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Tag Archives: browser

Blockchain browser Brave starts opt-in testing of on-device ad targeting

Brave , an  ad-blocking web browser with a blockchain-based twist , has started trials of ads that reward viewers for watching them — the next step in its ambitious push towards a consent-based, pro-privacy overhaul of online advertising. Brave’s Basic Attention Token (BAT) is the underlying micropayments mechanism it’s using to fuel the model. The startup was founded in 2015 by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, and  had a hugely successful initial coin offering  last year. In a blog post announcing the opt-in trial yesterday, Brave says it’s started “voluntary testing” of the ad model before it scales up to additional user trials. These first tests involve around 250 “pre-packaged ads” being shown to trial volunteers via a dedicated version of the Brave browser that’s both loaded with the ads and capable of tracking users’ browsing behavior. The startup signed up Dow Jones Media Group as a partner for the trial-based ad content back in April . People interested in joining these trials are being asked to contact its Early Access group — via  community.brave.com . Brave says the test is intended to analyze user interactions to generate test data for training its on-device machine learning algorithms. So while its ultimate goal for the BAT platform is to be able to deliver ads without eroding individual users’ privacy via this kind of invasive tracking, the test phase does involve “a detailed log” of browsing activity being sent to it. Though Brave also specifies: “Brave will not share this information, and users can leave this test at any time by switching off this feature or using a regular version of Brave (which never logs user browsing data to any server).” “Once we’re satisfied with the performance of the ad system, Brave ads will be shown directly in the browser in a private channel to users who consent to see them. When the Brave ad system becomes widely available, users will receive 70% of the gross ad revenue, while preserving their privacy,” it adds. The key privacy-by-design shift Brave is working towards is moving ad targeting from a cloud-based ad exchange to the local device where users can control their own interactions with marketing content, and don’t have to give up personal data to a chain of opaque third parties (armed with hooks and data-sucking pipes) in order to do so. Local device ad targeting will work by Brave pushing out ad catalogs (one per region and natural language) to available devices on a recurring basis. “Downloading a catalog does not identify any user,” it writes. “As the user browses, Brave locally matches the best available ad from the catalog to display that ad at the appropriate time. Brave ads are opt-in and consent-based (disabled by default), and engineered to operate without leaking the user’s personal data from their device.” It couches this approach as “a more efficient and direct opportunity to access user attention without the inherent liabilities and risks involved with large scale user data collection”

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Google demo shows how AR can thrive on the web

Google has been hyping up augmented reality on the web, and it's easy to understand why -- it promises an immersive experience without requiring a special app. But what does that look like in practice? The company now has an easy way to find out....

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Google puts an end to Chrome extension installs from third-party sites

Google today announced a major change to its Chrome Web Store policy that aims to shield users from websites that try to fool them into installing their Chrome extensions. Until now, developers who publish their apps in the Web Store could also initiate app and extension installs from their own websites. Too often, though, developers combined these so-called “ inline installs ” with deceptive information on their sites to get users to install them. Unsurprisingly, that’s not quite the experience Google had in mind when it enabled this feature back in 2011, so now it’s shutting it down. Starting today, inline installation will be unavailable to all newly published extensions. Developers who use the standard method for calling for an install from their site will see that their users will get redirected to the Chrome Web Store to complete the installation. Come September 12, 2018, all inline installs of existing extensions will be shut down and users will be redirected to the store, too. Come December and the launch of Chrome 71, the API that currently allows for this way of installing extensions will go away. “As we’ve attempted to address this problem over the past few years, we’ve learned that the information displayed alongside extensions in the Chrome Web Store plays a critical role in ensuring that users can make informed decisions about whether to install an extension,” James Wagner, the product manager for the extensions platform, writes in today’s update. “When installed through the Chrome Web Store, extensions are significantly less likely to be uninstalled or cause user complaints, compared to extensions installed through inline installation.” As Wagner notes, inline installations have been an issue for a long time. Back in 2015 , for example, sites that tried to deceive users into installing extensions by getting them to click on fake ads or error messages were the main issue.

