Mozilla unveiled Firefox Private Network back in September 2019 when it revived the Firefox Test Pilot program. The new program would focus on privacy products and one of the first things to come out of it was Firefox Private Network, a browser extension that tunneled traffic through a proxy.
In October 2019, Mozilla announced the upcoming launch of a companion VPN product that would move the protection from the browser level to the system level. The launch changed the unlimited nature of the Firefox Private Network browser extensions to a time-limited free service.
The product was launched in December to users from the United States for an introductory price of $4.99 per month.
Mozilla announced the next steps for the organization's Firefox Private Network extension beta yesterday on the official blog of the organization.
The organization plans to transition from the free beta of Firefox Private Network browser extension to a paid subscription beta. The initial price has been set to $2.99 per month and it is good for up to three browser instances of the Firefox web browser and does not limit traffic or the access time (in other words, it is unlimited).
Just like the initial version and the VPN, it is only available to users who reside in the United States initially. Mozilla promises that it will expand the beta service to other regions in the future but has not published a timeline or revealed an initial list of regions or countries.
Mozilla provides some insight into the decision making process. Firefox Private Network browser extension was launched with unlimited access initially but Mozilla switched that to a time-limited offering in December when it launched the VPN offering.
It learned that the unlimited offering was "more appealing" to users because of its set and forget nature; time-limited users seemed to forget to turn the proxy on or off regularly which impacted privacy.
What we learned very quickly was that the appeal of the proxy came most of all from the simplicity of the unlimited offering. Users of the unlimited version appreciated having set and forget privacy, while users of the limited version often didn’t remember to turn on the extension at opportune moments.
Time-limited users would use the proxy less and further research showed that they "often stopped using the proxy after only a few hours".
The introductory price was set after Mozilla conducted a "number of surveys". The organization wants to find out whether users will pay for a browser-based privacy tool. It wants to run a series of "small marketing tests" over the summer to find out about that and determine the interest in "the Firefox Private Network browser extension as both a standalone subscription product and as well as part of a larger privacy and security bundle for Firefox".
New users (from the supported region) and time-limited users will get a chance to join the subscription first. Unlimited users will be asked to migrate to the paid offering as well (which in turn seems to indicate that the free unlimited ride will be over at that point).
It will be interesting to see if users are willed to pay $2.99 per month for a browser proxy. Considering that good VPN services are available for less sometimes, it is probably going to be a hard sell to users who know about these offers.
The main appeal is probably that it is integrated into Firefox directly and that it is a set and forget affair because of that. Some users may also trust Mozilla more than VPN companies, and users who don't know about cheaper offers may also find the offer appealing.
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