Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why Mozilla putting ads in Firefox isn't such a bad thing after all

The Mozilla Foundation announced a few weeks ago that it would begin including sponsored content in some of the tiles of its popular Firefox web browser. This, of course, immediately brought out the pitch-fork bearing zealots who insists that Mozilla is compromising the soul of Firefox and starting down some slippery slope that nobody seems to be able to define. While I'm not excessively happy about Mozilla's decision, I'm a lot more comfortable with it after reading the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, Mitchell Baker, explanation of  their plans.

What are those evil plans, you ask? Well, not so evil, it turns out. Basically, Mozilla plans to hand pick sponsors to advertise in one or two of the six tiles on the new tabs you open. The ads won't have tracking and the tiles can be completely turned off if you want to. Mozilla isn't going to share any information about you or your browsing habits with their advertisers either so the ads are completely benign.

Some people have been surprised by my support of Mozilla's plans and, to be honest, I was a bit torn when I first read about it. But I believe Mozilla has earned our trust over the years. They've walked the walk and talked the talk. They've defended openness, they've defended user rights, and they've been one of the free Internet's strongest advocates. I see no reason not to trust them with this.

We should also consider that the relationship between Mozilla and Google will be ending soon which will take a significant amount of revenue from Mozilla's budget. That money has to be made up in order for the foundation to continue to function and this seems like the most logical way to do it. In fact, it might bring in more money to the foundation than the Google deal did allowing Mozilla to do even greater and better things.

All-in-all, I'm having a lot of trouble finding a reason to worry about this. I don't believe Mozilla has suddenly become evil or is selling users out. And if they ever do, someone will fork the browser and carry on where Mozilla left of. That's the beauty of open source.


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