Firefox to start displaying ads on ‘new tab’ page, Mozilla announces

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Perhaps with an eye on the funding deal with Google that comes up for renewal at the end of this year, Mozilla said this week that ads are to be introduced to its Firefox browser.

A blog post Tuesday by Darren Herman, the foundation’s VP of content services, outlined plans to monetize the browser, though he failed to say precisely when the initiative would start.

Described as “an exploration to transform the user’s content experience,” Herman said his team will be launching Directory Tiles designed to improve the Firefox experience for first-time users.

Currently, when you open a new tab, you’re presented with nine blank tiles that populate with visited sites as your browsing session progresses. With Directory Tiles, you’ll instead see tile placements from Mozilla’s ecosystem, websites according to your geographic location, and “sponsored content from hand-picked partners” – in other words, ads.

Herman says the ads are being introduced to “help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission,” adding that they’ll be clearly identified and will hopefully lead to content of interest to the user.

It’s not known if the launch of the ad-laden Directory Tiles is days, weeks, or months away, though it sounds as if it might not be happening just yet, with Herman stating that his team is yet to “work out the entire product roadmap.” In addition, negotiations with potential content partners appear to be in the early stages.

Some of you may recall that it was only last year when Mozilla rather annoyed advertisers by announcing it was blocking third-party ad cookies by default with the launch of Firefox 22, a decision an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) lobbyist described as “a nuclear strike” on the industry.

In something of an about turn, Herman told an audience at the IAB’s annual gathering in California this week that far from wanting to incense advertisers, Mozilla is keen to work with them, though according to Ad Age, which was present at the IAB event, the foundation “still hasn’t made a final decision on how to treat third-party tracking technologies.”

Either way, Mozilla appears set on launching browser-based ads for first-time users of Firefox, though if the scheme proves lucrative, it may be hard to resist rolling them out to all users in some shape or form.

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