Firefox reverses course, nixes in-browser ads

Mozilla says it's getting out of the ad business so it can "focus on content discovery."

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Firefox’s in-browser ads were controversial from the start. After all, its development team had previously worked to protect users’ privacy against increasingly invasive online advertising, so it seemed a bit odd for its developers to stick ads of any kind on the browser's start page. 

On Friday, however, Mozilla—the non-profit organization that develops Firefox—announced that it will end its in-browser Suggested Tiles advertising program “in order to focus on content discovery,” according to the organization.

“Advertising in Firefox could be a great business, but it isn’t the right business for us at this time because we want to focus on core experiences for our users,” Mozilla’s Darren Herman wrote in a blog post announcing the change of plans. “We want to reimagine content experiences and content discovery in our products. We will do this work as a fully integrated part of the Firefox team.”

The ads won't disappear immediately since Mozilla still has to serve up ads that advertisers already paid for, but the organization says the program should end within a few months.

The story behind the story: Mozilla announced its Suggested Tiles ad program for Firefox’s start page back in February 2014 and released its first ad-supported version of the browser in November of last year. Mozilla expanded the ad program to include ads based on your browser history a few months back. You could opt out of the Tiles ads on the start page by simply toggling the view settings either to show only your top sites or to show a blank page. But our Brad Chacos characterized the Suggested Tiles as “advertising done right,” and commended Mozilla’s user-centric approach.

Leaving the door open?  

Of course, it’s certainly possible that Mozilla will explore the idea of in-browser ads again in the future. In his blog post, Herman says that advertising “isn’t the right business for [Mozilla] at this time,” which suggests that Mozilla may take a second look at advertising in the future. Considering the fact that a large portion of Mozilla’s funding comes from its search deal with Google, as our Ian Paul pointed out last year, you certainly can’t blame Mozilla for exploring other ways to pay its bills.

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