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Mozilla to deliver ads in its Firefox browser

The tiles of Firefox's new tabs page will soon include "sponsored content from hand-picked partners." Why the change?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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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