March 31, 2005 10:41 AM PST

Google enhances search for Firefox users

Google has added a new feature to its search engine that allows Firefox users to obtain search results more quickly.

Reza Behforooz, a software engineer at Google, announced on Wednesday that the search engine now preloads the top search result into the cache of Mozilla browsers.

"Now Google's faster than ever on Firefox and Mozilla browsers," Behforooz said in a posting on the company's blog. "When you do a search on these browsers, we instruct them to download your top search result in advance, so if you click on it, you'll get to that page even more quickly."

The search engine's preloaded link feature is supported by Mozilla browsers, including Firefox, but because Microsoft's Internet Explorer and other browsers do not provide such functionality, they will not be able to use the feature.

There are some potential issues, however. Google points out in an FAQ that "you may end up with cookies and Web pages in your Web browser's cache from Web sites that you did not click on."

A few Firefox users have expressed concern about this feature on the Mozillazine site. They say people risk unknowingly downloading illegal content, and could end up using more bandwidth when surfing.

"You'll run into trouble if the first match is a porno site and your company's proxy logs it--you get all cookies of the first match without seeing the page," one Firefox user said.

Another user, Alex Bishop, said that even if people unknowingly download illegal content using the link feature, the content is flagged in a different way from content they've chosen to download.

"An 'x-moz: prefetch' header is sent with the request, and the referrer header will match the Google search results page," Bishop said.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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I never click the top result
It's odd that Google would make this feature automatic rather than providing Firefox users an optional modification. The entire essence of Firefox is its adaptability via communally developed modifications.

I understand the rush to dismount Internet Explorer from its podium, but doing so by placing Firefox users in a forced position to accept Googles perceived enhancement does not suit my search engine habits. I rarely select the first result produced by Google, and more times than not I find the third and fourth results more in-tune to my desires.

For Google to assume that the top result is any more important than the second, third, or fourth result is crazy. If they suspect the first result is most important... why do they even provide all the others?

I hope Google reconsiders this move and chooses to follow the "Firefox way" and make this and all future enhancements available via the accepted method of downloadable modifications rather than through unacceptable compulsion.
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Well actually, not just firefox
Apparently this will work on all Gecko Browsers, not just Firefox, but also Mozilla and any smaller browser utilising the engine.

Google aren't forcing anything on anyone, they're simply adding a tag to the first search result that informs a Mozilla browser that the chances are quite high of the user wanted to retrieve the first result next.

The feature has been part of Firefox/Mozilla for some time now and Google have decided to implement as some website already have. This already happens on some blogs so it's not a new thing.

To stop your browser from performing these prefetches, navigate to:
about:config
and set
network.prefetch-next = false

done. There isn't any trickery going on, simply Google implement a feature of these browsers.
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