Firefox Flips Its Policy, Will Start Running Ads
Users of the Mozilla Firefox browser may soon see advertisements when they open new tabs.
This is a big change for Firefox, which last year planned to block third-party plugins and tracking cookies by default, but ultimately shelved the plan after outrage from the advertising industry.
Currently, when you open a new window or tab in Firefox, you'll see nine "tiles" displaying the websites you've most frequently visited.
If you're new to Firefox and haven't built up a search history, or if you've recently cleared your browser history, those tiles will be blank — at least for now.
Firefox will soon deliver what it calls "Directory Tiles" instead of blank tiles, and those Directory Tiles will feature pre-selected browsing suggestions.
"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," wrote Darren Herman, Mozilla's vice president of content services, on the company blog.
Herman added that the sponsored "Directory Tiles" will be clearly labeled.
So why is this a big deal? The Mozilla Foundation, the California-based non-profit that owns the Firefox browser, has previously prioritized users' privacy and security over advertising interests.
For example, because much Internet malware attacks computers from the same channels used to deliver advertisements, blocking ads generally keeps users safer. Using geographic location to deliver advertisements also decreases users' privacy.
Previously, security and privacy advocates have praised Mozilla Firefox, and online advertisers have blasted it.
Last year, its announcement that it would block cookies and plugins by default led to the Internet Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Randall Rothenberg decrying the move as "a nuclear first strike against [the] ad industry."
Yesterday (Feb. 11), Herman got up on stage with Rothenberg at the IAB's annual meeting in Palm Desert, Calif., to announce Firefox's Directory Tiles initiative.
"We want to work with all of you," Herman told the audience of Internet advertisers, according to Advertising Age. "There's no nuclear winter coming, the weather is nice out and we're very excited to be here, Randall."
Mozilla currently makes almost all its money from a Google partnership that makes Google the browser's default search engine. Many experts seem to think that Mozilla is looking to decrease its dependence on that deal by increasing its income in other areas.
"We are looking to partner with like-minded content owners and creators, such as leading publishers and curators, as well as innovative advertising agencies,"a Mozilla spokesperson told Advertising Age.