"Darren [Herman]'s team looked at [the New Tab experience for new users], and realized that we could make this better for users and generate income for Mozilla if we were smart about it," said Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox, on the same developers' forum. "Pre-populating those tiles, like we already pre-populate search providers, is just a better experience."
Nightingale also assured those reading the forum that Directory Tiles, like all features added to Firefox, would go through testing, gather feedback and undergo changes before it's shipped with the browser. "This is early days, so if there aren't answers to some of those things yet, it's mostly because we're figuring them out together, not because they're devious answers that we haven't figured out how to 'message.'"
Bidel declined to speculate on how Firefox's users would react to the ad idea. "But I imagine that they have a very loyal user base," she said, implying that she thought any backlash would be short-lived.
But Mozilla said the sponsored tiles might not be limited to just new users who needed their New Tab page populated. "Directory Tiles are aimed at first time users of Firefox at this stage," a spokesperson said in an email today. "We will evaluate whether it makes sense to extend this after taking into account initial feedback."
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