Mozilla starts test of subscription-based ad-free Internet experience

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 5, 2019

Mozilla launched a new subscription-based service today in partnership with that gives subscribers an ad-free reading experience on participating news sites.

Some might say that they get an ad-free experience already thanks to the content blocker that they are using, and that may very well be the case for sites that don't use paywalls or other means of blocking Internet users with ad-blockers from accessing the sites.

The idea behind the new service is simple: make sure that site owners and users benefit from an ad-free Internet. Many Internet sites rely on advertisement revenue. Content blockers on the other hand remove ads which is beneficial to the user, but they don't address the revenue issue that arises. You could say that it is not the task of the content blocker to make sure that a site survives, and that is true, but as a user, you may be interested in keeping some sites alive.

With Scroll, users would pay a monthly subscription fee to support participating sites.

firefox ad free internet

The details are a bit blurry right now. The First Look page is up and it provides some information. According to it, a subscription will cost $4.99 per month but you don't get to see a list of participating sites right now. A click on subscribe leads to a survey and and that sign-ups are limited at the time.

Scroll lists some of its partners, and it is a selection of major sites such as Slate, The Atlantic, Gizmodo, Vox, or The Verge.

The participating companies receive subscription money instead of advertising revenue. How the subscription money is split up is unclear and there is no information on Scroll's website about how the money is divided among the participating companies.

Will participating publishers get their share based on activity or is it a flat fee instead? Mozilla and Scroll will likely get a cut as well.

Subscribers get a handful of other benefits besides supporting sites and accessing these sites without seeing any advertisement: from a seamless experience between mobile and desktop devices to audio versions of articles, and a special app that highlights new content without advertising.

Closing Words

The idea to get Internet users to pay a small amount of money to get rid of advertisement is not entirely new. The test that Mozilla plans to conduct is very limited at the time, only a handful of publishers support it and while that makes for a good start, it is hard to imagine that this is attractive enough to get a sustainable number of users to sign up.

It may be an option for Internet users who are a regular on one or multiple of the sites that joined the experiment, and it may be better than having to deal with sites individually instead. Then again, unless Scroll supports lots of sites, I cannot really see this go far unless the service opens its door for all publishers and reveals how business is conducted. The chance of success is certainly higher with a partner like Mozilla.

Now You: What is your take on this? Would you consider subscribing? (via Techdows)

Mozilla starts test of subscription-based ad-free Internet experience
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Mozilla starts test of subscription-based ad-free Internet experience
Mozilla launched a new subscription-based service today in partnership with that gives subscribers an ad-free reading experience on participating news sites.
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  1. John Fenderson said on July 8, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    This is something that I would consider, but whether or not I do it depends on a couple of things. First, what sort of tracking is involved here? Second, what sites are part of the service?

    If there are few to none, then this wouldn’t interest me. If the examples (Slate, The Atlantic, Gizmodo, Vox, The Verge), are representative of the overall selection, then I also wouldn’t be interested.

  2. Clairvaux said on July 8, 2019 at 3:54 am

    That’s the Brave idea, right ? It might be interesting, provided of course you can choose where your money goes — and how much you give.

    I’m not at all interested in giving money to a list a sites set by Mozilla, which in all likeliness will be completely different from the sites I like and visit, and will almost certainly include sites that I hate.

    It can only be interesting if this brings a Patreon feature to Firefox — minus of course the political censorship, which will never go away, Mozilla being Mozilla.

    In fact, such a feature should be available irrespective of the fact a site may have ads, or not. Mozilla is in a good position to allow the voluntary monetization of grassroots websites by their users. I’m not interested in giving money to Slate, Gizmodo or The Atlantic.

    Ghacks or Ask Woody, now that might be a different story. But of course Mozilla won’t do this. They want big bucks from big deals with big businesses.

