Mozilla’s advertising experiment for the new tab page in Firefox is popping up in the nightly test builds of the browser. Called Directory Tiles, the new program mixes website suggestions from sponsors and sites based on your browsing history in the new tab page for Firefox, and the mere hint of advertising in Firefox has created a fierce backlash from many of the browser’s devotees.
Sponsored Tiles are only meant to appear if you don’t have a browsing history, as typically the new tab page shows the sites you visit most often.
The Directory Tiles layout isn’t vastly different from what you see now in the current version of Firefox. There’s a grid of tiles with links to websites on them.
The biggest difference is that you may see several tiles that are paid placements. Each ad tile has a sponsored label beneath it indicating that money changed hands for that tile to be there. These are called Sponsored Tiles, as explained on Mozilla’s support page.
Taking the nightly build for a test drive I saw three sponsored links including BBC, Booking.com, and Wired. It’s not clear if Mozilla’s nightly builds actually feature paid-for content or if these are just placemarkers for future ad deals.
Other popular sites were also there—such as Amazon, Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube—that weren’t sponsored. These appeared to be popular site suggestions from Mozilla to help fill out the grid and are probably the beginning of what Mozilla calls Enhanced Tiles.
Like Sponsored Tiles, Enhanced Tiles have a logo image supplied by partners sites and may also include a rollover image when you hover over the tile. In my tests, rollover images were not present on the nightly build.
Mozilla says Enhanced Tiles only show up for select partner sites and are based on your browsing history; they are not paid for.
To deliver the sponsored content Mozilla says it is collecting data on Directory and Enhanced Tiles. It’s not specified what kind of data is being pulled, but Mozilla says the data is being used to “help offer the most interesting sites to new Firefox users and improve recommendations for existing Firefox users.”
If you don’t like the new experience, Mozilla has a mechanism to turn off Directory Tiles. Clicking the settings cog in the upper right corner of the new tab page, you have the option of selecting the classic look for the new tab page with a grid of tiles based on your browsing history. Or you can choose to have an entirely blank tab. At this writing, the nightly build did not offer the classic look.
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.