What’s with browser companies trying to predict where we want to click next? First Chrome, and now Firefox. Under the Prospector experiment, Mozilla Labs have released a new restartless add-on called Predictive Newtab for Firefox that attempts to guess, or rather suggests, a list of sites that the user may want to visit when they open a new tab.
The new tab page of a browser is a continuously evolving experiment. Long ago, there were homepages – a single website that opened whenever a new tab or browser window was launched. The idea of only one website on a whole new tab bothered a Norwegian browser company, and they launched Speed Dial in the spring of 2007 with Opera version 9.2. That was the beginning of the new tab revolution. Hundreds of speed dial add-ons for Firefox and variations of it started appearing on Mozilla’s website. Google launched Chrome the following year, and the browser by default show a list of most visited and recently closed pages along with a number of bookmarks. Opera took speed dial a step further by introducing dynamic speed dials with Opera Next early this year. Before that, Firefox was experimenting with tab grouping and we saw this in Chrome too.
Today, you can do a lot with the new tab page, thanks to the ten thousand different extensions we have for Firefox and Chrome, with Opera chipping in a handful. Add another one to that – Predictive Newtab.
Predictions based on Pandora
The idea of Predictive Newtab is to supplement the fixed list of top sites with a dynamic list relevant to what you are currently browsing, based on your bookmarks and past browsing history. For example, if you are on YouTube and you open a new tab, Predictive Newtab may suggest you Vimeo or Dailymotion, but if and only if, you have these sites in your bookmarks or in your browser history.
Suggestions are currently displayed along with some experimental statistics such as score (which is how similar the tags are), frequency (which is a measure of frequency and recency) and others. Hub determines algorithmly whether a website is good candidate for being a “home page” or otherwise important page in a website, and BM Engine is an indicator of whether the search result came from a bookmark tag.
Typically, Predictive Newtab works best if you have a large number of well-tagged bookmarks, but it should work if you have no bookmarks too, according to Mozilla. Truth is: it does not. If you want to try out this experimental add-on, a set of well-organized bookmarks is a must, otherwise you will just get a blank page.