Publisher Transformation with Users at the Center

Darren Herman

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*Feb. 13 update: I posted more details about Directory Tiles here.*

We believe that if you put the user front and center, you can make every experience for them richer and more meaningful. The Content Services team has embraced this, and today I wanted to share some of our thinking and explain our first steps for putting it into practice.

When the user is at the center everyone benefits, including content creators whether they are  publishers or marketers. Digital has already disrupted all kinds of industries, thanks in large part to its ability to deliver more choice and personalization for users.  The challenge for digital media is that it is a rapidly-changing environment, and what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.

While Mozilla hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with all viewpoints in the digital content community, particularly the IAB, we think they’d agree that users’ interests should come first, and we want to help their members deliver compelling content to strengthen the Web ecosystem. So, when IAB Chairman Randall Rothenberg invited Mozilla to participate and share our views at their Annual Leadership Meeting this week, we jumped at the chance. One of the main themes being explored at the meeting is Publisher Transformation, so I contributed Mozilla’s perspective and latest activities in a speech to attendees this morning.

Directory Tiles program

Mozilla is kicking off an exploration to transform the user’s content experience through two initial programs, one of which you may have already read about called UP, which I’ll provide an update on in a future post.

The newest program is one we’re calling Directory Tiles, which is designed to improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience. Currently, if a new Firefox user opens a new tab, this is what they see:

blank_newtab

Their tiles – those nine rectangles that populate over time with the most frequent and recent websites they visit – are empty.  The new tab page isn’t delivering any value for them.

Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.

We are excited about Directory Tiles because it has inherent value to our users, it aligns with our vision of a better Internet through trust and transparency, and it helps Mozilla become more diversified and sustainable as a project. While we have not worked out the entire product roadmap, we are beginning to talk to content partners about the opportunity, and plan to start showing Directory Tiles to new Firefox users as soon as we have the user experience right.

We’ll be updating this blog with more information about Directory Tiles and other initiatives, so keep us bookmarked.

 

38 responses

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  1. Gabor wrote on :

    Did you get previous complaints about a new tab being empty? I doubt it. I therefore also doubt the “added value” of populating tabs with tiles. An tew tab is like a new document. Of course it is empty. You have not done anything with it yet. It would be like opening a new word processor file and finding the programm already wrote some text in there already based on your previous written text…

    Reply

    1. Guarding Gnoam wrote on :

      As long as I can always replace the New Tab page with my own hand-crafted home page you can do what you like with it. That scripted home page, written about a decade ago, is a set of colour-coded tiles with my favourite links. It was interesting to see browsers catch up with the idea but in my opinion non of you have done it properly yet.

      Reply

    2. The Wumpus Knight wrote on :

      So true. A problem Google is suffering from at the moment (Maps) is when you try and look something up the screen is smothered with widgets and windows in case you want to do something else – makes it hard to concentrate. The blank new tab widget was working just fine, thanks. Also the wording of this announcement reeks of mealy mouthed spin.

      Reply

  2. Donald Mellon wrote on :

    Why stop with such a revenue stream of such limited potential?

    Once users are conditioned into acceptance of the browser software delivering paid advertising content, will you then tap into the much more profitable revenue stream of targetted advertising made so easily possible by the browser”s history list and cookie cache?

    With the new Australis interface it should be much easier to implement an “advertising panel” for relevant paid commerical advertisements underneath the address bar based on which web site the user is currently visiting or has recently visited.

    Reply

    1. Vicky wrote on :

      I have no intention of becoming a conditioned user.

      This is an annoyance and invasion of my privacy and rights.

      Reply

  3. Anonymous Firefox User wrote on :

    The only other problem I see with this is, what about users who have Firefox clear out their cache, etc. upon closing. Does this means, each time the browser tab is opened, a new series of ads will be shoved in that users’ face? It sure sounds like it.

    This will not make the browser more appeasing to regular people period.

    Reply

  4. Patrick wrote on :

    Great! Now Mozilla is finally moving to monetarize it’s browser. And to top it off, the activities regarding cookie restriction start to make sense, because a alternative technology is already at hand.

