Sponsored ads have begun appearing among the suggested Web site boxes that show up when Firefox Nightly users open new browser tabs. Firefox Nightly is the nightly-updated, in-development version of Mozilla’s browser for “extremely technical early adopters.”
The paid ads do not yet appear on new tabs opened by mainstream users of the most recent and finalized version of Firefox. Firefox Nightly is one of four channels delivered by Mozilla. Its other channels include Firefox Aurora, aimed at technical early adopters; Firefox Beta, designed for non-technical early adopters; and the final-release Firefox version for mainstream Web users.
Any paid-for links included on the new browser tab in Firefox Nightly are identified with a “Sponsored” label. “Sponsored indicates ‘paid for inclusion,’” Firefox product manager Bryan Clark said on Twitter. Clark was responding to comments by The Next Web’s Emil Protalinski, who had questioned why some clearly commercial links that appeared did not include the “Sponsored” label.
“[O]thers like FB, Amazon, and YT included as popular and useful but did not pay,” Clark explained.
Aiming to Get ‘the Details Right’
When regular users of Firefox click a new browser tab, they see a screen with a Google search field at the top and nine rectangular image links to other Web sites arranged in a grid below that field. Those rectangular images, called Directory Tiles, were added to the browser’s new tab feature earlier this year.
The feature was “designed to improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience,” Mozilla vice president of content services Darren Herman stated in a February blog post. While tiles for veteran Firefox users are generated based on “frecency” -- an algorithm based on how recently users visited different sites and how frequently they visited each -- first-time users saw empty pages.
“That new tab page isn’t delivering any value for them,” Herman said. The new approach, he added, would both benefit new users and help Mozilla “become more diversified and sustainable as a project.”
Herman also noted that users had responded with “lots of feedback,” some of it supportive, some merely curious and some “pretty harsh.” He reiterated that any sponsored tiles would be clearly labeled, adding that there are “a lot of questions still to answer about how Directory Tiles will feel in practice, and how we choose the right set. Directory Tiles will go live once we have the details right.”
No ‘Mess of Logos’
In May, Mozilla vice president of Firefox Johnathan Nightingale acknowledged users' concerns about his company's advertising experiments.
“A lot of our community found the language hard to decipher, and worried that we were going to turn Firefox into a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder; without user control, without user benefit,” Nightingale said in a blog post. “That’s not going to happen.”
For the time being, the sponsorship strategies would remain an experiment, he said.
“[T]hese tests are not about revenue and none will be collected,” Nightingale wrote. “Sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.”
Mozilla reported revenues of $311 million in 2012; that was a 90 percent increase over its 2011 earnings of $163 million. Most of its income comes through its support for search functions through partners like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and other companies. Eighty-eight percent of its revenue is generated through Google, and Google's contract with Mozilla is due to expire in November.
Posted: 2014-09-10 @ 10:24pm PT
I've been a Firefox user for years since 2.0, and really support what they're doing. But this is really taking things too far. "Australis" I think is actually a great enhancement to the UI I already use, and it can be customized to the way I like it. (I can even turn menus on, so I don't know why people are complaining on that.)
Now, on-demand DRM controls (the user can turn it on or off) in upcoming Firefox versions for encrypted movies and putting a grid of tiles in my tabs I usually shut off is one thing... but the idea of putting ads on pages is where it becomes TOO MUCH!
Lately, I've been using Chromium more on my box, as it lightens what the full Chrome browser does, and if Firefox doesn't change, we might see a "Firefoxium" (or whatever it will be called) come up as well.
I know Mozilla is trying to embrace the future while supporting themselves, and I do support their push for this, but I think there comes a point where removal of users' rights must be addressed.
And after years of Firefox, that's my opinion. I'm sure others will differ; PLEASE don't start flaming what is just my opinion... yours may differ.
Posted: 2014-08-29 @ 7:40pm PT
The default page shown by Firefox has been broken for many releases. The tiles are a major privacy leak: if users do not pay attention, they can reveal to any third party looking at their screens which are their top visited websites. The Google search is bad too, and Mozilla gets paid for that. I have replaced all of that with an empty white page; and I have replaced Google with Startpage. Sorry, Mozilla, your experiments with ads do not impress me. Next I will get your source code and recompile Firefox without all of this useless cruft.