  3. google said on July 7, 2019 at 11:33 am

    I’m happy to use Mac OS Safari and Firefox

  4. Anonymous said on July 7, 2019 at 4:21 am

    Soon, Mozilla will start removing ad blockers from Firefox, just like Google is planning to do in Chrome.

    You pay to watch ads. You pay to be tracked. You pay to be spied on. You will pay even more to be controlled.

    We need more free(dom) software and open-source hardware. We need freedom and privacy. We need a new internet.

  5. Janne Granström said on July 6, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    I want choice where my money goes, i dont want support liberal bloggers or media.

    and it is mozilla, so im pretty sure that there be any non liberal media on that thing, so no thank you.

    1. YouWhut said on July 7, 2019 at 4:32 am

      Your instincts serve you well. Scroll is a who’s who list of the biggest scumbags in online media.

      1. Stan said on July 7, 2019 at 4:11 pm

        Indeed; “birds of a feather flock together”.. ;)

  6. Roman Billerich said on July 6, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Sounds for me like the perfect excuse in the end to adopt “extension v3 manifest” like Google does it with Chrome – with the end result of limiting functionality of ads-blockers – to increase “security”.

    Then you have the chance to stay ads-free with subscribing to the “Premium-service” – I would not be surprised at all.

    Keep in mind, Mozilla is since years a dedicated Google follower, and they lied multiple times in the past that features stay or functionality is restored. They are like Google pretty dishonest. I for my part would not believe one second in what they announce – and even more important is to look beyond what they announce!

  7. Robert said on July 6, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    All of you who signed up for a Firefox account must be getting emailed for this.

  8. Alexei said on July 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Mozilla changed a lot. Said Good bye to Firefox long back. Reason: High RAM & CPU Usage.

    Now a days, even the ‘so called’ Open source software companies behaves like greedy Shylock’s. The good old days are gone. The message is simple & straight ” If you want to protect your browsing data [Privacy]…You have to pay”. There will be no free lunch…!!

    How to spot an Open source ‘free’ software Shylock:
    1) Unnecessary Updates
    2) Unnecessary Updates
    n) Unnecessary Updates

    I am happy with my SeaMonkey, PaleMoon & Chameleon [K-Melon]…. Now the crooked little Fox is more greedy..!!


  9. TelV said on July 6, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    I think the whole problem with advertising is that a given ad invariably has nothing to do with the content users are reading. Take ghacks for example where the content is primarily related to IT be it Linux, Windows or similar. So an ad for lawnmowers is hardly going to entice users to click on it whereas an ad with related content might.

    But would site owners consider restricting ads to the content they tend to publish?

    Another factor to consider is how trustworthy are the ad servers from which ads are drawn. I was reading an article the other day on about a compromised ad server which was injecting ransomware on to users systems if they were unfortunate enough to click an ad. The site owner was apparently unaware that this was happening at the time. Stories like that deter me from allowing ads even if it means being blocked from the site.

  10. Harro Glööckler said on July 6, 2019 at 2:04 am

    Seems like a typical mafia blackmail where they first break something and then say “oh, you want it working? No problem, pay us a little fee and it won’t break again”. Besides that, NONE of the Scroll partners deserve any funding with their made-up and biased articles.

    I miss the late 90s and early 00s internet when people still did stuff out of passion and not for profit. You could easily discover new knowledge without any ads or popups while now most sites are 90% ads 10% content and even that 10% is mostly just a hidden ad masked as a legitimate article. I’m blocking ads since 2006 without any exceptions; if a site bugs me to disable it, i just won’t visit it. There were two times last year when i experienced the “common people” internet with ads for the first time – flashy sites with autoplaying unrelated videos and a 200px column in the middle with the actual news article, multiple unskippable 30s ads inside a 10min Youtube video, url hijacking where every click redirects you to an ad site, etc…just horrible.

