Mozilla is prostituting Firefox tabs – kinda

If you ever thought that there just wasn’t enough advertising in the world, you are living in the golden age of messaging. 

Mozilla, theoretically a non-profit but still a powerhouse tech organization, recently talked about putting sponsored tabs into its popular Firefox browser:

Mozilla is kicking off an exploration to transform the user’s content experience through two initial programs, one of which you may have already read about called UP, which I’ll provide an update on in a future post.

The newest program is one we’re calling Directory Tiles, which is designed to improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience. Currently, if a new Firefox user opens a new tab, this is what they see:

Their tiles – those nine rectangles that populate over time with the most frequent and recent websites they visit – are empty.  The new tab page isn’t delivering any value for them.

Directory Tiles will instead suggest 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.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.

But now, after a little bit of a firestorm of controversy, the organization’s Vice President, Jonathan Nightingale, has come back to say:

A few months ago Darren posted about some experiments we wanted to do with the new tab page. It didn’t go over well. 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.

That’s not going to happen. That’s not who we are at Mozilla.

However, Firefox is going to experiment. The gist of the problem for Firefox is making the new tab page more interesting, especially for first time installs of the browser.

Firefox is going to test stuff, according to Nightingale, and mess about to see what works. It’s not about the money but about finding what is useful or not to users. However, that does not preclude sponsorship which would come once Firefox figures out how to make the idea palatable in general

All you have to ask yourself is how long will it be before we, the users, or just the world in general, rebels against the barrage of advertising that comes at us?

Granted, we get a lot of free Internet stuff – browsers, social media, content, etc. – and someone has to pay for it, but once it starts to creep into borderline areas where you may not perceive it as targeted ad content, like a new tab on Firefox, it gets kind of creepy.