Would You Use a Web Browser with Ads?

02/17/2014

As if it weren’t enough to have ads on websites everywhere, the Mozilla Corporation, the company that maintains the Firefox web browser, has announced that it will start selling ads to display in the browser. For now, these ads will show up in “directory tiles,” the nine tiles that display by default when you launch Firefox. “Mozilla intends to display the most popular sites by location, as well as sponsored websites that will be clearly labeled as such.”

This isn’t much, but it’s the start of a trend that may lead down a slippery slope. Today it’s “sponsored websites,” but, if people aren’t too bothered by that, what will it be tomorrow? Ads injected by the browser above websites? Interstitial ads – provided by the browser – before you load a web page?

It’s a curious paradox that the Mozilla Foundation – the non-profit entity behind Firefox, which is all “free software” and “open source,” which describes itself as “a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet,” is going this route. To be fair, things are complicated. The Mozilla Corporation is the for-profit entity that maintains Firefox, operates under the umbrella of the aforementioned foundation. But Firefox needs money to survive, and this money is provided by none other than Google, in exchange for Firefox having Google as its default search engine. Google pays some $300 million a year for this presence.

It’s all very confusing, and it’s not surprising that Mozilla needs money to continue development, but, to be honest, $300 million a year sounds like it’s more than enough to maintain a web browser. However, the current contract with Google runs out in November, 2014, so perhaps Mozilla is planning on dropping Google and trying to make it on its own.

No matter what, I won’t be using Firefox if there are ads. I don’t see the directory tiles, since I have my own home page set, but the idea of a browser displaying ads repulses me. I know that more and more people accept ads in apps – in part because they’re too cheap to spend a buck for a mobile game – and this encroachment of ads into desktop apps is something I don’t want to see.

There are other options. You can use Safari, Chrome (though that is a Google data/behavior collection device), or Opera, or a few other, smaller browsers such as iCab. But no matter what, don’t accept ads in your apps; it’ll just start the slide toward ads everywhere.