Firefox avoids the cloud for its privacy-friendly translation service

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 196   +94
Staff
In context: Most translation services rely on remote servers and cloud-hosted AI frameworks to work their magic, while turning one language into another. Firefox Translations goes the opposite way, offering something "cloud-free" to privacy-aware netizens.

Even though Firefox isn't as popular as it once was, you can still count on the fact that Mozilla will do something different compared to the ubiquitous Google Chrome.

Case in point: the open source foundation is currently working on a new translation tool, a Firefox extension designed to respect users privacy aptly named Firefox Translations.

Unlike Google Translate, Bing Microsoft Translator, DeepL Translate and other online services of that kind, Firefox Translations algorithms work completely offline. In other words, translations are done locally on the client-side, Mozilla explains, using the system CPU (SSE4.1 extension support is required for the addon to work properly) to ensure that "the text being translated does not leave your machine."

Firefox Translations currently support the following 10 languages in "production" mode: Spanish, Estonian, English, German, Czech, Bulgarian, Portuguese, Italian, French, Polish.

Development is still ongoing to extend support to Russian, Persian (Farsi), Icelandic, Norwegian Nynorsk, Norwegian Bokmål, Ukrainian, and Dutch.

Mozilla is working with The Bergamot Project Consortium – whose work is focused on "machine translation done locally in your browser" – and several European universities to develop and further improve Firefox Translations. The project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, which should grant enough money to eventually get a decent offline alternative to Google Translate.

Mozilla recently released a new version of Firefox Translations (1.2), bringing some flexibility to the tool with free text translation support. Previous versions of Firefox Translations could only translate full web pages at once, while choosing the system language as the sole target for the translation; version 1.2 will let users paste any custom text in a new dedicated translation UI, selecting a different target language as well. An option to select text on a web page for a direct translation is still missing though.

Firefox Translations is growing and improving at a steady pace, while the EU funding should cover development efforts from Mozilla and avoid the grim future of Firefox OS and other recent offers from the organization.

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brunocasarini

Posts: 13   +43
I've been using Firefox portable since its release and it's great. I used Google Chrome for a while, but quit after realizing it became a data hoarder for Google (just like all their apps). Nowadays, I use Firefox for my personal stuff and Brave for everything else.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 896   +1,426
Maybe there is some life left at Mozilla. They've been focused on making money on privacy-oriented services for that past few years, which is very different from what they used to do. They used to provide open and private products for free that compete with closed, paid, or non-private products. They used to focus on empowering anyone on the web (engineers, designers, end-users, etc.), and now they focus on the same people that every other tech company empowers. And they used to take risks and be on the side of every individual, but corporate governance has stopped that too.

Mozilla altered their manifest in 2018 to reflect this. They still have values, but those values have changed. They've strayed from "innovat[ing] for the benefit of the individual and the betterment of the web so it always and forever serves the greater good" like they said 12 years ago:
 

maroon1

Posts: 163   +189
I love Firefox, I have only ONE problem with it - it's slow. So on my slower comps it's simply useless.

Chrome is much slower than Firefox. They have old computer in my workplace and Firefox is much faster for me.
 

hwertz

Posts: 212   +124
Very cool. I have seen how my Android phones have gotten much more powerful over the last 10 years, as has my personal computer. Speech-to-text, translation, etc. all send my information off to some google server, which *may* have been necessary 10-15 years ago due to the available processing power of the local device but sure isn't now. I'm pleased to see firefox moving this into the local device, and as a firefox user I'll be pleased to try it out. Thanks firefox! (I do realize this is talking about chrome versus firefox on computer.
 

Feng Lengshun

Posts: 46   +21
I don't think this is particularly new? And I don't think this is unique to Firefox either. I know that Brave has something similar, and I could've sworn that Vivaldi has it as well.