Over the last week or so there has been considerable discussion of the proposed plan to include some advertising in the first-run experience of Firefox for new users (Directory Tiles). There is still considerable work and ideas to complete by others and in myself as a Program Manager for Security and Privacy.
We’ve accepted advertising in communication media for some time now. Both traditional radio and television are supported by advertising which we readily accept in exchange for content. This of course has been a passive model as without work said advertiser cannot gauge the audience. This advertising for content model has largely extended to the web with some obvious modifications. The use of various technologies on the web has allowed advertisers to gain far more knowledge and to target advertising to a deemed a willing or desired audience. This tracking and data aggregation is also what gives most users concern over Internet advertising. We don’t really want advertisers knowing things about us that does not have an obvious benefit to us. I believe it’s safe to say that we accept advertising for content within certain confines. I also can’t imagine how much worse the Internet would be if everything were behind a pay wall. The open, shared, connected, and hackable Internet would be far worse and much less usable. So, the fact is advertising pays for the Internet, or at the least a large part of it. Yes we can use add-ons and scripts to hide ads, and as users that is our choice. If everyone did that all the time I think we could agree the Internet that would result would be far worse for all. As an example see the message that shows up to visitors of Reddit when add blocking extensions are used (or at least used to). There is a trade-off here t0 be made and this is where I think Mozilla has a lot to offer.
Mozilla has what I would call an excellent track record of introducing disruptive technologies for the betterment of humanity. We started with the browser in a time when there was only one browser, a lot of people have forgotten that time. We’ve successfully proven that an open source, community driven project can change the web. We’ve shown that the web authentication model can be done in a privacy protecting way, hence Persona. I’m quite surprised that people don’t think that we can improve Internet advertising in a way that benefits both parties, both parties being advertisers and users. We’re opening our eyes with add-ons like Lightbeam so users can make informed choices about what they want to share and with whom. There should be a motivation for both myself and the advertiser that is open and available for the sharing of information that leads to mutual benefit. This is part of building the Internet that the world needs. One where privacy is at the forefront in all things.