    Reply

    1. Andrew wrote on :

      Mozilla is already making hundreds of millions per year by selling the default choice for the search box to the highest bidder.

      It’s a ridiculous amount of money. Wish they’d donate it to Ubuntu or someting like that.

      Reply

  5. Kevin P. wrote on :

    Have you seen what John Gruber wrote about this post on Daring Fireball? He’s right. There’s a severe lack of plain English on this blog. The world needs less of this sort of evasive-sounding writing that verges on doublespeak.

    Reply

    1. Ed Preston wrote on :

      Couldn’t agree more.

      Reply

    2. Paw Bokenfohr wrote on :

      Absolutely right. If you need to use ads to pay for development, say so. If you want to use ads to make money, say so. Don’t expect that you can use, as Kevin rightly calls it, doublespeak and get away with it – you’re presupposing that your users are stupid. It’s insulting, and likely to generate as much or more anger and/or backlash than the ads would, if sympathetically implemented.

      Reply

  6. Piyush Soni wrote on :

    I hope there is a clear and easy way of turning this off in one click somewhere in the settings. Someone would just fork Firefox if you spoil our experience with Ads anyway.

    Reply

  7. Marcus wrote on :

    English, please. You’re selling ad space on empty tab pages. Just tell us that in plain, clear prose. We’ll support you but it helps if it doesn’t look like you’re planning to be direct and honest with us.

    Reply

    1. Tim wrote on :

      For all those who are mad, this is just like Maxthon or Opera, or even Chrome.

      They do exactly the same thing. Opera has premade tiles on the speed dial page (Facebook, amazon, …) , that redirect the user to the site via an url : http://redir.opera.com/speeddials/partner/thesitebeingredirectedto

      Maxthon also has those premade tiles (even more than Opera).

      On Chrome’s side, it uses user’s history to sell ads, and their new tab page is an advertisement to Google products.

      I think Mozilla is the only company daring to tell the truth here.

      Reply

  8. Michael Nordmeyer wrote on ::

    I doubt users have been waiting for this kind of improvement. It may would have been useful in 1995-2000, when People didn’t neccessarily know where to go to on the internet. Now it’s just a lame way of monetizing the browser without much benefit for users.

    Reply

  9. Ark wrote on :

    “When the user is at the center everyone benefits, including content creators whether they are publishers or marketers.”

    Everyone benefits? In what way does this benefit the user *at all*?
    Is your mailbox overflowing with complaints about the lack of ads in Firefox?

    I also agree with many of the previous comments – this blog post is an exercise in corporate non-speak that gives the impression that you have something to hide.

    Reply

  10. George Cook wrote on :

    Did you employ a m$ pr copywriter? Looks nefarious to me the way you’ve worded this. Instead of making people want to back you I think you’ll make people nervous about your intentions.

    Reply

  11. Pete H. wrote on ::

    A piece like this may simply indicate a poorly-skilled writer. I suspect that’s not the case though; it seems more like an attempt to misdirect. To deceive. A piece written in the belief that the message will not be well received, thus it must be obfuscated.

    I don’t think it’s such a bad message; I’d like to see Mozilla thrive and if some ad revenue will help, what’s wrong with that? But it’s disappointing to see this style of communication here.

    Reply

  12. George Wedding wrote on :

    Mr. Herman is “…VP of Content Services…content and personalization products and services…” This is just this guy’s job.

    That said, “personalization products” appears to be Mozilla’s doublespeak for “…using tracking cookies to deliver ads…”

    But the other readers are right: nobody really likes ads — even “personalize”d ads. We are bombarded with ads on every street corner and at every turn in life. Personalized ads based on browser history is just more “clutter”
    In an overly ad-crowded world. Often, they are afterthoughts (because I’ve already ordered and purchased the product for which I was searching) or they simply are just creepy.

    If you really want to fill this tiles page with something useful, let readers customize the space with tiles of frequently visited Websites. If you need to peddle ads to help pay for development costs, just say so. But don’t try to sell this as something people want — it ain’t so.

