Software

Firefox to emit ‘occasional sponsored story’ in ads test

Privacy preserved, promise, because Mozilla wants to reinvent web ads

By Simon Sharwood

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Some users who bravely test betas of Mozilla’s Firefox browser will soon also test an “occasional sponsored story” as the browser-maker tries to re-invent web ads.

This story starts with Mozilla’s February 2017 acquisition of web-clipping app Pocket.

Pocket let users bookmark content they like, then sync that list of sites across multiple devices. The occasional sponsored post popped up among those lists.

At the time of the acquisition Mozilla said it would integrate Pocket with Firefox. And thanks to an “Update on Pocket and Firefox Integration” posted late last week we now know that will mean. Pocket’s powered recommendations in the content displayed when German, Canadian and US-based Firefox Quantum beta users click “New Tab” for a few months now.

Next, “a small portion of U.S. users” will see the sponsored recommendations.

Mozilla’s positioned this as not just a way to see if it can make some cash but its own contribution towards making web ads better.

“We believe the current model of web advertising is broken because it doesn’t respect user privacy, isn’t transparent, lacks control, all the while trending towards click-bait and low-quality content,” the outfit wrote. “We need to conduct experiments like this in order to help create change.”

Mozilla reckons the fact all its products are open source will help give users confidence that their privacy has been respected and protected, and that its implementation of sponsored posts will “Rewards valuable content, worthy of your time. Not driven by clicks.”

We’ll believe that when - or if – we see it. ®

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