Mozilla is stopping its experimental offering of advertising in Firefox. The company announced its focus will instead shift to “content discovery” opportunities in its browser.
“We will continue to experiment with content experiences on new tab pages within Firefox and across our products,” a Mozilla spokesperson confirmed with VentureBeat. “However we are stopping advertising through Tiles.”
This is an important distinction because, since this summer, Firefox has been promoting three types of Tiles: content from Mozilla (such as campaigns on policy issues), publisher content, and advertising. Mozilla’s Directory Tiles program is designed to “improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience” — instead of users seeing blank tiles when a new Firefox tab opens, Mozilla thought it best that they see “content.”
Mozilla thus appears happy to continue its Tiles program, just without the advertising component. Here’s the company’s explanation as to why a change in strategy was necessary:
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. We want to reimagine content experiences and content discovery in our products. We will do this work as a fully integrated part of the Firefox team.
We believe that the advertising ecosystem needs to do better – we believe that our work in our advertising experiments has shown that it can be done better. 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.
In other words, Mozilla has realized that it doesn’t make sense to offer Firefox features like tracking protection, which blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you’re surfing the Web, while at the same time also pushing ads. Even if the ads don’t track you (Mozilla went to extensive lengths to ensure that is the case), it’s still a confusing message for the browser user.
Directory Tiles are basically sponsored content, and Mozilla’s first initiative to bring advertising to Firefox users. Suggested Tiles go a step further, since they are based on what sites users have visited (“Suggested for wiki.mozilla.org visitors”), though they only show up a fixed number of times before they’re automatically removed.
News of Mozilla’s plan to sell ads in Firefox first broke back in February 2014. In August, the company rolled out the feature to the Firefox Nightly channel, and in November 2014, it arrived in the stable version of Firefox. In 2015, the company started to look at the best ways to scale Tiles to the entire Firefox population.
And now, the project has been deemed unworthy. Finally.
Mozilla today thanked its advertising partners in the Tiles program and promised to fulfill all “current commitments.” Though the company didn’t provide a date, it promised the advertising component of the experiment will wind down “over the next few months.”