Need your feedback on a browser extension that recommends better alternatives to popular products and services

A couple of us have been building a browser extension that recommends “better” (as in: ethical or privacy-conscious) alternatives to popular products and services. The idea is to increase consumer choice and exposure to high-quality products / projects. Quite similar to https://switching.software but the recommendations are shown as in-page pop-ups.

The default list of alternatives would be maintained with the help of a good governance framework.

This is ready for publishing on both Chrome and Mozilla stores. But I thought it would be better to host this at orgs like EFF or IFF. EFF already hosts a couple of privacy-oriented extensions.

I spoke with @aparatbar and we thought it would be best to hear from all of you.

  • Is this project useful or valuable at all?
  • Should this be hosted at and endorsed by IFF?
  • What definition of “better” it should stand for? There can be multiple interpretations and the extension makes it possible for the user to subscribe to more than one sources. But the DEFAULT matters.
  • How can the community curate and maintain the default list of alternatives? We’d need clarity on the objectives and the criteria (privacy, usability etc) and also avoid product endorsements/promotions due to individual biases or self-interests.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Here are some similar projects. Some are community-curated while others are recommendations by individuals or orgs:

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good to see some efforts in bringing awareness to alternatives. it’s ironic to see a screenshot of firefox being suggested as a better browser inside firefox browser :stuck_out_tongue:
the github page mentions “The idea is to encourage competition and consumer choice.” I feel the term “better” weighs in favor of not all participants equally. also specifically again from the screenshot example, “firefox is open source” isn’t why it’s Better. Google Chrome is the Better version (with more convenient features) of the open source Chromium project…in short for people, Google Chrome is open source and more modern web technology work there without issues than in Firefox.
In general, the ‘why’ blurb in the popup has to be more unique and compelling/convincing about the alternative. now whether people will care about “ethical” alternatives in 10 words, remain to be seen. Think of people who don’t exactly imagine rainbows and sunflowers by reading just the words “open source” or “ethical”.
also lookinh forward to chrome web store actually allowing an extension that tells people to download firefox instead. :slight_smile:

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Thank you @nilesh for reaching out to IFF. To explain a bit of our thinking –

Our values emerge from a community oriented and transparent feedback culture. This becomes more important prior to stepping into a new area of work. Here, we wanted to invite feedback from IFF Members, forum members and the broader public sphere. It’s our shared belief that this will also help improve outcomes with a diversity of views and inputs from people more experienced in community based technology development.

It picks up from a prior conversation on technical projects that can benefit internet users. Now, rather than straight away, building tech, we are thinking how best we can compliment existing projects is by using our policy expertise. This will compliment our values for preventing concentration of market power in a few technology firms and protecting digital rights.

The last bullet specifically as listed by Nilesh on the criteria for the default listing, the rules and governance process is somewhat complex. Here IFF would love to hear more all of you. We are eager to provide support and design a framework that can help people discover alternatives to dominant web services that undermine user rights and are built off proprietary standards.

At the very least – everyone needs a good alternative and is searching for recommendations to popular web tools!

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@debapriyo

The text and the recommended links are completely driven by the source file which we want to be curated by the community. So, the concerns around the criteria and explanation of why something is better, can be handled there. Agree that “better” can be highly debatable. But wouldn’t you agree that some products/services are more respectful of people’s rights than others?

I’m asking the community’s help precisely because a single person’s ideas of what is better, should not be made the default. Is there a clear definition that the IFF community can and wants to stand for?

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i agree with your aim of involving the community and hope to see a variety of voices heard and concerns voiced. what i agree or a few people agree about individual rights and their respect hasn’t so far seemed to take any precendence in a lot of people’s mindsets. but these efforts like your addon have to keep taking strides. addons/extensions are exclusively opt-in and that makes it a challenge to reach browsers of people who need the awareness of not just alternatives but the fact that it is possible to be treated with much more dignity and respect than we just get by. for now it would help to work on your chrome extension and perhaps even think of apps outside a browser. even your curated text explainers on various alternatives can stay in a wiki repository. I would hope the options would help Indian netizens specifically. All the best…Better

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The extension is now published on both Chrome store and Mozilla Add-Ons repository, making it much easier for all of you to give it a try.

Suggestions for improvements can be made here or on Github repo.

i am looking at https://github.com/nileshtrivedi/better/blob/master/defaultlist.json , can the desc text have clickable link(s) for leading to more detailed explainers?

It can be added as an enhancement. We had it in earlier version when description could be HTML, but that would make some script injection attacks possible.

Share an example of what description, link and name you’d like to show?

in the following lines:

“url”: “https://getfirefox.com”,
“name”: “Mozilla Firefox”,
“desc”: “Firefox is open source, backed by the Mozilla Foundation”

the desc key could have something like "Firefox is free software, backed by Mozilla Foundation. (add link for) Read more (/add) "
we could link to existing written material or maybe come up with our own.
specific to the chrome example, chrome is based on chromium which is technically open source. the distinction of the non free features added by google need to be highlighted.

This is the criteria used by switching.software

Never knew that this was actually a thing with google chrome. It was really amazing and I might have to download some of the extensions for me. I sure hope every thing will work out fine for me. You see, these are new to me.