Firefox Browser To Feature Ads In Directory Tiles
February 12, 2014

Mozilla’s Firefox To Feature Ads In Tiles

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

The non-profit Mozilla Foundation has long promoted openness, innovation and participation on the Internet and it has also worked in the past to block advertising. Last year it announced they selectively blocked un-trusted ad cookies. This move to block advertisers was seen as having an obvious target – namely the advertisers.

[ CORRECTION ] According to Justin O'Kelly of Mozilla's PR Team, "In fact the patch to block third party cookies has only ever made it to our test builds and has not been released in the main version of Firefox used by the majority of our users."

As Ad Age noted, this move was called “a nuclear strike” on the advertising industry by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

A year later Mozilla has done a complete 180 turn, and announced on Tuesday that it will begin selling ads within its Firefox browser. These ads will appear within the tiles of Firefox’s new tabs page, and Mozilla is calling this initiative “Directory Tiles.”

While this move has surprised the ad industry, the choice of location was also unanticipated. Mozilla announced the launch of its ad business this week at IAB’s annual meeting in Palm Desert, Calif.

“While Mozilla hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with all viewpoints in the digital content community, particularly the IAB, we think they’d agree that users’ interests should come first, and we want to help their members deliver compelling content to strengthen the Web ecosystem,” Darren Herman, VP of content services, at Mozilla, said in a post on the company’s official blog on Tuesday. “So, when IAB Chairman Randall Rothenberg invited Mozilla to participate and share our views at their Annual Leadership Meeting this week, we jumped at the chance. One of the main themes being explored at the meeting is Publisher Transformation, so I contributed Mozilla’s perspective and latest activities in a speech to attendees this morning.”

Mozilla has also made it clear that all the advertisements will be labeled as such, and that the ads will appear only to new users and those who re-install the Firefox browser. The change will first show up on the desktop version of the browser, but it will make its way to mobile including the Firefox OS and Firefox for Android.

Thus the ads will be there via otherwise empty tiles on the tabs page.

“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,” Herman added. “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.”

Herman further emphasized that the Directory Tiles will continue to offer inherent value to users, as it aligns with Mozilla’s vision of a better Internet through trust and transparency. He also noted that this move to ads will help Mozilla become more diversified and sustainable as a project.

However, Mozilla has not announced any specific advertising partners, but the company is reportedly seeking them out.

“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 spokesperson told Ad Age.

In addition Ad Age reported that, “the revenue opportunity is significant, as Mozilla sees 100 billion tile impressions in the U.S. alone each year.” However, it will only reach first time users – at least for now. Mozilla will remain a non-profit, and currently makes about 97 percent of its revenue from search.