Mozilla Experiments with Ads in Firefox Nightly Build

Paul Lilly

Advertisers can buy sponsored tiles in Firefox's new tab page

Mozilla is in search of a new revenue stream for its Firefox browser, and one proposed solution is to sell sponsored tiles that would appear on a new tab page. More than just a concept at this point, Mozilla is actively experimenting with sponsored tiles, which now appear in the newest Firefox Nightly build . These are test builds of the popular browser that contain new features and enhancements that may or may not advance into later builds, including a stable release.

This isn't the first we've heard of this. Mozilla mentioned the possibility of ads back in February 2014 to a mostly unreceptive Internet audience. Though the idea of ads isn't a popular one among users, Mozilla promised that they wouldn't have any tracking features, and would be clearly labeled as ads.

Fast forward to today and the time for experimentation is upon us. The folks over at The Next Web gave Firefox Nightly a test run and noted that when you first launch the browser, there's a message on the new tab page explaining what the tiles are, a link to a support page telling how sponsored tiles work, a promise that it adheres to Mozilla's privacy policies, and a reminder that you can turn tiles off or opt for a blank new tab page.

"It's quite a lot to take in all at once," The Next Web writes .

According to Firefox Product Manager Bryan Clark, some sites will show up in tiles even when there's no sponsorship deal in place. For example, popular sites like Amazon and Facebook might appear even though they didn't pay for the spot.

It's easy to see why Mozilla would consider this approach. The majority of the company's revenue comes from search deals with Google, in which the search giant pays a premium -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- to have its search engine the default option in Firefox. While this relationship has worked up to this point, it's hard to fault Mozilla for not wanting to be beholden to a single entity.

As to the ads, it's not a foregone conclusion that they'll stick. If they do, the earliest you'd see them in a stable build would be three months from now, which is when the latest version of Firefox Nightly is scheduled to hit the stable channel. However, Mozilla's been slow playing this, so it's probably more likely that we'd see ads in a stable release sometime next year, if that's the direction Mozilla goes.

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