I am happy to report that you can now download an Alexa toolbar for Firefox with the same look and feel as the toolbar for IE. Previously, the Alexa Toolbar for Firefox, nicknamed "Sparky", displayed data in the status bar of your browser. Sparky is useful for quickly checking how popular a site is without adding an extra row of buttons to your browser, and it will continue to be available to download from Alexa and Mozilla. But people have been asking for a version similar to what you can install for IE, and now it is available.
For those not familiar with the IE version of the Alexa Toolbar, it has a number of cool and useful features. It installs near the top of your browser, just like a standard toolbar. It displays the Alexa Traffic Rank for the site you are currently browsing, has a drop-down menu for related sites, and a button that takes you to the Wayback Machine and archived versions of the site. The toolbar also displays which web pages and what topics are hot on the web right now, in real time, so you can easily keep track of what's new and interesting on the web as you surf. Lastly, the toolbar shows you how well the site is reviewed at Alexa, and gives you the opportunity to write a review right there with the toolbar.
So, this is all great stuff, but there's yet another reason to install the Alexa Toolbar. Alexa ranks websites, and one of ways we know which sites are popular is the highly anonymous toolbar data. So, when you surf the web with your Alexa Toolbar, you are anonymously casting votes for which sites you like. There's no need to be a super influential blogger, have a million followers on twitter, or spend hours digging things to have your voice heard. All you need to do is surf the web with an Alexa Toolbar installed. It's easy.
As you visit websites with an Alexa Toolbar installed, you are also contributing to the related links you see in your toolbar and on alexa.com. Conversely, when you look at related links you are looking at what people similar to yourself find interesting. By browsing with the toolbar you are helping others find interesting things, just as they are hopefully helping you. Alexa data is, ultimately, your data. We're just here to help you make sense of it while protecting your anonymity.
So what about spyware? This is coming up less and less, but I occasionally get asked if Alexa is spyware or not. Does the Alexa toolbar collect data about where you are browsing? Yes, but only if you decide to "opt in" and install the toolbar. There are no secrets here, we try to be as up front as possible about the fact that you are sending us information. By installing the toolbar, you help us help you find better content, and have a richer browsing experience. There is nothing malicious or mysterious going on, and certainly nothing sinister enough to warrant the toolbar being labeled spyware or adware or whatever. Alexa and the Alexa toolbar are about helping people find interesting and useful content on the web. Alexa's data is of the people, for the people, the wisdom of crowds at work. Download the Alexa Toolbar, and see for yourself.