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Mozilla VP says Firefox will test sponsored tabs

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Mozilla says paid sponsorship must help users

Mozilla vice president Johnathan Nightingale has moved to clarify recent reports that its Firefox browser will feature sponsored ads when a user opens a new tab.

When the plans were first discussed by vice president of content services Darren Herman in February, many users were reportedly concerned at the prospect of being bombarded by advertising.

However, Nightingale explained that this will not be the case, and sought to clarify any confusion. He said:

“A lot of our community found the language hard to decipher, and worried that we were going to turn Firefox into a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder; without user control, without user benefit. That’s not going to happen. That’s not who we are at Mozilla.”

He suggested that Mozilla will instead “experiment” with ways to make the new tabs more useful, and that sponsored advertising would not be brought in unless it could be shown to provide benefit for Firefox users.

What changes can Firefox users expect?

While existing Firefox users will simply be presented with a collection of their most visited sites when they open a tab, new users do not have this kind of data to work with and as such just get a blank tab.

What Mozilla aims to do is ‘help’ these users find interesting content by providing suggestions in this space. Nightingale suggested Firefox would try out different layouts and see which ones generate the best reaction from users. For example, if a potential new feature is regularly ignored or disabled during the testing phase, it will be dropped.

Nightingale was also keen to stress that no money will be made during the testing phase and that user feedback would be a consideration when deciding how to proceed.

Mozilla will be hoping that these promises are enough to placate users, with the company still recovering from the furore surrounding former CEO Brendan Eich, who stepped down in April after just a month in the role. His appointment had been met with anger in some quarters over his opposition to equal rights for gay couples.

Adrian Mursec, head of development at theEword, said: “It’s certainly not uncommon for users to resist changes to products that they have grown accustomed to over time. However, in this case it seems as though the concern stems from the notion of Mozilla putting money ahead of the Firefox user experience, and this is something they will need to manage carefully.”

Written by James Riches

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