Notice to new Firefox users: You've been served (ads)
Mozilla has decided that the best course of action going forward is to fill all those blank squares in new tabs with sponsored content (ads, for the layman). The new initiative is called Directory Tiles and it's intended to "improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience," or at least that's the sales pitch from Darren Herman, Mozilla's Vice President of Content Services. It's his job to diversify revenue and sustain Mozilla's mission through innovation in content and personalization products, and this is one way he plans to do that.
As explained in a blog post, Directory Tiles will feature "pre-packaged content for first-time users." Some will come from Mozilla's own ecosystem, while others will be popular websites in a given geographic locations. Directory Tiles will also include "sponsored content from hand-picked partners."
A well-timed satirical article in The Onion titled "Compromising Company's Values for Advertising Revenue Referred to as 'Partnering'" is worth a read if you're need of a good laugh, though this is serious business to Mozilla. Most of Mozilla's revenue comes from its search agreement with Google that's worth around $300 million per year. Through advertising, Mozilla will gain a new revenue stream and perhaps not be so reliant on Google, which offers its own browser in Chrome.
Even so, it's a surprising move, especially considering that Mozilla championed the blocking of third-party cookies by making it a default option starting in Firefox 22. Firefox has also been a fan favorite for several years.