Mozilla has just sold its soul: Get ready for ads in Firefox

firefox_logo-only_RGBMozilla is going to sell advertising inside its Firefox browser.

Yep, you read that right – the non-profit organization that became public enemy number one for all internet marketers when it set Firefox to block third-party ad technologies by default last year, is now launching its very own advertising business.

The initiative is called “Directory Tiles”, and will see Firefox offer up a number of ‘suggestions’ for users, including sponsored sites, sites that are popular in the user’s geographic location, and also a few items from Mozilla’s ecosystem. The tiles will appear on the New Tab page where user’s most frequently visited sites appear.

“The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy,” Darren Herman, Mozilla’s vice president of content services, wrote in a blog post.

The good news is that Directory Tiles will (for now at least) only appear to new users or those who reinstall Firefox. Once new users have browsed the web enough times, the New Tab page will stop displaying the ads, and revert to showing their favorite websites. According to Herman, this should take from between 30 to 45 days for most people.

Directory Tiles will initially be launched on the desktop version of Firefox “as soon as we have the user experience right,” says Herman. Eventually, they’ll appear on the Android version of Firefox, as well as phones running Firefox OS.


These empty tabs will soon be replaced with ads

Given Mozilla’s historical stance as a supporter of internet user’s privacy rights, and the fact that it’s a non-profit organization, its decision will probably upset some of its users. But there’s no getting away from the fact that Mozilla still needs cash to fund its operations, and its most recent financial report is a tad worrying. While it raked in some $311m in revenues last year, a massive 97 percent of this money came from Google, which pays to be the default search engine in Firefox.

Although it would never admit it, the Mozilla Foundation is basically being underwritten by Google, and so it makes sense to diversify its revenue stream as soon possible – after all, its relationship with Google might not last forever, especially as Firefox’s market share has been on the decline recently, according to historical data from StatCounter.

Mozilla could potentially rake in a fortune from advertising, as its Firefox browser sees over 100 billion tile impressions in the US each year, according to a spokesperson for the foundation. Of course most of these are not new users – these only account for some 31 million tile impressions each month – which is why Mozilla could eventually be tempted to force ads onto everyone.

Mozilla didn’t announce any advertising partners just yet, but said that it’s actively seeking them out.