Mozilla Dabbles in Commercial Advertising with Suggested Tiles

Traditionally, most of Mozilla’s revenue has come from the royalties the open-source software company makes from advertising when someone uses the search engines that Mozilla Firefox provides, namely Yahoo and Google. But in a move that will change the direction of the organization, Suggested Tiles will start showing Firefox users targeted ads and content recommendations.

Mozilla promises that this ad initiative will not interrupt user experience and invade users’ privacy, as it will not retain or share personal data, nor is the company using cookies. Firefox users can opt out if they don’t want to see ads. True to Mozilla’s open Internet initiative, Suggested Tiles will be user-centric rather than brand-focused, according to Darren Herman, vice president of content services for Mozilla.

“Users have a complete control over the system. It’s completely private and totally transparent,” Herman notes. “Everyone in the ad business is talking about the same thing: they are talking about optimization, they are talking about data and they are talking about demand-side platform. But nowhere in anybody’s conversation is the user. Mozilla is basically a user agent on the Internet. User control, privacy and transparency are three of the things we most care about here at Mozilla.”

Herman explains that to date, there are four versions of Firefox: Nightly, Aurora, Beta and Release. Mozilla tests new programs on each version in six-week cycles: it first went to Nightly, then Aurora, Beta and Release. Next week, Suggested Tiles will go live on Firefox Beta, and then become available on all versions in the U.S. this summer.

Advertisers can pay based on their preferred buying metric. “We prefer cost-per-thousand (CPM), but we like the idea of cost-per-click (CPC) as well if our users find value that way,” Herman notes.

Suggested Tiles is not Mozilla’s first foray into digital advertising. The company introduced different types of sponsored tiles in November of last year, including Directory Tiles for the first-time Firefox users.

Since Mozilla is an online community of developers who advocate openness on the Internet, many are concerned that the introduction of ads is not aligned with the organization’s mission. However, Herman believes there’s no conflict as long as Mozilla puts users first.

“The majority of the Internet has been commercialized through advertising,” he says. “We think online advertising has a long way to go. We think a lot about privacy, transparency and user control in the ecosystem. If we can put users first and deliver outcome to brands and agencies, then there’s no reason why other Web publishers cannot do this by themselves. Our sustainability has always been grounded in the web economy which is based in advertising, and we hope to influence the online advertising ecosystem with Tiles.”

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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