Firefox users have long lamented the browser’s lack of a native translation function — unlike Google Chrome and other browsers, Firefox currently requires its users to utilize third-party translation extensions to translate webpages into their desired language. That looks like it’s soon to change however, as the browser’s developing native translation feature is now available for users to test. Currently, the translator only allows for translation from English to Spanish and Estonian (and vice versa), as well as from English to German.
The project was first announced back in 2019 at a kickoff meeting held at the University of Edinburgh, according to a blog post on Project Bergamot’s website. At the time, the project was expected to be in development for three years — now, just two years in, Bergamot is ready for users to begin testing. Users can test out the extension by using Firefox Nightly, the browser’s platform for testing and development.
This development is the most recent one in Project Bergamot, a European Union-funded research effort. Mozilla has teamed up with several European universities on the project to develop an in-browser machine translation (MT) system that, unlike the one Chrome utilizes, does not require cloud connectivity. Unlike Bergamot, the MT systems used in browsers like Chrome typically require content to be sent to a third-party translator of some sort, a tradeoff that the team behind Project Bergamot views as having “negative implications” for users.
In doing away with a cloud-based system, the researchers and developers on Project Bergamot believe that their system will ultimately protect the privacy and data of its users better than other in-browser MT systems. “Bergamot’s machine translation engine will run locally on the user’s machine, ensuring that no data leaves the user’s computer for the purpose of translation,” reads a synopsis of the project. The program also flags potential inaccuracies in its translations, providing users with a better frame of reference for cross-checking potentially misleading translations.