Mozilla is in the process of introducing two forms of
advertising into its browser. The first is called "directory
tiles," where the company will sell advertisers a tile on the
new-tab page of newly installed browsers. The second is called
"enhanced tiles" which lets publishers and brands pay to customize
their tile when it shows up in a "most visited" tile on the
browser's new-tab page. Enhanced tiles will be available across
Mozilla's entire install base.
The ads, with potential to reach Mozilla's hundreds of millions
of users, are unlike nearly every ad placement on the internet:
there are no cookies, no third-party ad servers, no brand pixels
and users can opt out of seeing them altogether.
"We're not using cookies and we're also trying to respect the
user in terms of what they're looking for and to provide them
content that's interesting to them," said Mozilla Senior-VP
Business and Legal Affairs Denelle Dixon-Thayer. "We really are
trying to let them own the environment."
On its own, Mozilla does not have a realistic chance of
compelling the ad industry to give up its existing methods. But it
is hoping to set an example.
"If it works, and we think it does, that's a pretty great path
for others to look at and go 'Okay this could work, but what could
I do?'" said Ms. Dixon-Thayer. "Innovate, create, you don't have to
copy this. You guys know this space a lot better than we do, go
create, go figure it out."
Mozilla is a non-profit, so it's easier for it to make these
changes than a company reporting quarterly earnings, but Ms.
Dixon-Thayer said it's in the industry's interest to follow
Mozilla's lead. "If we don't give [users] the choice, that data is
going to be pulled from the market," she said. "They're going to
say, 'I'm going to get some kind of an ad blocker or some kind of
technology in there that can help me to protect my data,' and
that's what we need to be afraid of."
Asked for a concrete example of how the industry can do a better
job, Mr. Herman said companies should "let users know what you are
doing, why you're doing it, how they can opt in or out, and
overall, respect them." He also said Mozilla will continue pushing
for Do Not Track to be implemented.
Mozilla famously said last year it would block third-party
cookie collection unless users opted in. The move strained its
relationship with an advertising industry largely dependent on such
collection. But such action appears to be far off, if it will
happen at all. "We see that there are potential issues with it --
false positives, false negatives," said Ms. Dixon-Thayer.
"Third-party cookies, it's the same as it is today."