Firefox to feature sponsored content as of next week

Mozilla thinks you won’t mind analytical action on the client

The Mozilla Foundation has revealed that links to sponsored posts have started to appear in its Firefox browser and pledged to deliver them without invading users' privacy.

Mozilla flagged it would add sponsored links to its browser in January 2018, after the 2017 acquisition of web-clipping service Pocket brought with it the technology to do so.

Now it turns out the organisation has already squeezed in a few sponsored links on the “Firefox New Tab” and has added the functionality to Firefox nightly builds and Beta releases.

Pocket-powered sponsored links will now “… go fully live in May to Firefox users in the US with the Firefox 60 release.”

That’s due on May 9th, 2018.

Mozilla thinks you won’t mind this because all the analytics is done on the client and personal information is never requested or sent to a server somewhere. The organisation does collect some info but characterises it as “technical and interaction data” and swears it cannot possibly identify you (it’s described in detail here).

Mozilla bins 'Tiles' ads plan in Firefox

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“We’ve come to accept a premise around advertising today that users need to trade their privacy and data in exchange for personalized, high quality experiences,” wrote Pocket co-founder Nate Weiner. “Our experiments over the last few months have proved that this isn’t true.”

Adding spice to this situation is that Firefox 60 is an Extended Support Release, the version of Firefox Mozilla recommends for mass deployment in environments that need stability.

Mozilla’s argued adding sponsored links is a good idea for two reasons. Firstly, as part of its mission to promote an open web, it hopes to show that it’s possible to make money online without slurping personal data. Secondly, it needs a second stream of revenue to complement the fees paid by Google for sending it search traffic, as that’s far and away its dominant source of funds.

Mozilla tried to fix that problem with an in-browser ads plan called "Tiles" that it tried in 2014, but later abandoned. ®

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