Ads are coming to the New Tab page of Mozilla Firefox. The company announced the new move, Tuesday, during the annual meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in California.
Mozilla has named the ads Directory Tiles that are meant to help new users of Firefox discover sites that they might be interested in. The company did not disclose when it will be implemented but the nine tiles on the New Tab pages will be a mix of Mozilla items, popular sites based on the location of the user, and sponsored sites that will be properly labeled.
"We are excited about Directory Tiles because it has inherent value to our users, it aligns with our vision of a better Internet through trust and transparency, and it helps Mozilla become more diversified and sustainable as a project," wrote Darren Harman, vice president of content services at Mozilla, in a blog post.
"While we have not worked out the entire product roadmap, we are beginning to talk to content partners about the opportunity, and plan to start showing Directory Tiles to new Firefox users as soon as we have the user experience right," Harman added.
The Directory Tiles will be rolled out on the desktop platform first before hitting the Firefox for OS and Android devices.
The ads will only appear on newly installed or re-installed Firefox browsers and then will be slowly replaced by content relevant to the user based on the recency and frequency of visits to different websites. If this is the case, Directory Tiles will only reach about 31 million new users per month.
Mozilla has been dependent on its $300 million per year deal with Google to make the latter its default search engine. The deal is up for renewal in December and the move is seen by many as preparation for a future independent from Google.
In July 2013, the company had established the foundation for Directory Tiles when it announced that it was experimenting on an opt-in system that will help it setup tailored content based on the browsing history of users.
"We want to see even more personalization across the Web from large and small sites, but in a transparent way that retains user control. The team at Mozilla Labs is focused on exploring ways to move the Web forward, and has thought a lot about how the browser could play a role in making useful content personalization a reality," the company stated then.
The move comes as surprise for Mozilla fans as the company has been known for being a protector of user privacy. The company had rolled out a patch in 2013 that addressed how third-party cookies work on its browser but this was only released for its test builds. It appears the company is still undecided on what to do with tracking technologies from third parties.
"We wanted to get away from being this window into the web that doesn't bring value. We looked at it from the perspective of how much value are we bringing to the user? We're not focused on bringing the most revenue into Mozilla. We're not at odds with having a commercial relationship with the digital media ecosystem out there," said the company's general counsel Denelle Dixon-Thayer.
If we need to quote anyone to explain the move of Mozilla, it will be the cartoon character Bugs Bunny that said, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"