Mozilla Highlights Firefox 60 With Personalized Sponsored Stories That Respect User Privacy


Ads are what drive much of the web experience as we know it—without them, more websites would have to erect paywalls or figure out other ways of generating revenue. Typically that means seeing ads on webpages. However, a similar business model is creeping into Firefox, with Mozilla announcing plans to add sponsored content to new tabs in Firefox 60 in the US later this month.

"We believe the Internet can do better. So earlier this year, we started to explore a new model and showed an occasional sponsored story in Pocket’s recommendation section on Firefox New Tab. Starting today, we’re expanding this work further—now Firefox Nightly and Beta users may also see these sponsored stories. We’re preparing for this feature to go fully live in May to Firefox users in the US with the Firefox 60 release," Mozilla stated in a blog post.

This is something that was tested to a small number of users earlier this year, and will be seeing a much wider roll out with the next Firefox release, due to arrive on May 9 (a week from tomorrow). It's really an extension of the Pocket service, which Mozilla acquired last year and has been integrating into Firefox, rather than a full-blown integration of ads. In other words, Firefox 60 isn't going to bombard you with advertisements when you fire it up.

Instead, they will show up on the "Firefox New Tab" in an effort to make them unobtrusive, while still generating revenue. Mozilla is promising it will respect user privacy, saying all personalization happens on the client-side of the equation, "without needing to vacuum up all of your personal data or sharing it with others." It's an important point to make in current climate, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook.

Mozilla's full list of bullet points include:
  • Personalization, without sacrificing privacy.
  • Quality—rewards valuable content, worthy of your time. Not just clicks.
  • Control—If you see a story you're not a fan of, you can hid it. Or you can disable sponsored content altogether.
  • Transparency—As an open organization, all code in Firefox is open source and we're open about all of our products and policies.
The last two bullet points are the most interesting. It's hard to fault the move by Mozilla when it's giving users the option of disabling sponsored content. If there's a nitpick there, it's that Mozilla is taking an opt-out approach rather than opt-in, but if the content is truly unobtrusive and respects user privacy as the company claims, then there isn't much to get up in arms over.

Being open source is point that shouldn't be glossed over, either. Unlike with Facebook and similar services, users can audit Firefox's code and make sure it's working as promised, and not nefariously.

It remains to be seen how much money Mozilla will make from this. As it stands, Mozilla's primary source of revenue is through Google, which pays Mozilla handsomely to be featured as the default search option in Firefox. This could potentially make Mozilla less dependent on Google and other search providers.

Tags:  Firefox, Privacy, Mozilla
Via:  Mozilla
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