Word appeared today that the Mozilla Firefox Web browser would begin hosting ads in an upcoming release. The ads will appear as tiles on the page when users open a new page or tab. That real estate is presently home to most frequently accessed Web sites.
Technically the ads are referred to as sponsored tiles. The non-sponsored tiles are called directory tiles. Mozilla allows the user to set a preference to turn off tiles completely so that each time he starts with a new tab or page, it is completely blank.
The Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit that controls the Firefox browser and a number of other Web sites and technologies, first announced its intent to find non-obtrusive (or, perhaps more accurately, less obtrusive) ways of placing advertising in the browser in February.
I’d call this a pretty unobtrusive way to put advertising in front of me. As a non-profit foundation, Mozilla has to figure out some ways to generate revenue if it’s going to stay afloat. I don’t use Firefox much myself (I’m a Chrome guy) but I do test all of my and my clients’ sites on FF.
Most of the early comments on this development, which occurred in the new version Firefox nightlies and is therefore not yet in wide circulation, have been neutral or supportive but there’s a strain of folks who begin bitching about any new aspect of free software that they don’t happen to like. Interestingly, some of the most caustic comments came from people using the largely unknown and insignificant Palemoon browser (Window and Linux only). Of course, Firefox has the second-highest market penetration of any cross-platform browser, having only recently fallen from the #1 spot and been replaced there by Chrome, which now has 20% of the total market vs. 15% for Firefox. Chrome has been in steady growth; Firefox has been in steady decline. (Internet Explorer retains a 60% usage rate but only because it ships with Windows and runs only on that platform.)
In any case, I’m not bothered much by the Firefox plans. There are numerous ways around even seeing the sponsored tiles. I hope they generate significant revenue to the Mozilla Foundation, which deserves to stay viable.