Mozilla has announced that it’s dropping a program everyone but Mozilla seemed to realize was a bad idea from the start. In a blog posting on Friday, the organization’s vice president of content services, Darren Herman, wrote that Mozilla has “made the decision to stop advertising in Firefox through the Tiles experiment in order to focus on content discovery.” The much disliked sponsored tiles won’t immediately disappear from users’ browsers, however. “Naturally, we will fulfill our current commitments as we wind down this experiment over the next few months.”
This was the second time last week that Mozilla announced it was dropping (or wants to drop) one project in order to “focus” on something else. Last Monday, executive chairperson Mitchell Baker wrote in a memo that the organization is seeking to drop support of the popular Thunderbird desktop email client in order “to be laser-focused on activities like Firefox that can have an industry-wide impact.”
The sponsored tile program, in which Mozilla sold advertising, or sponsored links, that appear whenever a user opens a new tab, was announced in 2014 and after a few months of limited testing was implemented for all Firefox users in May. The program — which is opt-in by default, although many GNU/Linux distributions ship with the feature already disabled — has been unpopular with users since it was announced.
Mozilla is already facing an uncertain financial future, and Friday’s announcement doesn’t make it any brighter. Late last year, the organization lost its profitable long standing deal with Google, which had annually added hundreds of millions of dollars to its coffers. It doesn’t appear that the new deal with Yahoo! Search will come anywhere near matching that, as the once dominant search engine isn’t very popular and it’s likely that many users will change their search preference in the browser’s settings.
Search traffic stats seem to support this assumption. In November, Computerworld reported that after a brief rise in usage immediately after the deal with Firefox took effect, Yahoo’s search market share is mostly on the decline, with a market share of 12.5 percent in the U.S. Mozilla’s deals with Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China are more likely to pay off, as each is extremely popular in their respective countries, but figures are not yet available.
These uncertainties are compounded by Firefox’s shrinking user base, which Mozilla is working to turn around.
There is some good news, however. The organization is nowhere near being on the ropes, According to a recent article in The Register, Mozilla currently has $260 million in assets and so far spends less than it takes in.
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