Mozilla: No ads on New Tab Page after all

Martin Brinkmann
May 10, 2014
Updated • May 11, 2014

Update: If you read the blog post careful, you may come to a different conclusion: what is definitely not going to happen is that Firefox will be turned "into a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder" and without user control or benefit. It still means that Mozilla will display advertisement on the new tab page.

Darren Herman, VP of Content Services confirmed that this is the case in a statement sent to use via email:

None of the tiles are sponsored at this time because the goal of initial experiments is to measure user interest and value of recommended content. Sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.

When Mozilla announced that it was experimenting with a new design for Firefox's default New Tab Page, it received lots of criticism for it.

The New Tab Page is displayed to users when a new tab is opened in the browser. Since the sites it displays depends on the user's usage of the browser, it is not displaying useful content on a new installation.

The idea was to populate the new tab page with a selection of popular sites. And since popularity may depend on the user's location in the world, it too became a factor.

The criticism came down to the fact that Mozilla thought about adding sponsored tiles to Firefox's New Tab Page as well.

The first announcement did not go into many details and some users already saw blinking Flash ads on the New Tab Page.

A specification was published shortly thereafter which outlined that sponsored tiles had to adhere to the same rules as regular tiles. This meant that they could only use a single static image, and that the image could not be sales related.

The most recent design of the page looked like this.

While that put some users at ease, it was not clear which metrics would be made available to third-party advertisers.

Jonathan Nightingale, Vice President of Firefox announced today that Mozilla has canceled the experiment. This means that there won't be sponsored tiles in future versions of the Firefox web browser.

User feedback on the matter seems to have been the main reason behind the decision to stop the experiment.

The plan to make the New Tab Page more useful to first time users of the Firefox browser still stands though, but advertisement is out of the picture.

It is very likely that Mozilla will use ideas from the failed experiment, especially in regards to design of the images on the new tab page and the sites displayed on it.

The easiest option for the organization would be to remove the sponsored tiles from the page and replace them with three tiles pointing to websites that are popular in a particular region of the world.

Jonathan Nightingale mentioned that Mozilla will test a mix of first and third-party sites, and also test various layouts, but that all of the tests won't be about revenue and that none will be collected in the process.

Closing Words

Mozilla's stance on privacy and user rights does not work well together with advertisement, and while the organization has to generate revenue to diversify income streams and reduce its dependency on Google, advertisements in the browser are not the way to do so.

My suggestion for the new tab page is to add at least one privacy related site to it, for instance the site of the EFF in North America to raise awareness for privacy and end-user related issues.

Mozilla: No ads on New Tab Page after all
Article Name
Mozilla: No ads on New Tab Page after all
Mozilla decided to bury the idea to display light advertisement on Firefox's New Tab Page

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  1. Titi Safta said on July 8, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Anyway, if you don’t like ads you can use adblock extension to block all.

  2. John The Handyman said on May 13, 2014 at 10:52 am

    It’s good that they held back the advertising but the already opened tab arrangement in 29.0.1 is honestly terrible. I can’t see where the tab ends and where the new one starts, everything blends together.

  3. about:blank said on May 12, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    The least distracting will be if you change in about:config into about:blank
    (in every browser about:blank removes that shit)

    Hey admin what does it mean :
    You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Wait a bit before you push the comment button.

  4. Dwight Stegall said on May 12, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Mozilla decided to go ahead with after all. The ads are back on.

  5. Dave said on May 11, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I think it’s absolutely right for Firefox to sell spaces on the speed dial in the same way that Opera does. Designs should have to conform in the way Mozilla has already specified. That means money for Mozilla and Firefox gets better.

  6. PhoneyVirus said on May 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    PowerUser Tip

    Type about:config in Firefox’s url, hit enter and click I’ll be careful. Then type browser.newtab and look for browser.newtab.url note you can tweak more if you only type browser.newtab. Double click and change it to what ever you want about:home or to some favorite website that you can’t get enough of, when done close the about:config by closing the tab and enjoy your New tab.

    Thanks for the little Preview Martin


  7. InterestedBystander said on May 10, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hmmm… On this particular OS (I’m traveling and using a laptop with Linux Mint 14.04) I have FireFox set to store no history, and the Disconnect, NoScript, BetterPrivacy, and Self-Destructing Cookies add-ons are all enabled. The result: the new-tab page shows a rank of empty gray tiles. Not aesthetically marvelous, but certainly not distracting either.

  8. Glenn said on May 10, 2014 at 8:51 am

    They could work with some bookmarking sites (like Xmarks, for instance) and use a “Top 10” crowd-sourced list kind of thing and have categories that users could choose from. Nothing really new here. Like many people, though, I don’t use the existing tiles on the New Tab, so it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other as far as I’m concerned.

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