    1. John Fenderson said on July 8, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Harro Glööckler: “I miss the late 90s and early 00s internet when people still did stuff out of passion”

      That internet still exists. It’s harder to see on the web, though, because all of the commercial sites tend to drown out the truly valuable websites — but it’s still there as well.

  11. user17843 said on July 6, 2019 at 12:43 am

    This is just a repackaged which only features a handful of sites.

    Here’s why they will never get more sites on board and why Scroll isn’t going anywhere:

    The more sites they invite, logically, the higher the monthly price becomes. But they can’t increase the price, because people aren’t willing to pay more than 5 or 10$ per month. So, since they can’t increase the price, the publishers aren’t willing to join. But since the publishers do not join, no new users come in. Which means, there is even less incentive for publishers to join. It’s a vicious cycle. Which means, the entire business idea is doomed right from the start.

    Why do ads work? Because, at least ideally, everyone wins.

    A business owner can advertise his business.
    A website can sell ad space.
    A viewer can click on interesting items and find a great product, and only pays when he actually buys a product.

    At the moment the website support is already baked into the prices of consumer goods.

    What Mozilla tries is “putting the cart before the horse”.

    So they expect consumers to not only pay for the ad space with their product spending, they also expect to consumer to finance this premium exclusive model as some kind of way of changing the way the web works.


    You actually have to create INCENTIVES.

    What’s in here for the user? Right, nothing. I can get a complete ad free web with a free plugin, so why should I buy ad-free access to 5 or 10 sites?

    1. John Fenderson said on July 8, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      @user17843: “Why do ads work? Because, at least ideally, everyone wins.”

      Ideally, perhaps, but as implemented on the web anyway, that ideal is is very, very far from being realized. End users don’t win at all.

      1. user17843 said on July 10, 2019 at 1:58 pm

        @John Fenderson:

        They do. Otherwise they wouldn’t spend all that money on products brought to them by advertising. Ads give people access to products, which increases the quality of life.

      2. John Fenderson said on July 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm


        Well, we simply disagree on this point. I’ll note, though, that I was talking specifically about web advertising, not advertising in general.

  12. Stan said on July 6, 2019 at 12:40 am

    Anyone know the status of the Verizon/Oath lawsuit, the silence remains deafening.?
    How much is it costing Mozilla in legal fees, I see a while back their top Lawyer departed, are they anticipating losing and desperate for cash?
    This kind of stuff is vomit inducing and reeks of desperation; with a market share now below 9% and half a dozen viable alternatives out there it’s the last thing they should be considering doing.
    Tis sad.

    1. user17843 said on July 7, 2019 at 5:38 pm

      the last status was given by Denelle Dixon. She said Verizon refuses to pay them any dollar, and that mozilla has anticipated something like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole law suit has long been settled quietly, with Mozilla giving in. they would certainly talk about it, but we won’t know for sure until the 2018 financials will be published.

      Denelle Dixon btw has since departed to the Stellar Foundation.

  13. RG said on July 6, 2019 at 12:32 am

    As I keep saying, TV works with ad *views* (impressions) and they make billions around the world. Just cause internet is a different medium is a false argument because from reading news to TV shows internet is being used in the same ways as ‘traditional’ mediums.

  14. ULBoom said on July 5, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    I’ve always been a proponent of a private, no tracking paid for browser. A great idea, I’m first in line.

    This isn’t a good idea though. What is a good idea is Brave allowing users to share funds with sites they want to support and also earn a portion of sites’ ad revenue that can be forwarded wherever. How about, say google, facebook, etc., giving users a tiny payout for each link clicked? If clicks are what sites want, that’ll definitely work (and be abused comically)!

    Mozilla’s idea would have to include every site and leave the selection up to the users. There are very, very few sites I pay for in any significant amount.

    My ad blocker is now a system app, no longer part of the browser. So sorry.

    I don’t use Brave but their BAT program is the only one I know of like that.

  15. Timi said on July 5, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    Pay for what? A bunch of fake news sites, you gotta be out of your mind to do that!

