Mozilla has made a move to further assure Firefox users that it isn't planning on turning the web browser into an ad-fest with its new sponsored tab page concept.
This was first mentioned back in February, when Mozilla announced it was going to try out "Directory Tiles" on the new tab page, which would point to selected content for newer users (who the tiles would normally be blank for), some of which would be sponsored ads.
In a post on the Mozilla blog, Jonathan Nightingale, VP of Firefox, stated: "A few months ago Darren posted about some experiments we wanted to do with the new tab page. It didn't go over well. A lot of our community found the language hard to decipher, and worried that we were going to turn Firefox into a mess of logos sold to the highest bidder; without user control, without user benefit."
"That's not going to happen. That's not who we are at Mozilla."
Nightingale went on to say that Mozilla is, however, going to experiment with the concept and rolling out tests on pre-release channels in an effort to make the new tab page more useful. Again, he repeated the point that this is particularly targeted at new Firefox users who don't have recommended tiles derived from previous usage on new tabs.
The aim, Nightingale clarifies, is to improve the new tab page by recommending useful Mozilla resources and other useful websites in general – none of which will be sponsored at this point.
Nightingale wrote: "These tests are purely to understand what our users find helpful and what our users ignore or disable – these tests are not about revenue and none will be collected."
However, if things go well, he further noted that sponsorship and monetisation would be the next stage – but it's clear Mozilla is being careful to tread as lightly as possible here.
Nightingale stressed they would still be open to "feedback and suggestions", and there'd be further discussion before anything shipped to a release version of the browser.
All this certainly makes it sound like Mozilla is definitely going ahead with this move, but is carefully preparing the ground given how sensitive an issue having advertising content pushed (in any form) really is.
Mozilla, though, does rely heavily on revenue from Google (in the form of search royalties), with too many eggs in that particular basket – hence the need to diversify in terms of monetisation.