When Mozilla announced in February that it would add so-called Directory Tiles to new versions of Firefox, it was criticized for it.
The organizations main idea was to populate the new tab page with contents so that first time users of the browser would not see a blank space on the page when they opened it for the first time.
Of the nine tiles, six would be selected based on popularity in the user's region, and three sponsored tiles. Companies and organizations pay Mozilla for inclusion on the tab page.
Horror scenarios about blinking ads or Flash ads made the round quickly, but were quickly refuted by specifications for sponsored partner tiles that Mozilla released.
All tiles share the same layout and style guide, regardless of whether they are sponsored or not. All use a single static 180x150 pixel image that may consists of a centered logo, wordmark, or both, on solid color background.
Tiles may not be used for sales pitches and other sales related information such as price information or discounts.
This is how it looks like
The first tiles have just been picked by Mozilla. It needs to be noted that this is just for Firefox Nightly as a test run, and that the selection may change before it lands on the stable branch of the browser.
Also note that this is the US-EN selection. If you run a different locale, you may not get these tiles right now if you are running Nightly.
Mozilla divides the tiles into different groups such as organic, affiliate and (trial) sponsored.
I could not find information about the distinction between affiliate and sponsored tiles. For now it seems that affiliate tiles are links to Mozilla products, pages or services, while sponsored are those that Mozilla is paid for.
It is interesting to note that Amazon is not listed as a sponsor even though it has a tag associated with it if you check out the link. It is not clear what the tag is being used for at the time of writing.
If you follow the bug listing over at Mozilla, you notice that other companies and sites are mentioned on that page again. Here you find listed Reddit and weather.com for example, Twitter, and a couple of "not ready yet" alternatives such as wordpress.com, lonelyplanet.com, nytimes.com and npr.org.
The new Directory Tiles feature that auto-populates the new tab page of Firefox is as unobtrusive as it gets. While I would like to know more about the tracking involved, especially the kind of information such as impressions that advertisers receive from Mozilla, it is not something that I'm too worried about considering Mozilla's track record when it comes to user privacy.
If the organization manages to make extra revenue from it, then I'm all for it considering that it will reduce the dependency on Google. It is not clear by how much though, but every bit counts I guess.
What's your take on this first layout and the selection of sites? (via Sören)
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