  16. AnorKnee Merce said on July 5, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    AFAIK, many businesses want to place digital ads on the Internet via web-browsers and they go through ad brokers like Google and Facebook. Google in turn pay websites to place ads on their sites and the payment amount will be based on number of eyeballs/visits and ad-clicks by visitors or web-surfers = popular websites will get more ad payments from Google or indirectly from business advertisers. This looks like a viable business model for the Internet and a fair deal for web-surfers, eg some popular Youtubers are millionaires just through Google ad revenue.
    ……. Unfortunately, some popular and greedy websites abuse ad placement so as to make visiting/surfing on their sites intrusive and disruptive for the visitors or web-surfers, eg many over-laying ads that cover a page and auto-playing video-ads = hence the need for adblocker extensions or add-ons in their browsers.

    AFAIK, the free open-source Firefox browser gets some ad revenue from Google for the default Search bar and also relies on public donations. Seems free Firefox has difficulty getting revenue to finance itself, unlike popular websites, Chrome, Edge and Safari. Chrome, Edge and Safari are used by their owners to self-promote their products and services, eg free Google Chrome promotes Google Docs/Suite, Cloud, Maps, Youtube, etc to its users. In effect, free Chrome is self-financed by profitable Google and free Edge is self-financed by profitable M$ = no real need for the browser to get its own revenue to finance itself.
    ……. Free Firefox which is preinstalled on many Linux distros, could also have been self-financed but unfortunately free desktop Linux has no viable business model other than relying mostly on public donations and maybe financial support from tech giants through the Linux Foundation.

    So, the main source of Firefox’s money problems is that there is no profitable desktop Linux OS to support it financially. More user-experience problems are created when free Firefox desperately tries to get more revenue to finance itself, eg the above news article.

  17. Sunny said on July 5, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    I have no problems paying $5 a month to help finance an open source webbrowser and some websites with good info. So It is a good idea.
    But I no longer trust Mozilla, and have no garanty that those sites will still not track me.
    So I will wait for more info before making a decision on this.

  18. Michael D. said on July 5, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    I’d prefer that the companies that can’t get by without our click ad revenue…get closed down. That’s the American way….when the hell did we start requiring people to support these companies? Ridiculous.

    The truth of the matter is…most of these companies are irrelevant and should not exist to begin with.

    If you’re supporting Mozilla(and Canonical), you’re supporting the ideologies of Soro’s et al(and Microsoft).

    Good luck with that….

    1. ULBoom said on July 5, 2019 at 11:22 pm

      Well, clicking an ad doesn’t provide support from the clicker; just a click. Money flows at a level most users never experience (correct usage of the “e” word!); as we browse, we just get our data taken in our roles as unwitting gratis salespeople.

  19. Tobarisch said on July 5, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    The M0zIlla First Look Page needs Javascript enabled.

    MOZILLA CORP. has gone full rogue foe me… NIET !!

    1. Robert said on July 7, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      This is probably why my Firefox browser’s homepage doesn’t load anymore. I have to hit the refresh button to load it.

  20. Anonymous said on July 5, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    “We’ve partenered with some of the world’s greatest publishers to bring you a better journalism experience.”

    “The world’s greatest publishers” are not compatible with journalism.

    1. Cyberman said on July 5, 2019 at 10:39 pm

      Vox is straight up evil.

  21. 99 said on July 5, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Pay to avoid ads? That’s blackmail!

    As long as they don’t pay a decent amount of cash (in advance Please!) for watching ads – as a compensation for taking the potential risk of a irreversible brainwashing – I block this impertinent sh*t …

    1. John Fenderson said on July 8, 2019 at 5:06 pm


      I think the word you’re going for here is “extortion”, not “blackmail”. But it’s not even extortion.

  22. Anonymous said on July 5, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    “The worst part of internet ads is the tracking behind them, imo. This kind of model would simply not work without user tracking – they need to know it is you, who paid, to not show you ads.”