    Reply

  13. Matt wrote on :

    What a load of BS! The selling of ads is less offensive than the corporate-speak used to promote it. I’m disappointed in Mozilla. I wish they could do without ads (is the default search engine agreement with Google not generating enough, or making Mozilla too dependent on Google?), but I understand they need to make money to pay the bills. Unfortunately, the path they are going on creates a conflict of interest, as users want to trust Mozilla to guard their privacy while at the same time Mozilla profits from selling its users to advertisers. I much prefer a company that makes a product or service people are willing to pay for, or one that relies on donations, like Wikipedia.

    Reply

  14. Matt wrote on :

    It took until paragraph 7 to say when you meant — Mozilla is selling ads in-browser. 6 paragraphs of corporate biz speak nonsense obscuring your message. Congratulations, you’re part of the machine.

    Also, don’t pretend this is “for the users”. I’m a user and have never, ever thought that I needed more content and ads when opening a new tab. I already know what I’m doing. Imagine if my toolbox gave me ads and content when I opened it to pull out a hammer? Rubbish.

    Reply

  15. John wrote on :

    This is phenomenally disappointing. I would not expect Mozilla to be pushing the envelope of how to force ads in the face of its users. I guess it’s time to find another browser of choice.

    Reply

  16. Critical Creig wrote on ::

    “We believe that if you put the user front and center, you can make every experience for them richer and more meaningful.”
    [...]
    “We are excited about Directory Tiles because it has inherent value to our users, it aligns with our vision of a better Internet through trust and transparency, and it helps Mozilla become more diversified and sustainable as a project.”

    That doesn’t follow. Ads do not benefit users. Users are what you sell to advertisers. Also, I don’t see how ads = trust or transparency. ALSO, it’s ballsy to use the word “transparency” in this bit of corporate double speak you published.

    Reply

  17. Tim Davenport wrote on :

    >>…some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission.

    Spoken like a true industry professional!

    Reply

  18. Fenton wrote on :

    When you think about it, what Mozilla is thinking of doing is no worse than having IE default to a MS site on the first time it is opened.
    As I have been using Firefox for a long time, those tiles have websites pinned to them so this new stream of revenue won’t effect me. That is unless Mozilla have a fiendish plan to remove some of my pinned tiles so they can force ad’s upon my screen.
    If the Ad’s can be unpinned like a website shortcut can then that’s OK. If they are hard coded then it’s a case of filling those tiles up so they cant be seen :D

    Reply

  19. John wrote on :

    An empty new tab page doesn’t add value for a new user?

    It’s value is in being empty, ready to be filled with the page the user wants to visit.

    Personally, I much prefer this page to be empty, not even having those tiles of previously visited pages. For Chrome I achieved this with a plugin. Will you offer the same ability?

    Reply

  20. Mozilla User wrote on :

    You’re shooting yourself in the foot, Mozilla. In-browser advertising, however subtle, has no place in a web browser that is championed and widely used by the Free Software community and other ad-weary users. You are abandoning what you once stood for, in search of more revenue.

    Shame on you.

    Reply

  21. Someone wrote on :

    I didn’t know there were such great cynics at the Mozilla Foundation. Surely didn’t see this coming.

    Putting aside the monetary benefits for the Mozilla foundation, I can’t see any benefits for any user at all. What’s the benefit of being manipulated from the start? What’s the benefit of the user’s data being send to a third partie not by visiting a website but just by starting a browser? (And how is this connected to Mozilla’s work of defending its users’ privacy?

    “Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for first-time users. Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission.”

    I suppose “popular websites in a given geographic location” will include Google, Facebook and Windows Updates? (I admit, all of them are well-known for respecting their users’ privacy…).

    If Mozilla is seriously in need of many, asking for donations would have been a considerable alternative (Oh wait…you did…it’s just that you didn’t ask your users…well…maybe next time).

