Just a Thought: Community Dictionary for Firefox Spell-Checker

Mozilla.org honcho Asa Dotzler posted on his blog today about user interface problems with Firefox’s built-in spell check feature.

In the comments to that post, several people mentioned a related issue with the Firefox spellchecker — the dictionary it uses is out of date, and lacks many commonly used words. The result is that users have to add lots of words themselves, which is a pain.

I had an idea for solving this problem that I thought was a pretty cool one (if I do say so myself). I wrote it up in the comments to Asa’s post, but I thought I’d post it here too so folks could comment on it if they wish.

Here’s the idea:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the dictionary for inline spell check is stored as a file on the local machine, right?

If so, an interesting way to tackle some of the problems outlined by other commenters above might be to add a web-service model where words added by users to their personal dictionaries are pinged to a server somewhere, and if enough people have added that word, it gets added to the "main" dictionary. Then updates to the main dictionary can be pushed out periodically with FF point releases, so you get a constantly improving dictionary.

Some folks might not be comfortable with this, so there’d need to be a way to turn it off; but I’m a pretty rabid privacy advocate and I can’t see why this would be bad, esp. if it’s not tied to an identifier of who or what machine it came from. The biggest challenge would be figuring out what the right number of adds for a word would be to merge it into the main dictionary; too low and you get lots of junk words, too high and good words get missed. Could probably be determined with some experimentation though.