    Take a site like Hulu. The amount of data mining, tracking and selling of that remains the same whether one has an ad free subscription or not. The only difference is the visible ads.

  23. Gerald said on July 5, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    How about every click a website (not additional for individual pages) receives they charge your IP a penny (or equalivant local currency)? Carriers will adapt with website data plans, as will VPNs as well. Free WiFi from governments or businesses will still be an option for those that can not afford it.

  24. Anonymous said on July 5, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Non profit company but keep looking for more and more way to make profit.. Ironic much?

    1. Robert said on July 7, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      I’m pretty sure these open source programmers pay themselves with the revenue. So they keep taking away useful features that we want and implement their own so that they can at some point earn enough to give themselves a pay hike.

  25. Anonymous said on July 5, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    I suspect this was announced because they’re going to eventually go with manifest v3 in Firefox as well, which will kill ad-blockers as we know them.

    1. Iron Heart said on July 6, 2019 at 8:27 am

      You are probably correct. Most people are too dumb to connect the dots.

  26. Yuliya said on July 5, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    The worst part of internet ads is the tracking behind them, imo. This kind of model would simply not work without user tracking – they need to know it is you, who paid, to not show you ads.
    Now Idk about you, but personally I would not be comfortable to allow Mozilla, one of the worst privacy offenders in the technology field, to track me anymore.

  27. Anonymous said on July 5, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    The more numerous, annoying and unescapable ads will be, the more money Mozilla will make from users paying them to remove them. Adblocking is becoming more directly against Mozilla’s business interests. It’s not a surprise their management decided against cooperation with ublock origin to have a real built-in adblocker in Firefox.

  28. Will I Never said on July 5, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    PLEASE stop using the clichéd word “experience” in every post. It’s meaningless and extremely annoying.

    1. OzMerry said on July 9, 2019 at 5:56 am

      Isn’t “experience” just a marketing/manipulative euphemism for 1) calculated social engineering, and/or 2) companies being seen to actually care about users, but don’t (necessarily)?

    2. Giorno said on July 7, 2019 at 10:49 am


    3. ULBoom said on July 5, 2019 at 11:14 pm

      Thank You!!!

      “Experience” has become noise. Take it out of a sentence and see if the meaning changes. Almost never does. It’s become a universal faux part of speech; noun, verb, adjective, adverb and all their variations.

      This article is great, not the most egregious but still a serious attempt at meaninglessness:

      Contains this brilliant clause “If you use the new clipboard experience on Windows 10…”

      It’s not possible to use an experience although “tech” seems to not comprehend the differences among software, machines and humans, so how could they know what’s real and what isn’t?

    4. Tom Hawack said on July 5, 2019 at 7:21 pm

      The word has been abused, I agree, but remains meaningful for those who don’t use it as a marketing trampoline. Many words are abused as well, take “love” for instance : to love chocolate, one’s dog, our beloved. English provides “to like” and “to love” when in French for instance we have but “aimer” (“to love”) to which we ad “bien” (“aimer bien”) to mean we like, which is odd because “bien” in French and in this case means “well” … leading to the idea that to “love well” is lesser than “to love” :=)

      What other word than “experience”? “Grounding”?

      1. ddk said on July 5, 2019 at 11:27 pm

        Experience is conditional and subjective, if a site gets repeat visitors we can probably assume their overall “experience” is good or at the very least, tolerable.

        In marketing speak “experience” is usually more of an annoyance to the end user than anything else.

        We are smart to use content blocking, if any site attempts to break through filters, I at once will exit with the assumption that malware is not far behind. It’s still very risky clicking on any ad banner as those are used to drop malware and, worse, ransomware.

        Sandboxie + uBlock Origin are your friends in these circumstances.

