization's new Activity Stream new tab page.

We talked about Activity Stream before here on Ghacks. First, when it was released as a mockup showcasing the feature, and then later on when it was released as a Test Pilot add-on.

So what is Activity Stream, and what is the plan to integrate the feature into Firefox 56?

Activity Stream has been designed to replace the current new tab page (about:newtab) and home page (about:home) of the Firefox web browser.

Firefox displays a search field and pinned or popular sites on the new tab page by default currently.

The about:home page displays a search field as well, but also links to various Firefox features such as downloads, add-ons, sync or options. This page is only displayed until the user changes the homepage, or selects to open the previous browsing session.

firefox activity stream

Activity Stream changes what is displayed on these pages. The page features a search at the top which Firefox users can utilize to search using the default search engine.



Below that is a selection of six popular sites called top sites. While it is not possible currently to edit these sites or pin others to the top sites listing, it is Mozilla's plan to introduce the feature before the final version lands in Firefox 56.

You find highlights below the top sites listing. Activity Stream uses an algorithm to determine important sites that you visited in the past, to list them in the highlight section.

Read also:  Abandoned Firefox add-ons that break can be fixed but not uploaded to AMO

These are displayed with large thumbnails, page titles, URLs, a short description, and the last time the page was visited.

The recent activity is displayed in chronological order below the highlights section.

You can right-click on items listed there to perform regular link actions such as opening links in a new window or copying link locations.

When you hover over an item on the Activity Stream page, and click on the menu icon that appears, additional options are revealed.

activty stream

That menu is not final, but it enables you to delete an item from Firefox's history, to bookmark a page, or share it using various sharing options.

Mozilla's development team wants to reach feature parity with all core New Tab Page features that are currently available before it releases Activity Stream.

Firefox 56 will be released on October 3rd, 2017. The Activity Stream team targets Firefox 56 for the first initial integration of the feature in Firefox, but depending on how development progresses, it may be delayed after all.

Now You: What's your taken on Activity Stream?

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Firefox 56: Activity Stream target
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Mozilla targets Firefox 56, out in the second half of 2017, as the first version to feature the organization's new Activity Stream new tab page.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Responses to Firefox 56: Activity Stream target

  1. Earl February 1, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    What they should do: search box at the top, below that 2 lists--on the left put Most Visited, on the right Most Recently Bookmarked (or are they going to try and "sell" ad space again?).

    (HUH? "You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down."
    And I quote: "Now You: What's your taken on Activity Stream?")

  2. insanelyapple February 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    I have my own favourite sites already in the browser and I don't need any "tied experience for my activity" neither I trust any company that tries to fed me with such; thus, I will use anything that will provide me a way to bypass this and similar features.

  3. Yuliya February 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    The best new tab / home page is about:blank :)

    • l0rri February 1, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

      Yes!!! The last thing I want is more clutter on a page. Firefox seems to be forgetting "If it ain't broke, don't fix."

    • Ray February 1, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

      This.

  4. Tom Hawack February 1, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    Turns around the idea of users' activities and a trend to consider their data as recorded, kept; see social web, see Windows10. Illustrates the conflict between good sense, that of not calling for what a user has already used/downloaded and the bad reality of tracking.

    Personalty, given the excellent bandwidth at my disposal I kick caches and history regularly. I dislike my activity included in whatever enhanced philosophy of data -- mine -- management -- by others -- than myself.

    Hence, this 'Activity Stream', as I perceive it now, here, is bound to be ignored given the possibility to do so (Classic Theme Restorer and/or similar add-ons, css styles, scripts) remains accessible.

    At this time my Homepage here on Firefox is default 'Mozilla Firefox Start Page' with a css to remove all its screen elements and have only a background image of my choice. NewTab loads that StartPage. I call as well my FastDial add-on's page with a simple Up-Right mouse gesture.

    I don't want a startpage which handles my history/most visited pages, which would "advise" me of whatever, I do not want intrusion in my very own way of handling what I keep and what I want at my disposal. Period.

  5. greg February 1, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

    Yawn!

    I'm fine with a blank page being my Home.

    • Dhaktani June 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

      Why did you feel the need to write that? I dont think anyone cares. Someone please reply if I am wrong.

  6. pd February 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    Am I missing something? They've tweaked a few lists and dumped more "this is what we noticed when we were tracking you" on to the new tab page? This is called 'a feature' ?

    I must be missing something. I really must.

    +1 Blank page BTW, FWIW.

  7. Goliath February 1, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    I will be interested in trying it out IF it doesn't contact those sites on a regular basis to update the information displayed, so that websites can't know whenever I am online. There is this issue with favicons of opened tabs saved from last session currently. Geez, just save the icons once and don't have them be deleted with regular cache and history! Update them only for actively loaded tabs only!

    Same for Activity Stream: Only update the data when the website is visited directly, and in a way that doesn't do any network request that would not occur from normal browsing of the website.

