In a move laced with irony, Mozilla would soon be putting paid advertisements into its popular browser Firefox. These advertisements would come in the form of sponsored links shown when one opens a new browser tab.
Back in 2017, Mozilla acquired Pocket, a popular read-it-later service with apps on Android and iOS. Since then, it has experimented with Pocket reading suggestions on Firefox, bringing users suggested links based on the articles they have saved on Pocket, as well as the latest trending articles. Starting with the Firefox 60 beta, Mozilla would be serving up sponsored links along with its Pocket suggestions, offering recommendations based on your browsing history. In a blog post, Pocket founder and CEO Nate Weiner stated that “[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.”
According to Mozilla, the assessment is done locally in the browser, with no information being sent to Mozilla or Pocket servers in a bid to maintain user privacy. Concerned users may choose to disable the feature as well.
This move comes with a bit of irony, as Mozilla’s motto is “internet for people, not profit.” Much of its user base has stuck to the Firefox browser as it offered them freedom from using browsers by major tech companies like Google and Apple, all of whom make money from advertisements. While the move has been framed as essential for the continued sustainability of Mozilla as a non-profit, there are bound to be users who would move on to other alternative browsers. With Firefox’s market share down to roughly 6% from a high of 32% back in 2010, Mozilla needs to try looking for alternative revenue streams, especially ones that would not irk its user base.