  29. Iron Heart said on July 5, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    uBlock Origin does it for free.

  30. Tom Hawack said on July 5, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    I’m not fond of the concept. I prefer participation to the cost of a website I like and visit often or even a site’ limited availability without a paid subscription : I know where the money goes. As stated in the article, “How the subscription money is split up is unclear[…]” and I try to understand how 1$ (or whatever 5) would be shared between visited sites (should they participate of course) : pro rata, the user’s decision per-site? Insufficiently documented.

    Generally speaking I think some sites need money indeed to carry on with their shared passion, often excellently well when meanwhile other places open a site to get ad revenue, and may open several of them to multiply their income, leaving the sites themselves to poor content.

    Third point is going to irritate if not revolt several among us I guess. To be totally frank I don’t think anyone should depend on a site for a living, I even believe sites should be financially handled by their owners as a front-end of a reliable business. Maybe is this also why ad revenue has replaced right from the beginning users’ fee, being less intrusive in terms of epidermic cost (no cash, just advertisement feed-forcing).

    Last point would validate the “subscription-based ad-free Internet experience” concept I basically and maybe unjustly dislike, which is that in the ad business far too much money goes in the advertisers’ pockets. Honest sites work hard and get too little of the ads they support. But I still prefer to participate directly, yet the concept is better than feeding the ad business, in fact any other method is better than the ad business because at this time everyone is loosing except the advertisers. Unfair distribution.

    One’s experience is not a guide but to mention mine I’ll stick on the zero ad scheme (blocked) with punctual direct participation to the cost of sites I cherish.

  31. John said on July 5, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    It seems like they might have more luck if they included paywalled sites like the Washington Post or the New York Times. Right now, its all sites that can easily be visited for free.

    Granted, paywalls are surmountable, but it becomes a pain in the rear cat and mouse game to do so (One day, private browsing works, the next day there is a message there announcing you can not view the site in private browsing mode, etc.).

    From Firefox’s end, the problem there is that paywall sites that charge $10-$20 a month for their content individually aren’t likely to take a cut of $5 a month to be shared with Mozilla and all the other media partners. Thats for Mozilla to figure out, though.

    Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is much value in the service unless you have moral qualms about ad-blockers.

  32. Apparition said on July 5, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    $5 per month for a bunch of web sites won’t be viable. To be viable, probably should be something like $25 or $30 per month as my local newspaper’s web site alone charges $12 per month. Problem with that is that most people are cheapskates and wouldn’t pay it.

    Something needs to change though as the web as it is now is broken, so I give props to Mozilla and Scroll for trying.

  33. WorknMan said on July 5, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    I think this is ultimately the right direction to go in, as sites like Ars Technica, who want like $50 a year for a subscription fee, have lost their minds. They need to team up with other sites and offer up a package deal, like porn sites do. They may not do as well that way, but it’s certainly better than the $0 they’d otherwise get from most of us, who are never going to disable our ad blockers.

  34. tomm said on July 5, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    I hope there is an option to select specific websites the user wants to share revenue with. I don’t want my money going to some of these places, as they have released articles which I disliked.

    Aside from that, her’;s a small suggestion: would it be possible to turn “Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy” into a link? As is, the user has to hunt for the little checkbox and my eyes sadly aren’t what they used to be.

  35. crambie said on July 5, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Of those listed none are paywalled and, if any others are, paywalls are usually easy to bypass anyway. On the face of it it doesn’t sound like it’s worth $5/month, if it included a vpn then might be different. Although there aren’t any fine details of this I think I like the sound of the way Brave are trying to do things.

  36. 420 said on July 5, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    First step in making it so you have to pay if you dont want to see ads and use firefox, lol mozilla is such a hypocritic company. All these shitty companies adopt the slowly raising the temperature in the pot as the frog remains unaware it is being cooked technique nowadays.

    1. Frog said on July 7, 2019 at 10:45 am

      Geez dude, just call it the SRTTITPATFRUIIBC Technique.

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