    And let users delete cache and history while keeping Activity Stream data, which should be deletable as a separate kind of data because they would be created passively, taken from the cache and stored separately. As such they are not directly interacting with content, and should not be deleted with the regular "Clear private data" feature. (e.g. A button on the tab page instead is fine)

    THEN I would use it. Privacy first, fancy features second. If I have no privacy guarantee, i.e. if there are some network requests that occur outside of normal browsing, here's what happens:
    I don't use the new tabs feature, I won't use Activity Stream, and I start Firefox offline so that all favicon requests of opened tabs kept from the previous session fail. Then I go online. Once I'm done, I clear all private data. And no I don't lose anything from not using those features because of appropriate add-ons and workflows. I don't do ascetic browsing if that's the category you were gonna lump me into.

  8. Goliath February 1, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    I will be interested in trying it out IF it doesn't contact those sites on a regular basis to update the information displayed. I don't want websites to know whenever I am online. Favicons of opened tabs saved from last session suffer from this issue currently. The icons should be loaded on normal browsing and then NOT be deleted with regular cache and history. Then, they should only be updated/replaced when the tab is actively browsed to again.

    Same for Activity Stream: Only update the data when the website is visited directly, and in a way that doesn't do any network request that would not occur from normal browsing of the website.

    The other important bit is to let users delete cache and history while keeping Activity Stream data (and favicons), which should be deletable as a separate kind of data because they would be created passively, taken from the cache -- which was created through regular browsing -- and stored separately. As such they are never directly interacting with distant servers, and should not be deleted with the regular "Clear private data" feature. (e.g. A button on the tab page instead is fine)

    THEN I would use it. Privacy first, fancy features second. If I have no privacy guarantee, i.e. if there are some network requests that occur outside of normal browsing, here's what happens:
    I won't use Activity Stream, just like I don't use the new tabs feature and just like I start Firefox offline so that all favicon requests of opened tabs kept from the previous session fail. Then I go online. Once I'm done, I clear all private data. And no I don't lose anything from not using those features because of appropriate add-ons and workflows. I don't do ascetic browsing if that's the category you were gonna lump me into.

  9. neil February 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    not like this bit: "While it is not possible currently to edit these sites or pin others to the top sites listing, it is Mozilla's plan to introduce the feature before the final version lands in Firefox 56."
    i do not like current iteration of this 'new' idea and set home as about:blank
    on family & friends force homepage as google.co.uk for simplicity of my life and theirs to an extent

    & +1 Yuliya

  10. Mark Hazard February 1, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    I can't wait for October 2017. Go Mozilla!

  11. asd February 1, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

    Dreaming: Mozilla does not add anymore fluff to Firefox and just focuses on fixing all unresolved bugs waiting in Bugzilla and makes the browser more secure and speedy.

  12. Jack Alexander February 1, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

    Well, I'll be stopping at the previous version unless they have some new stunts for it. I like my home page as it is. I like speed dial and blank new pages. More head up the @ss thinking from Mozilla. It's shame. Firefox was the best.

  13. mikef90000 February 2, 2017 at 12:00 am #

    Looks like another useless project to implement an unstated agenda. Grrrrr.
    Seriously, the effing Hipster Devs should stop wasting everyone's time and just copy Opera's *customizable* Speed Dial page.

    • Mattaku February 2, 2017 at 12:45 am #

      I don't use Opera, but isn't the current new tab page exactly that ? A customizable speed dial. You have to go to about:config if you want to add rows and columns though, or use an add-on to get further features that Opera may not have, for all I know.

      Since Activity Stream will have at least "feature parity" with the current new tab page, it means you'll be able to customize it. Try it first, then diss it if it sucks.

      Why are automatic nay sayers always acting like rude entitled jerks ?

  14. Xircal February 11, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    I see ghacks.net is one of the tiles in the image (unless Martin photoshopped it).

    I don't see myself using the Activity Stream though. For one thing, I never use the default search engine because I live in the Netherlands.That means search engines default to the Dutch language version which is not my native language.

    Also, I don't like tabs on top and the toolbar buttons are on the wrong side of the page for my liking.

  15. Geoff March 30, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

    Activity Stream seems like a cool idea in theory, but it needs a new name and better execution. I would love this idea if it was an option for replacing the traditional history feature. They should call it Visual Bookmarks, Visual History, or even something like Facebook already uses called Timeline. Basically, when you click on the history toolbar button, it would load icons of the last 6 or so sites you visited, which you can then scroll to see another 6 and so on. You could customize it from there, pinning sites you want to keep, deleting ones you don't. That would be better than hijacking the new tab page, which nobody seems to like it when they do that. Plus, I like using Fast Dial. I don't want to give that up for your new tab page. Just have it replace history, or have it be its own tab. A Visual History feature could be really cool if done properly.

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