By this point in the internet’s history, most of us have come to terms with the fact that accessing the web involves giving up information about ourselves every time we visit a website. Mozilla thinks we can do better, and so it’s launching Rally, a data-sharing platform and plugin the company claims is the first-of-its-kind in the browser space. With Rally, Mozilla says it hopes to make a case for an equitable market for data, “one where every party is treated fairly” and “where people understand the value of their data.”
In practice, Rally will allow you to share your browsing data with computer scientists and sociologists studying the web. Out of the gate, they’ll be a single study from Princeton University that seeks to understand how people find, consume and share news about politics and COVID-19. At some point later, Beyond the Paywall from Stanford University will examine the economics needed for a more sustainable news landscape.
“A core focus of the initiative is enabling unprecedented studies that hold major online services accountable,” Mozilla said. To that end, the company is also releasing a toolkit called WebScience that allows researchers to create standardized browser-based studies on Rally. Mozilla claims WebScience promotes data minimization, the practice of limiting data collection to only the information needed for a specific purpose. As of today, Rally is available to Firefox desktop users over the age of 19 in the US.
Much like when Brave added support for IPFS browsing, Rally is one of those features that could profoundly affect how we surf the internet, but it will take more browsers adopting the platform for it to deliver on its promise. As of May 2021, Firefox had a 3.36 percent share of the global browser market, according to StatCounter. And it will take buy-in from Google or, more likely, Apple to move the needle. To that point, Mozilla says it plans to bring Rally to other web browsers and countries. At the same time, we wouldn’t count the company out as it has historically had an outsized influence on other players in the space. As just one example, when Apple introduced its tracking prevention policy in 2019, the company cited a similar set of rules from Mozilla as inspiration.
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