Mozilla to deliver ads in its Firefox browser

Mozilla to deliver ads in its Firefox browser

Summary: The tiles of Firefox's new tabs page will soon include "sponsored content from hand-picked partners." Why the change?

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Remember when Mozilla  announced that Firefox would block third-party ad cookies by default? Well, things have changed.  Now, when a first-time Firefox user opens up the Web browser, they''ll be presented with preset tiles that include ads.

Oh, that isn't what Mozilla is calling them. Darren Herman,  Mozilla's VP of Content Services, says the content in the new Directory Tile program will  include "pre-packaged content for first-time users.  Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission."

That last part sure sounds like ads to me.

Herman continued: "The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy." And, he added that Mozilla is "excited about Directory Tiles because it has inherent value to our users, it aligns with our vision of a better Internet through trust and transparency, and it helps Mozilla become more diversified and sustainable as a project. While we have not worked out the entire product roadmap, we are beginning to talk to content partners about the opportunity, and plan to start showing Directory Tiles to new Firefox users as soon as we have the user experience right."

This sounds even more like ads to me.

It sounded that way to Ad Age, the newspaper of the advertising business, too. Ad Age opened its coverage of Mozilla's announcement, which was made at the Interactive Advertising Bureau annual meeting, with "Mozilla will soon sell ads within its Firefox browser, the company announced Tuesday."

Yep, sounds like ads to all of us.

True, Mozilla needs funds. At the moment, Mozilla is largely dependent on Google for its income. Mozilla’s $300 million/year deal with Google is up for renewal in December 2014. Last time the extension didn’t happen until the last minute. Perhaps Mozilla is preparing for a future without Google's partnership.

Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This is not the Mozilla we thought we knew.

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Topics: Networking, Web development

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51 comments
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  • More info please ...

    "Now, when a first-time Firefox user opens up the Web browser, they''ll be presented with preset tiles that include ads."
    Can these tiles simply be deleted ?
    If so, no big deal. If they cannot be deleted or disabled, this will likely be a pretty big issue as they will burn data updating (unless there is a setting that says only update content on WiFi connection. I don't really have a problem with Firefox making a buck, as long as there is a way to delete/control the problem points.
    jkohut
    • We don't know yet

      Mozilla hasn't given details yet. But, since the one place we do know they'll show up is when you first run your browser it doesn't seem likely you'll be able to remove them.
      sjvn@...
      • I don't think so

        The way they describe it seems to be they populate the (currently) blank tiles on the new tab page on a fresh Firefox install. Unless they change the functionality of that new tab page completely - which I doubt - those tiles will be replaced based on usage or if a user manually pins sites there instead. This sounds akin to what other browsers - Safari springs immediately to mind - have had for years
        SupaRawr93
    • yes you can remove the tiles

      Just like with the current new tab page that shows your history you can remove any of the tiles that will be pre-installed on Firefox.
      clarkbw
    • Opera has it for years...

      Opera has it for years and the default "tiles" can be removed. This is on a so called Speed Dial screen. The tiles also doesn't come back after updates.

      Also note that for years Firefox had default search engines of which some are obviously also commercial and they are different for different languages. And yes they can be actually useful (it's not only marketing) and they can be removed.

      P.S.: Having ads all over ZDnet this article is kind of... ;-)
      Eccenux
      • ... pot meet kettle?

        nt.
        dh1760
  • Firefox ships as the default browser in a number of distros

    ....that do this because they are anal about copyrighted content, to the point that some of them even replace the word "Firefox" and the Firefox logo with something else, viewing them as too encumbered.

    Not sure how they are likely to take this.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Do those same distros also compile Firefox from source?

      I suspect that they do, which presents a rather obvious solution...
      Zogg
      • They definitely do

        It takes forever and a day to compile it, but it's definitely doable.
        John L. Ries
        • It's almost as if these distros provide source RPMs...

          Source RPMs which you can convert yourself into binary RPMs, should you so choose.

          But then again, that is the whole *point* of an Open Source licence! So it's difficult to fathom why anyone would be surprised - particularly when discussing distros who are "anal about copyrighted content" in the first place.
          Zogg
  • AdBlock users might go nuts

    Mozilla needs money, I understand that, and I'm fully supportive of ads for digital publishing. However, I know many people who react... badly... to ads, and I'm not sure how they would handle it if ads were used in a way they couldn't avoid. For instance, Hulu recently made it so it will detect if you are running AdBlock and will ask you to disable it. Seems reasonable to me - their site, their rules. However, I know several people who, when this happened, decided they would just PIRATE all the things they were planning on watching. Firefox users, one and all...

    Either a large number of entitled nerds are going to jump ship to some smaller browser... or, more likely, the next version of AdBlock will automatically stop them from displaying at all. Because ads are terrible, and no-one on the internet deserves to make money.
    luke mayson
  • Perhaps...

    ...it's about time I started compiling my own Firefox.
    John L. Ries
    • Or, possibly, find an alternative build?

      Such as SeaMonkey:

      http://www.seamonkey-project.org/

      or GNU's IceCat:

      http://www.gnu.org/software/gnuzilla/
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Or

        Pale Moon:

        http://www.palemoon.org/download-ng.shtml

        Or you can disable the New Tab page entirely in favor of a completely blank page:

        https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/963855
        Ginevra
      • I use SeaMonkey from time to time

        It doesn't have as good of extension support as FF, but it's lighter and faster, which is ironic, given the origins of each browser.
        John L. Ries
  • I go back to IE 11 as a last resort

    I simple solution is not to use tiles when opening up a new tab. I use a blank page. page.
    Scatcatpdx
    • Friends don't let friends

      use Internet Explorer. It's better to just post your entire private information on Facebook, or enter data on Healthcare.gov!
      Tony Burzio
      • IE11 is better

        Internet Explorer 11 is actually very nice, fast, responsive and secure. I would have agreed with IE 6 through 9, and maybe even 10, but the IE experience in Windows 8, which is IE10, is as good as it gets on a PC. I ultimately prefer Safari on a Mac though. :-)
        Tiggster79
        • Oops

          IE11, not iE10. Typo!
          Tiggster79
          • You're right, no typo

            Windows 8 has IE10, Windows 8.1 has IE11. If I remember MS didn't make IE11 for Windows 8 as it's expecting everybody to use the free upgrade to 8.1.
            lepoete73