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Mozilla axes HATED Firefox-ad-tab plan ... but will try again

'That's not who we are', veep says as sponsored content plan remains in place

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Mozilla has scrapped its plan to show in-browser adverts to new users of Firefox.

Back in February, Moz talked up “Directory Tiles” that “suggest pre-packaged content for first-time users” of the open-source web browser. Some of the suggestions would be paid-for – ads in other words.

The organisation now says the idea “didn’t go over well” and has, in a new post, abandoned it. And decided it will keep trying to find a way to do the same thing.

Mozilla veep Johnathan Nightingale said on Friday: “A lot of our community found the language [about Directory Tiles] hard to decipher, and worried that we were going to turn Firefox into a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder; without user control, without user benefit.”

He now says “That’s not going to happen. That’s not who we are at Mozilla.”

But Mozilla will, he says, “experiment” with “tests on our pre-release channels to see whether we can make things like the new tab page more useful, particularly for fresh installs of Firefox, where we don’t yet have any recommendations to make from your history.”

Those experiments deliver links to “... a mix of our own sites and other useful sites on the Web” and won't involve any paid-for content. But Nightingale writes “sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.”

All of which sounds like Mozilla saying it's committed to finding a way to get corps to pay for a presence in fresh Firefox installs, even though many criticised the idea first time around.

“We’ll experiment on Firefox across platforms, and we’ll talk about what we learn before anything ships to our release users,” Nightingale concludes. “And we’ll keep listening for feedback and suggestions to make this work better for you. Because that’s who we are at Mozilla.”

Just “who we are at Mozilla” stands for looks like it could be up for debate, as user complaints – or at least those we recorded – seemed to express a dislike for the very idea of sponsored content in Firefox in any format.

That Mozilla is pressing ahead with the idea suggests it feels financial pressure to do so. That's perhaps a more worrying state of affairs than its seeming tin ear regarding ads. ®

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