Firefox Translations: Firefox's offline translate feature is making progress
Firefox Translations, Firefox's privacy friendly built-in translate feature, has reached a new milestone with the release of a new add-on version.
Translate functionality that is built-into the web browser was introduced by Google and its Chrome web browser. You had to install browser extensions before that or rely on manual translations before that.
Most translate services require an Internet connection to work. Google Chrome communicates with the company's Google Translate service to return translated content to the user. While that is handy, some users dislike the privacy implications of translate services.
Some browser makers have integrated privacy-friendly translate services as a response. Vivaldi Technologies, maker of the Vivaldi browser, integrated such a service in Vivaldi 4.3. Instead of using a cloud-based third-party service or untrusted translate feature, Vivaldi Technologies is hosting its own translate service instance.
The holy grail from a privacy perspective is a browser that supports local translations that do not require an Internet connection at all. Mozilla has been working on that for some time now for its Firefox web browser. Mozilla integrated Firefox Translations in the Nightly version of the browser in mid 2021, but it stopped working eventually and little information was released on the status of the project.
Mozilla continued its work on Firefox Translations in the background. A new version has been released some days ago that improves the functionality significantly. If you read the 2021 article on the integration in Firefox, you may remember that Firefox Translations supported only a handful of languages at the time. It could be used to translate English, Spanish and Estonian, and English into German.
Firefox Translations 1.1.2 introduces support for additional languages. Right now, English, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, German, Italian, Norwegian Bokmål, Portuguese and Spanish are supported fully. The languages Icelandic, Norwegian Nynorsk, Persian and Russian are listed as beta.
Firefox Translations adds an icon to the browser's address bar; a click on the icon displays a toolbar that resembles the translate toolbar of other browsers. Since Firefox Translations is running all translate jobs locally, it is necessary to download language packs that power the functionality.
When a user selects a language for the first time, its language pack is downloaded to the local system. Once downloaded, Firefox will identify the language automatically. The system language is not displayed as a translate source. If Firefox is in English, you won't get translate options to translate English pages to another language, only the other way around.
Besides improved language support, work on improving the performance of the translate feature has continued. There is room for improvement, as there is a noticeable delay between hitting the translate button and receiving the translated page. It took a second or two in tests, but mileage may vary. Translation quality was excellent, but more tests are required to assess the quality and compare it to translations by popular online services.
Mozilla added several other improvements in the latest version. Firefox Translations supports Apple Silicon Chip devices, the translations of forums, and the highlighting of translate errors. Firefox users may also enable the automatic translation of selected languages.
The latest Firefox Translations add-on is available on GitHub. It can be installed in Nightly and Developer editions of the web browser. Users need to set the preference xpinstall.signatures.required to FALSE and the preference extensions.experiments.enabled to TRUE on about:config to install the add-on in the browser.
Built-in translate functionality that is privacy friendly could give Firefox a much needed boost once it is integrated into the stable version of the browser. There is no fixed date yet. Mozilla still has work to do, including adding more languages and improving the performance of the service further.
Now You: will you use Firefox Translations when it is released? (via Sören Hentzschel)Advertisement