Adblock Plus and (a little) more

Typo correction feature removed · 2013-07-03 15:39 by Wladimir Palant

In November last year we started an experiment with the typo correction feature in Adblock Plus for Firefox. Now we removed that feature again, it’s already gone in the development builds and won’t be part of the next release. We will continue to maintain the URL Fixer extension however, anybody wanting that feature back can install it.

Was it a bad feature?

No, some of the feedback we’ve got indicates that it wasn’t, it was actually pretty useful. It was also a nice experiment in doing monetization that doesn’t affect the user (the original announcement explains the monetization approach).

So why remove it now?

Unfortunately, there are lots of misconceptions about how this feature works:

  • People frequently think that it is a blacklist that we maintain. In fact, it’s a whitelist approach — we provide an initial list with popular domains, users can extend it with the websites they visit. All addresses entered into the address bar are checked for similarities with entries on the whitelist.
  • The opt-in message is frequently misunderstood, people don’t understand how typo correction can help them avoid malware sites. What’s worse, the message is occasionally misread as a claim that the domain they typed in is malicious.
  • The monetization component isn’t communicated in the user interface, so people learning about it from third parties tend to believe bogus claims about how it works. Obviously, we are an open source project and in theory anybody could go to the source code and refute these claims — but the algorithms are complicated enough that most people cannot.

It’s everything but trivial to resolve any of these issues, with the minimalistic user interface of the typo correction feature making that job particularly hard (it’s designed to work the same in the desktop and mobile versions of Firefox).

There are also other issues. For example, there is little chance of typo correction ever working across all Adblock Plus variants (from all I know, it’s technically impossible to implement this feature in Chrome, Opera or Android). And managing the unavoidable false positives creates a significant manual effort on our end.

All in all, this feature has its issues, apparently too many to have it used by so many people.

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Comment [3]

  1. THOMASSIN Dominique · 2013-07-08 13:00 · #

    Hello M. PALANT,

    why is the ABP in Firefox not the same than Chrome, so much easier to use.
    Thanks for the answer

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    That’s because we are still working on a simpler user interface that will be part of both Firefox and Chrome. The new first-run page is the first step, it’s now identical in Firefox and Chrome.

  2. Anonymous · 2013-07-13 00:53 · #

    Thank you very much for removing typo “correction” and leaving it as a separate extension.

  3. Anonymous · 2013-07-13 00:56 · #

    Maintaining this as a separate extension makes so much more sense; it never really fit with Adblock Plus in the first place.

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