Mozilla has said it plans to run advertisements in Firefox for the first time, in a bid to raise funds.
The ads will appear in the “directory tiles” – the nine boxes that appear in the Firefox window each time you open a new tab (see screengrab, above). At the moment, they start off blank, then fill up with your most visited sites, giving you one-click access to your regular web destinations.
Mozilla said those tiles will be partially filled with links to sponsored content, websites that have paid to be promoted and other links to Mozilla pages. It stressed that the boxes will be clearly labelled as advertisements. Mozilla said it was still working on the plans, but expects the ads to arrive soon.
The move sees Firefox adopting Google’s money-making methods, but it’s not the only recent development to bring Mozilla’s browser more in line with Chrome. In early February, Mozilla Introduced Firefox Accounts, which lets users sync bookmarks and history across devices. Firefox already had a syncing tool, but it required you to type a code to link devices. The new tool lets users bring bookmarks and history with them across devices using a simple login – as Chrome does. The new feature has only been made available to the early preview of the next version of Firefox, but will likely arrive for the rest of us within a few months.
How will it affect you?
For many Firefox users, the shortcut tiles are a handy, automated way to access frequently visited sites. Now, you can’t assume those boxes will be filled with content you approve of. We hope they’re clearly marked as adverts so they don’t confuse users, and that at least some of the boxes are kept as automated shortcuts, but it’s not yet clear exactly how the system will work.
The new syncing tool, meanwhile, will make it easier to use Firefox at work and at home, and on mobile devices, letting you pick up where you left off, regardless of device. But be wary when using a computer that’s not yours: if you sign in, your bookmarks and history won’t only be synced to date, they’ll be synced going forward, so any new sites you visit will be visible to anyone using Firefox on that machine. You should only log into machines that are yours and yours alone.
What do we think?
Firefox has long been known as the ad-free browser and while Chrome is fast and packed with great features, there’s no question that advertising is Google’s main goal. Mozilla, on the other hand, fought to have the ‘do not follow’ setting on by default in order to protect users from being stalked across the web by marketing firms. Sadly, that user- friendly focus seems to have been sidelined, in a small way at least, by the need to raise extra funds.
While this is disappointing, it’s hardly a shock. Mozilla needs to make its money somehow. At the moment, the bulk of its funding comes from Google, which pays Mozilla a lot of money to be the default search engine in Firefox and therefore make even more money in advertising. Mozilla is trying to find new ways to make money, and the easiest way for a browser to do this is through advertising and search.