Mozilla plans to make ‘Do Not Track’ mode the default for Firefox users.
Mozilla’s VP of product strategy, Nick Nguyen, outlined the company’s plan and the reasoning behind it in a blog post.
However, Nguyen explained that it’s about more than just not tracking by default. Mozilla plans to implement better anti-tracking measures that will improve loading speeds, effectively block cross-site tracking and more.
Better performance without tracking
Nguyen cites a Ghostery study that claims you can nearly double your browsing speed by blocking trackers. In other words, trackers account for about half of what you load when you visit a page.
Right now, Mozilla is testing a feature in its Firefox Nightly browser — an early test build of Firefox — that blocks trackers with a detrimental effect on load times.
Furthermore, Mozilla will run a shield study in September. Users can opt into shield studies, which allow Mozilla to run test software on browsers to see how it works in the real world. You can check studies you’ve participated in by typing “about:studies” in the address bar of your Firefox browser.
Nguyen writes that if the approach goes well, the feature will be enabled by default in Firefox 63, due out in October.
Stricter do not track
While most browsers have a Do Not Track setting now, the feature is unfortunately hamstrung in a big way. Currently, Do Not Track acts like a request. When you visit a website, DNT asks the site not to track you.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it won’t.
Instead, Mozilla plans to implement a feature that blocks cross-site tracking at the browser level. Third-party trackers will be blocked from cookies and storage access.
This feature is available for testing in Firefox Nightly as well. It will be part of a shield study in September, with a planned release in Firefox 65.
Putting a stop to other harmful practices
While tracking can be a frustrating online practice, there are worse practices. Fingerprinting, for example, uses information about the user’s device to assign them a digital identity and monitor them across the web.
Apple already took a stand against that practice at its WWDC conference this year. It will add a feature to Safari in macOS Mojave that will make all Macs look the same to websites.
Firefox also plans to block fingerprinting in a future release, along with scripts that leverage users’ computers to mine cryptocurrency.
While advertisers bemoaned Apple’s move to block trackers, it seems more companies are getting on board. Even Google Chrome has a Do Not Track mode — funny, considering how much data the search giant collects.
If more companies follow Apple and Mozilla, we’ll have a much better web experience. And advertisers will have to find a new, less invasive way of selling things online.
Update 01/23/2019: Ghostery is threatening an anti-trust action over the proposed changes, according to 9to5Google.