When Mozilla announced that it would introduce sponsored tiles to Firefox, lurid headlines were used by many websites and news outlets.
These headlines were sometimes misleading, as they made it seem like Mozilla would plaster advertisement all over Firefox, and sell out its user base to the highest bidding party.
The facts: The idea was to add sponsored tiles to Firefox's new tab page for new users of the browser, and for users who install the browser anew without using synchronization or the import of backups of their own.
Mozilla has released a first specification for partners which defines what the organization expects and how those tiles may look like.
The new tab page consists of nine thumbnail representations of websites and services just like before. A Google search form is displayed on top of it, and the three rows of thumbnails display the directory tiles, that is the partner content, in the middle.
Next to that, popular services such as YouTube or Facebook are displayed.
It needs to be noted that these are only displayed on first run for new users, and not for existing users.
All tiles share the same layout and style guide. They are made up of a single 180x150 pixel image depicting the brand and a text underneath.
The brand image may consist of a centered logo, wordmark, or both, on a solid colored background. Companies may not use sponsored tiles for sales pitches, discounts, dollar amounts or sales according to Mozilla's specification.
So, what you won't get here are dynamic ads, media ads, ads that are loaded from remote servers, or any other form of advertisement that is not static in nature. In essence, this is just a web link to a web service with a thumbnail attached to it.
Sponsored tiles are highlighted with a small arrow icon underneath the title. If you move the cursor over it, additional information about it is displayed as well options to disable the feature in the browser.
Since all advertisement is static in nature, it cannot be used to track users. If images would be hosted remotely, companies could link each load of the image to a particular user, but since that is not the case here, there is no such danger.
The new sponsored tile feature will be added to the US-English version of Firefox first. Mozilla expects to generate revenues between $5m and $10m per year from this type of sponsorship.
To sum it all up. Mozilla will launch Directory Tiles on US-versions of Firefox first. A total of three sponsored tiles are displayed to new users on the new tab page. These tiles may not be sales related, and do not track users. Firefox users can disable the feature at any time with a couple of clicks.
So, it is not as bad as some have made it look like. While it will still introduce advertisement to Firefox, I think it is a form that most users can live with comfortably.
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.