Mozilla announced plans today to test a possible partnership with ProtonVPN in the hopes of securing a future revenue stream.
Starting Wednesday, October 25, Mozilla plans to select a small number of Firefox users and show them an ad to purchase a monthly subscription to ProtonVPN.
Only US-based Firefox users on the latest Firefox 62 for desktop versions (Windows, Mac, and Linux) are eligible. The experiment will be time-limited and Mozilla will assess its success before expanding it to its global userbase.
The ad will be displayed inside a doorhanger-type popup in the right corner of the Firefox browser when users are connected to an unsecure public WiFi network.
Users who click the ad will be redirected to a secure page where they can purchase a monthly subscription for the ProtonVPN service for $10.
Payments will be handled via Stripe and Recurly. Mozilla says that a portion of the proceeds will go to ProtonVPN for operating costs, while they'll keep the rest.
"Even though Mozilla will process these subscriptions, users who subscribe to the service through Mozilla will still receive the exact same software and benefits that come with our ProtonVPN Plus subscription," ProtonVPN said today in a blog post. The ProtonVPN Plus plan also costs $10/month on the ProtonVPN site, but users buying it from Mozilla's site will have the moral satisfaction that they've helped Firefox keep afloat.
"The Mozilla and ProtonVPN partnership is an experiment in finding new ways to keep Internet users safe while simultaneously ensuring that open source and non-profit software development gets the resources that it deserves," ProtonVPN added.
But experiment or not, ProtonVPN also stands to make a lot of money if Mozilla is satisfied with the test run's results and expands this offer to its entire 300-million-strong userbase.
Mozilla said it selected ProtonVPN for this partnership after it conducted a thorough evaluation of a long list of market-leading VPN services.
"Our team looked closely at a wide variety of factors, ranging from the design and implementation of each VPN service and its accompanying software, to the security of the vendor's own network and internal systems," said Chris More, Product Lead, Growth & Services at Mozilla.
"We examined each vendors' privacy and data retention policies to ensure they logged as little user data as possible," More added. "And we considered numerous other factors, including local privacy laws, company track record, transparency, and quality of support."
The organization selected ProtonVPN, a VPN service from the same company that also runs the secure email provider ProtonMail.
This limited experiment and ProtonVPN partnership is Mozilla's attempt to diversify its revenue stream.
In the past decade, the vast majority of the Mozilla Corporation's revenue has come from royalties earned through Firefox web browser search partnerships. The biggest source of income, by far, is Mozilla's partnership with Google.
The organization has been looking for alternate revenue streams for years, but with little success.
Mozilla did not say for how long this experiment will last, but early feedback shows interest and positive reactions from the Firefox community.
VPNs, in general, are popular and sought-after software products these days because they allow users to access the Internet via encrypted connections that are protected against monitoring and eavesdropping at the ISP or government-level.