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Firefox launches side-by-side browsing and a theme editor as Test Pilot experiments

Mozilla’s Firefox is back in the browser game, thanks to its recent updates which now allow it to once again challenge the likes of Google’s Chrome browser. One thing that always made Firefox stand out was its willingness to experiment. In recent years, the organization channeled many of these experiments through its Test Pilot program and today, it’s launching two new projects through this project: Firefox Color and Side View. Firefox Color does pretty much what you probably expect it to do. It’s essentially a theme editor that allows you to pick the colors in your browser and even set textures for things like your background, for example. It’s nothing all that fancy, but if Firefox has always been about customization and this takes it to the next level. Having played with plenty of Firefox themes in my day, I know that I always just go back to the default sooner or later, but if that’s not you, then Firefox Color is for you. The second new experiment strikes me as really useful, though. With Side View, you can use your widescreen monitor and display two tabs side-by-side inside the browser without having to open a second Firefox window. You simply click on the new Side View button, select the tab you want to open in the second viewport and off you go. I would love it if you could simply drag a currently open tab to that icon, but it’s a good start. Not every Test Pilot experiment makes it into Firefox, but some of the recent experiments that did include the browser’s screenshot tool , containers and activity stream . I don’t think I care if Color makes it, but Side View would be nice to have available by default. Both of these new experiments are now available here

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The next version of macOS is macOS Mojave

Apple isn’t done with macOS just yet. The company presented the next version of macOS at the WWDC developer conference . With macOS Mojave, Apple is leaving the mountain metaphors behind. “Today we’re excited to take Mac a huge leap forward,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi started with dark mode. With a single setting, you can invert the colors of everything. Even the background of the Finder, Calendar or Photos is black, not just the Dock or menubar. Apple had to redo all the buttons and color schemed across the operating system. If you find white documents too aggressive, dark mode is for you. With the next version of macOS, the wallpaper and desktop will adapt depending on the time of they day, from morning to afternoon and night. On the desktop, macOS can automatically stack all your documents in the Desktop folder by format. In the Finder, there’s a new Gallery view. It works a bit like the old Cover Flow feature, but with a flat design and metadata. It can be quite useful for a folder of photos for instance. In the metadata column, there are customizable actions using Automator.

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ZenScreen could help you achieve a ‘balanced digital diet’

Skyfire co-founder Nitin Bhandari is working on a new approach to cutting our addiction to social media and reducing screen time with a startup called ZenScreen . The startup has raised $700,000 in funding from Opera ( now Otello ) and assorted angel investors. It launched iOS and Android apps last month, as well as a Chrome browser extension. Bhandari, who also served as senior vice president of consumer apps at Opera after the acquisition of Skyfire , said that during his work on mobile browsers and apps, he started to worry about whether creating more engaging — even addictive — apps was a worthwhile goal: “The cognitive dissonance was really eating at me and my team.” Existing apps lock you out of your browser or smartphone for limited periods of time — for example, I use Forest to cut down on distractions when I need to focus on writing. But Bhandari said the “don’t even touch your phone” approach is “just not practical” for many people. So ZenScreen includes a number of different features that are designed to create what Bhandari said is “almost like a balanced digital diet.” (In fact, ZenScreen created an “AppKins Digital Health Pyramid” showing which apps you can use as much as you want, and others that should  be limited.) Adults can use it to control their own app usage, as well as that of their kids. For example, instead of trying to keep you off your phone for, say, an hour each morning, ZenScreen offers something called Smart Mornings, where you have 10 minutes to access social apps, followed by 20 minutes where you can only open work apps and utilities. Similarly, you can set limits on how much time you spend on social/entertainment apps during the day and restrict social media again when it’s close to bedtime. To do this, Bhandari said ZenScreen had to solve “a really hard problem to figure out which app is being used and how long it’s in the foreground.” The company uses VPN technology to monitor your app usage, though Bhandari said, “We have a very unique VPN where all of the technology runs right on your device and sensitive data never comes to our servers.” ZenScreen offers access to personal app usage analytics and its Quiet Time feature for free, then charges $4.99 per month for everything else. “I actually compare our pricing to a gym membership — that’s kind of what we’re doing for your brain,” Bahndari said. “When you compare it to $80 a month, or $100 a month for the gym, $4.99 seems like such a no brainer if this topic is important to you.”

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Okta’s PassProtect checks your passwords with ‘Have I Been Pwned’

Okta just launched a free browser extension for Google Chrome today. After installing PassProtect , your browser will compare the passwords you type with Troy Hunt’s Have I Been Pwned . This extension isn’t necessarily for you, tech savvy readers of TechCrunch. But it could be a great way to warn your neighbor who doesn’t know anything about computers. Maybe their Gmail password has been part of a data breach. Have I Been Pwned is a big database with all the passwords that have leaked over the years. There have been security breaches at Dropbox, LinkedIn, Tumblr or Adobe services. So chances are you’ve been pwned in the past. That’s why you should be using a password manager, a different password for each online service and two-factor authentication when it’s possible. And that’s also why many companies rely on Okta to secure your authentication to a company’s intranet. But the vast majority of users don’t do that

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