Firefox reverses course, nixes in-browser ads

5 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Firefox reverses course, nixes in-browser ads.

Firefox’s in-browser ads were controversial from the start. When Mozilla announced the native integration of the “read-it-later” service Pocket in Firefox, rumors that Mozilla must have received money by Pocket for the integration emerged almost immediately. After all, its development team had previously worked to protect users’ privacy against increasingly invasive online advertising, so it seemed a bit odd for its developers to stick ads of any kind on the browser’s start page.

The company announced its focus will instead shift to “content discovery” opportunities in its browser. “We will continue to experiment with content experiences on new tab pages within Firefox and across our products,” a Mozilla spokesperson confirmed with VentureBeat. “However we are stopping advertising through Tiles.” This is an important distinction because since this summer, Firefox has been promoting three types of Tiles: content from Mozilla (such as campaigns on policy issues), publisher content, and advertising. On Friday, however, Mozilla—the non-profit organization that develops Firefox—announced that it will end its in-browser Suggested Tiles advertising program “in order to focus on content discovery,” according to the organization. “Advertising in Firefox could be a great business, but it isn’t the right business for us at this time because we want to focus on core experiences for our users,” Mozilla’s Darren Herman wrote in a blog post announcing the change of plans. “We want to reimagine content experiences and content discovery in our products. Mozilla’s Directory Tiles program is designed to “improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience” — instead of seeing blank tiles when a new Firefox user opens a new tab, Mozilla thought it would be best that they see “content.” Mozilla thus appears happy to continue its Tiles program, just without the advertising component. Then there was the fact that Mozilla worked on its own reading service in Firefox, and that the move did not benefit all Firefox users but only a slim part of the user base.

Chad Weiner, Mozilla’s director of project management told PC World in an email back then that “there [was] no monetary benefit to Mozilla from the integration” and that Pocket “didn’t pay for placement in the browser”. The story behind the story: Mozilla announced its Suggested Tiles ad program for Firefox’s start page back in February 2014 and released its first ad-supported version of the browser in November of last year. We believe that the advertising ecosystem needs to do better – we believe that our work in our advertising experiments has shown that it can be done better. Pocket may not have paid Mozilla directly for adding the service natively to the web browser, but it appears that Mozilla may have benefited from the placement after all. One plausible explanation is that Mozilla gets affiliate payments if users who signed up for Pocket through Firefox upgrade their accounts to Premium.

In other words, Mozilla has realized that it doesn’t make sense to offer Firefox features like tracking protection, which blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you’re surfing the web, while at the same time also pushing ads. Even if they’re ads that don’t track you (Mozilla went to extensive lengths to ensure that is the case), it’s still a confusing message to the browser user. Another thing that is unclear right now is whether that revenue share agreement was in place before or at the time Pocket was integrated into Firefox, or agreed upon after the integration.

If the first is the case, Mozilla should have disclosed that to its user base considering that trust plays a major part in the relationship between Mozilla and Firefox’s user base. Suggested Tiles go a step further since they are based on what sites users had visited (“Suggested for visitors.”), though they only show up a fixed number of times before they’re automatically removed.

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