Monday, December 07, 2015

Firefox’s Unpopular Sponsored Tiles Feature Discontinued

When it comes to free and open source projects developing revenue can be a tricky situation. Developers have to walk the fine line between what actually works best and generates the most revenue and what the community that supports them actually approves of. So it came as no surprise when Mozilla first announced the Tile Ads (or sponsored tiles) ad program it was met with a lot of  opposition from Firefox users, supporters and developers.

The feature, which basically injected ads inside blank tiles in Firefox's New Tab page, may have been opt-in only. However, users felt that the ads where overly intrusive since they are based on user habits, involving a fair amount of user tracking. And no matter how much or how well Mozilla tries to reassure users that the tracking and system are safe and private, users didn't buy and thought the whole thing was too much intrusion.

After shortly over 6mos of being released to the public, Mozilla has said the feature is being retired. Writing on the official Mozilla blog, vice president Darren Herman explains that while they believe that advertising in Firefox could be a great business, it isn’t the right business model for them at this time. He continues on stating that, "Our learnings show that users want content that is relevant, exciting and engaging. We want to deliver that type of content experience to our users, and we know that it will take focus and effort to do that right. We have therefore made the decision to stop advertising in Firefox through the Tiles experiment in order to focus on content discovery."

Sponsored tiles will continue to appear for the next few months while Mozilla "fulfills its commitments" (i.e. clears out ad inventory), but then they'll be gone entirely.

While it appears that we will soon see an end to some advertising in one of our all time favorite browsers, it does not completely mark the end for possible changes and ad inclusions down the road. According to Herman's blog post: "Mozilla will continue to explore ways to bring a better balance to the advertising ecosystem for everyone’s benefit, and to build successful products that respect user privacy and deliver experiences based upon transparency, choice and control."

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