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Free Translation Via Firefox – Even Offline

Firefox mobile browser icon app on screen smartphone iPhone. Mozilla Firefox is a free browser based on the Quantum engine.

The new, free Firefox Translations browser extension translates websites in the browser without using the cloud, using machine learning. 

Client-Side Translations

Firefox Translations provides an automated translation of web content. Still, unlike cloud-based alternatives, the translation is done locally, on the client-side, so the translated text does not leave the user’s machine. With Firefox Translations, the engines, language models and in-page translation algorithms reside and are executed entirely in the user’s computer, so none of the data is sent to the cloud. This enables the use of the tool offline, making it convenient in any situation and frees the user from any worries about privacy concerns relating to using cloud providers. 

How It Was Made

The new Firefox add-on/extension was developed using a high-level API around the machine translation engine and ported to WebAssembly (a new type of code). The operations for matrix multiplication were then optimised to run efficiently on CPUs (a computer’s central processor). This enabled Mozilla to develop a translation add-on that allowed local machine translation integration into every web page so that users could perform free-form translations without using the cloud.  

Part Of Project Bergamot

Firefox Translations was developed as part of EU-funded Project Bergamot (2019), which saw Firefox work as part of a consortium including the University of Edinburgh, Charles University, University of Sheffield, and University of Tartu. 

Competitors

There are several other widely used competing machine learning-based web translation tools, including Google Translate (website interface, mobile app and API), Microsoft Translator (machine translation cloud service using the Translator API and Speech service), and DeepL Translator (a neural machine translation service).   

The significant differences between them are that: 

– Firefox Translations works offline and doesn’t use the cloud, so that some users may see it as a more private option. 

– Firefox Translations covers fewer languages, only 12 compared to Google Translate’s 100+ languages. 

– Mozilla says that Firefox Translations includes two novel features. These are the translation of forms to allow users to input text in their language that is dynamically translated on-the-fly to the page’s language and quality estimation of the translations. This automatically highlights low confidence translations on the page, notifying users of potential errors. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

In a global marketplace, translator tools can be very convenient and useful, whereby technologies such as machine learning have given them the more excellent value and functionality that users require. In recent years, however, there have been data security and privacy concerns based on web translators and apps, e.g. the Translate.com data breach, worries about cloud connections to translation tools and how trade secrets and intellectual property could be exposed. A translation tool, such as Firefox Translations, where the translation is all done locally, on the client-side, with no need for a cloud connection, appears to be a possible advantage in allaying fears about privacy. Although both Google’s Chrome and Firefox browsers are based on Chromium and Firefox is popular, Google is still dominant in the browser market, and its translator tool offers many more languages than Firefox Translations, which is, unsurprisingly, the leading competitor. However, for businesses that would value a possibly more private and very convenient (work offline) alternative, Firefox Translations may be worth looking at. 

Firefox app logo on mobile phone screen. Woman using Firefox browser application

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