Is Mozilla Selling Ads in Firefox?

Mozilla explains its new effort that will put sponsored content inside the Firefox Web browser, but it's not exactly an ad (yet).

Mozilla is now considering a new addition to its revenue-generating activities by adding sponsored content to users' new tab page.

Currently whenever a Firefox user opens a new tab, the tab is populated with tiles, which are thumbnail screenshots of the user's most frequently visited sites. A new effort called Directory Tiles will enhance that experience for new users.

"Directory Tiles will pre-populate the new Tab page with suggested Websites sourced from both selected and sponsored content partners," Denelle Dixon-Thayer, vice president of Business Affairs at Mozilla, told eWEEK.

The goal is to enhance the initial first-run experience of users to Firefox by suggesting Websites that the user will find beneficial. Initially, the new Directory Tiles suggestions are not including advertisements.

"As we develop Directory Tiles we will consider whether other content such as ads makes sense for our users, our mission and our goal of diversifying revenue," Dixon-Thayer said.

While Dixon-Thayer admitted that Mozilla wants the Directory Tiles effort to generate revenue, that is a tertiary effort behind the two primary goals.

"Our first goal is to deliver a better experience for Firefox users, moving from one where the screen was blank to one that creates opportunities for our users to find content that is helpful and relevant to them," Dixon-Thayer said. "Secondly, we are seeking to promote our mission by bringing the Web and content to our users and by helping to shift the industry toward a more user-centric approach with respect to content delivery."

Mozilla itself does not have the goal of generating revenue for the sake of pure profit. Dixon-Thayer noted that the goal is to reinvest any potential revenue generated from Mozilla's Directory Tiles effort into its continuing efforts to build products and teach Internet skills.

Revenue for Mozilla today comes largely from the open-source browser vendor's partnership with Google. Whenever a user does a Google search through the main Firefox home screen, Google pays Mozilla. In 2012, Mozilla reported that it generated $311 million in revenue.

It's not yet entirely clear when the new Directory Tiles initiative will be integrated with the Firefox Web browser.

"Directory Tiles are expected to go live for new Firefox users as soon as we have the user experience right," Dixon-Thayer said. "As part of that process, we will determine the best route for testing them with users."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.