No more ads in Firefox Tiles - A new hope

Updated: December 7, 2015

For the past three or four years, I have been one of the unhappiest Firefox fans. Even since the parent company decided to ape Chrome, it went downhill. A steep slope full of rusty metal spikes, mines, bears, wolves, dragons, trolls, acid, and death. One bad news after another.

Now though, something really good has happened. Mozilla has officially announced they are going to remove advertisement from the Tiles. If you're wondering what this is about, we're talking little thumbnails shown in a dial-like fashion when you open a new tab. If you have blissfully missed all the drama, I have a bunch of articles that can help you get up to speed. Good news, indeed. So let's elaborate.


Per aspera ad astra

The decision to remove ads from the Tiles is a bold one. It signifies a shift in policy, and even though it may be based on monetary considerations, it is still a big win for the hardcore loyalists. Because it shows the user might be coming to the forefront once again. And when that happens, great things are about to start. Sure, the announcement to split Thunderbird development off the main branch is a sucker punch, but we need to wait a little longer on that one.

There are several important lessons here. The first one is, as always, that I'm 100% right. If you read my last article on the Tiles topic, it concludes with a merry note of it ain't gonna work. Fast forward 12 months, and it didn't work. Trust me, I do this five-year strategy thingie for a living. That's how my mind operates.

Tiles, first run

The second is, Mozilla needs money. How can it remain profitable, and avoid becoming Google's top slave? Tricky, considering most of its revenue seems to come from search and possibly ads. But then, browsers are portals into the online world. What is there that a door could do more than the room beyond?

Mozilla needs a way to make content discovery relevant, useful, practical, profitable, without jeopardizing their users' privacy and loyalty, while still maintaining a healthy relationship with Google and the rest on the financials. So we all know that when you search for stuff, money exchanges hands. We also know that people consider Google indispensable when it comes to searching for information. What is in there for Firefox then?

If you ask me, my answer is - in-browser functionality that ties directly into services rather than acting as a medium to getting the services. Because if you can get something directly somewhere, there's no need to waste time going through a proxy. Recall the ancient project called Ubiquity? I do not know what happened there, but it was a sound idea.

You could do all the stuff that search engines do for you - and in fact, this is the norm on smartphones. People do not differentiate between the OS search, browser search and integrated Web services. Ubiquity had a promise of this model, and it could have worked well. In fact, it can still work well, especially since the cloud side of things is much more advanced than back in 2008.

But ideally speaking, if Firefox can give you all the extras - navigation, route planning, flight planning, restaurants recommendations, weather, and such - from within its own context, then it can more effectively channel the stream of information - and thus money, to the right sources.

The awareness level required from the browser to do all this is indeed called an operating system. Blimey, it already exists! Yes, Firefox OS is the one thing that could actually do all these. But then, not act as a background shell for applications. It should BE the application. Copying from Google didn't work well for Mozilla so far, but this is the one thing that might actually work. The Chrome OS model could theoretically give Firefox what it needs. The question of profitability and the ability to execute is a big one, because all the service providers doing their magic in the background would need to commit to supporting yet another operating system. Tricky and expensive. But doable.

Firefox as OS, 1 Firefox as OS 2

Now, now, now, you may say, Firefox tried to be Chrome, and it failed. Yes, because there's no need for a new product that does exactly the same as an old product, only less successfully. Which is why Firefox needs to do all the things that Google does badly. And the list is endless.

For all the hype about always-online, instant-search mania, most search engines and algorithms suck badly. They are quite primitive and not very accurate. If there's one thing that Firefox can try better, it is to offer more relevant services and information than its rivals. Google is locked into itself, but there's nothing limiting Mozilla from building a superior model of its own, entirely mixed, hybrid and just better. The vast and powerful add-ons framework, which is the BEST in the browser market, can be used to facilitate in this field. The ultimate delivery platform. Yes, Mozilla should use its own add-ons to further its cause. All great products use their own frameworks.

And then, it's all about using something like HERE Maps for navigation, stuff for flights and hotels, shopping and delivery from Amazon, entertainment from maybe Netflix or whoever, weather from someone else, math logic from Wolfram|Alpha perhaps, and such. I am namedropping like mad, and I would not necessarily create a real list with any one of these, but you get the idea.

All of that can co-exist inside the browser, without restrictions and dependence on mobile platforms, despite the enormous greed and allure associated with the monkey-thumb technology. The actual medium is not important, it's all about superior services. Should Mozilla be able to do this, it could actually start reaping in some serious money, without relying on specific, external search. A true revolution.

All of this is far future. All of this is just a vague idea. But it begins with the sobering at the Mozilla offices, and the understanding that you cannot defeat giants at their own game. It simply does not work.

What now?

This is not the end. This is a beginning. In fact, if you are a Firefox user, then I expect you to donate to Mozilla today. Because great decisions ought to be rewarded. You might also give Firefox a thumbs up vote, so it may finally have more greens than reds in its satisfaction charts.

It is an emotional response, but then everything is emotional when you consider it's a game of who can make more money off you. Once you become a product, you're not going to be a happy camper. The shift toward the more intellectually challenged Internet designed for one-click-pay morons and the epidemics of shitty ads that serve no value other than to cater to primal needs of people who should have been aborted long before seeing their first visible photon is worrying, and anything we can do to reverse it is almost a holy mission. It's not about open-source versus closed-source. None of that ideology. Far from it. It's all about fighting pure stupidity and pure greed.


Trust cannot be rebuilt at a press of a button. It does not work like that. Sometimes, once broken, it might never be restored. I would not be surprised if most users are eyeing Mozilla with skepticism, wondering what the next ad scheme might be, and how it could end up being worse than the last one. True, that's one option.

I think we should give Mozilla some credit. A tiny bit. After all, it's very rare to see companies turn about on their business decisions. Most of them plow on forward armed with fake smiles and crappy presentations overloaded with the word excited. To actually consider one of the strategies a failure is a sign of greatness.

Plus, I've laid out the strategy that should work. As a rule, all the strategies that I create work. That's how I roll. Now that Mozilla has been laid bare, now that is vulnerable and exposed, there's room for growth. Learning, adapting, evolving. We should help. There's genuine change about, and it might turn out to be a one-time fluke, and I might just be a naive, poetic sod. For now though, the ball is in our court, and we must be generous and courteous. Show your support for Mozilla today. Don't dwell on petty scorn and past anger. Rise above it, show that you're better than that. Help Mozilla recover from its mistakes, so we don't all end up enslaved to the big corporations.


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