Three New Experiments for Firefox Test Pilot
Written by Janet Swift   
Thursday, 03 August 2017
Firefox Test Pilot is an opt-in program where you can have early access to features designed to be Firefox add-ins and extensions while they are in the early stages of development. This week three new experimental features have been made available - Voice Fill, Notes and Send.
Firefox Test Pilot has been around for over a year but, like so many of Mozilla's really good ideas, hasn't had the attention it deserves. Now it is trying harder to attract users. In July it launched a blog and it has also added messages to the Firefox home page to encourage us to try it - though I'm not entirely sure about this one:
From its Wiki we discover that:
Test Pilot is a series of stepping stones intended to take a rough concept to a shipping Firefox feature or Add-on. Test Pilot combines iterative prototyping, user research, and an opt-in user-facing testing platform. Experiments will go through phases which are designed to evaluate new feature concepts quickly and at low cost.
The first post on the new blog, which comes from John Gruen, Product Manager of Firefox Test Pilot and formerly its lead designer. explains that: 
Test Pilot is a process and a platform structured to let Firefox Design, Product, and Engineering teams research, prototype, test, and iterate on experimental features in the Firefox browser. Since launching, we’ve researched, sketched, prototyped, coded, surveyed, and analyzed data for a dozen experiments and we’re gearing up for a new set of launches!
As it was news of the three new experimental features that led me to Test Pilot lets cover them. They are pretty self-explanatory.
Send isn't just a Firefox feature, it works with other browsers, and is therefore billed as a "web experiment". It lets you upload and encrypt large files (up to 1GB) to share online. When you upload a file, Send creates a link to pass along to whomsoever you want which will expire after 1 download or 24 hours with all sent files automatically deleted from the Send server.
Voice Fill lets you speak to search engines and currently works with Google, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo. If you read our recent report Mozilla Wants Your Voice you may recognise this as part of its push into Speech-to-text artificial intelligence. Like most speech recognition facilities it takes a bit of getting used to but it soon had me trained and after that proved to be convenient. v1
For me Notes was an instant hit. It gives you a sidebar in which you can jot down your thoughts or use copy and paste to collect text as you trawl the web. The Notes sidebar travels with you as you move between tabs and windows.
There are three more ongoing experiments. Min Vid lets you display You Tube and Vimeo videos in a small frame that stays in the foreground as you browse the web. The idea of "watch while you work" must be appealing as there are over 228,000 participants for this. Containers has fewer than 8,000 testers and its idea is to let you create different containers for different aspects of you online life - social, personal, work - to stay organized and maintain privacy. For me Snooze Tabs seems a really great idea as it lets you set a convenient time for a tab of interest to open. It has nearly 50,000 participants and I think people might flock to Firefox Test Pilot to use it.
Of course, the good ideas from Test Pilot will make it into Firefox itself.
In his blog post Gruen tells us that the recently closed Page Shot experiment that lets you take, share, and retrieve screenshots - without leaving Firefox will be included in Firefox 55 as Firefox Screenshots while Activity Stream, which keeps your top sites, bookmarks and recent history close at hand in each new tab and has a timeline view of your browsing, will be included in Firefox later this year.
Firefox Test Pilot and its experimental projects are open sourced on GitHub so if you want to, get involved with tcreating them. If you just want to test them out and provide feedback go the Firefox Test Pilot and choose the experiments you are interested in.


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 August 2017 )