Advertising is about to land in the Firefox browser, at least for new users. Upcoming versions of Firefox will include sponsored advertising in the browser's new tab page, according to an announcement by the Mozilla Foundation.
Typically, the new tab page includes a selection of a user's most-visited sites represented by individual tiles. But when a when a new Firefox user or longtime user with a fresh install opens up Firefox, the new tab page includes essentially nine blank tiles.
In Mozilla's view, those blank tiles could be put to better use. So in a forthcoming update, Firefox will suggest what Mozilla calls "pre-packaged content" to new users who haven't built up a browsing history yet.
This will include links to popular websites based on your location, some links to Mozilla sites, and some "hand-picked" sponsored content. Tiles with ads will be labeled as sponsored.
Longtime users can avoid the new content on a fresh install if they are using Firefox Sync.
The new program, called Directory Tiles, is "designed to improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience," Darren Herman Mozilla's VP of content services said in a blog post.
Change of heart?
The idea that Mozilla will experiment with in-browser advertising is at once surprising and yet not so surprising.
Unlike its browser-making rivals, Mozilla's funding is largely dependent on a search deal that makes Google the default provider in Firefox. So expanding into ads gives Mozilla another future revenue stream – even if it begins rather modestly.
On the other hand, Mozilla is one of the leading voices against online advertising practices – most notably user tracking. So it's a little bit surprising to see Mozilla embrace in-browser advertising. It's unlikely that Mozilla would permit any kind of user tracking in its browser short of, perhaps, a click count.
Nevertheless, this definitely seems like a shift in Mozilla's thinking.
Mozilla says it is still developing Directory Tiles and roadmap plans for rolling out the new feature are not yet finished. Anyone who wants to keep an eye on Mozilla's plans can bookmark the foundation's Advancing Content blog.