Mozilla's 'experiment' with banner ads on new tabs angers users

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Firefox users have expressed surprise, disgust and anger at the appearance of banner ads on new tabs in the browser. An advertisement appeared recently inviting users to make a booking via Booking.com.

The ad appears at the bottom of the new tab page, and makes use of Firefox's Snippet feature. Mozilla has explained that the "snippet was an experiment", insisting no user data has been shared with third parties. If you're concerned, however -- or just don't want to see even more ads -- you can disable them.

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As noted by VentureBeat, at least two versions of the ad have been spotted in the wild; the first reads: "Ready to schedule that next family reunion? Here's a thank you from Firefox. Book your next hotel stay on Booking.com today and get a free $20 Amazon gift card. Happy Holidays from Firefox! (Restrictions apply)". The second reads: "For the holidays, we got you a little something just for using Firefox! Book your next hotel stay on Booking.com today and get a free $20 Amazon gift card. Happy Holidays from Firefox! (Restrictions apply)".

The Mozilla wiki explains that the Snippet Service "is intended to assemble and deliver content snippets to the about:home page in Firefox" -- people would not have expected it to be used for advertising of any sort.

But Mozilla does not see it as an ad in this instance. Rather the organization says:

This snippet was an experiment to provide more value to Firefox users through offers provided by a partner. It was not a paid placement or advertisement. We are continually looking for more ways to say thanks for using Firefox. In a similar vein, earlier this month we offered Firefox users a free opportunity to enjoy a live concert from Phosphorescent. In addition to adding value to Firefox users, these efforts are intended to support an open ecosystem. When users see such offers, no data is being shared with a partner until users have made the choice to enter a relationship. We hope that this strategy sets a positive example.

If you would like to avoid being subjected to similar experiments in the future, use the following steps:

  1. Click the Firefox menu followed Options and then Home -- or just visit about:preferences#home.
  2. Locate the Snippets option in Firefox Home Content and uncheck the box.

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