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Mozilla scraps in-Firefox ads

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 7, 2015
Not the 'right business for us at this time,' says top ad exec as Mozilla pulls plug on two-year project.

Mozilla Firefox browser
Mozilla Firefox browser logo Credit: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

Mozilla on Friday said it would chuck its plan to advertise within Firefox, explaining that the money-making strategy "isn't the right business for us at this time."

The turn-about suspends, if not ends, a two-year project to expand the open-source browser's revenue stream beyond the one it has relied on for years: contracts with search providers.

"We have ... made the decision to stop advertising in Firefox through the Tiles experiment in order to focus on content discovery," wrote Darren Herman, Mozilla's vice president of content services, in a post to a Mozilla blog Friday. Herman, a former advertising executive and venture capitalist, joined Mozilla in 2013 to kick-start the in-browser ad project.

"Advertising in Firefox could be a great business, but it isn't the right business for us at this time because we want to focus on core experiences for our users," Herman continued. "We want to reimagine content experiences and content discovery in our products."

However, Herman didn't permanently shut Firefox's advertising door. "Mozilla will continue to explore ways to bring a better balance to the advertising ecosystem for everyone's benefit, and to build successful products that respect user privacy and deliver experiences based upon transparency, choice and control," he said.

Mozilla first broached the idea of running ads in Firefox in February 2014 when it launched the "Directory Tiles" concept. The idea then was straight-forward: When new users started Firefox, they would see pre-populated tiles, some of them "sponsored" -- in effect advertisements -- on the New Tab page. For long-time Firefox users, that page, with room for nine thumbnails, would continue to show the most-frequently-visited websites.

When it revealed the Tiles idea, Mozilla acknowledged that it was looking for ways to expand revenue, which historically had been overwhelmingly from search providers, and until late 2014, almost exclusively from Google.

By November, 2014, "sponsored" tiles -- in English, advertisements -- were appearing in Firefox. At that time, Mozilla also revealed that it would also show ads -- although it called them "Enhanced Tiles" at the time -- to long-time Firefox users as well as newcomers.

That came about in May 2015, when Mozilla rebranded the ad push as "Suggested Tiles," and announced advertisements would begin appearing in all Firefox users' browsers by the summer. "We want to show the world that it is possible to do relevant advertising and content recommendations while still respecting users' privacy and giving them control over their data," Herman said at the time.

Initially, Herman added, users would see advertisements for "Mozilla causes and Firefox products," but later the slots were to be filled by advertisers' wares.


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