Over the weekend, confusion broke out about whether Mozilla plans to go through with its decision to test ads on the Firefox new tab page after Firefox VP, Jonathan Nightengale, wrote in a post that Firefox was not going to turn into “a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder; without user control, without user benefit.”
What was lost in subsequent reporting is what he said next, “But we will experiment… Sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.”
On Sunday, TechCrunch’s, Frederic Lardinois wrote, “Despite what you may have read, Mozilla isn’t canning its plans to sell sponsored tiles on its new-tab page.” With that, at least one of the original articles has been updated with a correction.
Part of the faulty interpretations may have stemmed from Nightingale’s admission that Mozilla’s announcement in February that it would be testing sponsored content for new Firefox users “didn’t go over well.” The irony is Nightingale’s post was meant to clear up misunderstandings about the February news, of which he says, “A lot of our community found the language hard to decipher.”
Nightingale says that plans to experiment with sponsored content on the new tab page haven’t been derailed, but that the sponsored tiles will only roll out after initial, non-revenue generating user acceptance testing is complete.
“We’ll test a mix of our own sites and other useful sites on the Web. We’ll mess with the layout. These tests are purely to understand what our users find helpful and what our users ignore or disable – these tests are not about revenue and none will be collected. Sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.”
Ads are a touchy subject for Mozilla which has always billed itself as the operator of an independent, non-advertising-driven search engine. It’s revenue is almost exclusively generated from search royalty agreements with companies including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo — the bulk of that being from Google.
Mozilla’s current three-year deal with Google happens to be coming up for renewal at the end of this year. Starting with sponsored tiles shown to new users, the company is looking for alternative revenue streams that could make it less dependent on the search giant. It will see if users revolt with the introduction of sponsored content.