    If you want to gain money through advertisements, it’s your choice. But when you start selling those tools of manipulation as well-meant “suggestions”, the whole story becomes quite a perversion. Microsoft and Apple have been doing so… can’t believe you’re imitating them now.

    Well, I guess “non-profit organization” ist a quite ambiguous term. I guess, sometimes it’s the users who don’t gain anything.

    Reply

  22. Dimitris Tsagkatakis wrote on :

    “…it helps Mozilla become more [...] sustainable as a project.”

    The rest is PR talk and buzz-words. Your users appreciate honesty. Don’t treat them like morons. They outnumber you, they are smarter than you, and your jobs depend on them. Think long-term.

    Reply

  23. Andrew wrote on :

    You’re about to shoot yourself in the foot, “Big Time”. In-browser advertising has no place in a web browser that is championed and widely used by the Free Software community and other ad-weary users. You are abandoning what you once stood for. You’ve previously championed privacy for the end user and know you are threatening that. Once this starts, targeted adds will follow; specially with Aurora changes requiring accounts to be created.

    The first Add-On most of us install is Ad-Block+ because we hate the damn adverts and pop-ups. And now you intend to force more crap down our throats. I’ve used Firefox from day one and its predecessor and if this really happens I won’t be using it ever again.

    I’m a developer and spend most of my day in and around Firefox. The last thing I need cluttering up my screen is adverts. Its a sad sad day indeed. Time to find a new browser.

    Reply

  24. Necrodust wrote on :

    It is not said whether it will be possible to hide the tiles leaving the new tabs empty. As of 28.0, it is possible so far. I guess it is not said intentionally to see for the reaction of users and make appropriate decisions. At least here, so far nobody asked about that.

    Now regarding the advertisement itself. Mozilla had been developing a free and ad-free browser for many years, and they are not obligated to continue doing so. But they had been doing it not alone. There are a great number of addons in FIrefox. Many people had contributed a lot of effort in developing addons and themes without asking anything in return. Some developers ask for donations, some don’t, but there is no advertisement in the addons. So you don’t betray your users, but you betray your contributors. Are you sure that all of them would have created their addons if FIrefox had not been ad-free?

    And now what will be the next steps? Should the authors of addons follow the new policy of Mozilla? And every addon will bring new advertisement?

    Reply

  25. /firedev null wrote on :

    So the Google marketing drones have finally taken over the Mozilla project, it would seem.
    Firefox is obviously destined to become another Chrome clone and shall meet the fate of Opera.
    The project has crossed the red line to profit-based business, betraying its user community in a most apalling way.

    From all the possible options to gain revenue, you’ve probably chosen the easiest, but most detestable one: gathering user’s profiling data – against their will, to server the ad industry.
    Hard to believe, how the once most promising liberating browser system could be turned down so easily for a few bucks. A black day for open source, for freedom of choice and for ethics in general.

    It’s obviously time to head on, to build a new, credible browser ecosytem.

    Reply

  26. /firedev null wrote on :

    I forgot to ad:
    “We are excited about Directory Tiles because it has inherent value to our users, it aligns with our vision of a better Internet through trust and transparency, and it helps Mozilla become more diversified and sustainable as a project.”

    I’m really questioning, whom Mozilla actually considers being its users (of value).
    And by whose “visions” another ad-based browser clone would make the internet any better.
    Actually, nobody has ever made any place better by plastering ads around.
    What about these values: privacy and freedom of choice, simplicity, stability and credibility?
    People who value the ads industry and/or criminals can have Chrome, Opera, tons of plugins or spyware bars en masse already.

    And don’t try to fool users about “trust” and transparency (you’re just about blowing it all).
    As it turned out by now, whenever spokesmen keep on rambling about “trust”, “freedom” and “security”, ethics are upside down and you need to be double on your toes.

    I’d say it’s high time the Mozilla project’s developers get rid of some “visionary” persons in charge, sending them home via Gmail or whereever they came from, before they can do damage beyond repair!

    Reply

  27. John & Jane Doe wrote on :

    As soon as they implement this, you can be sure that Mozilla customer base will start dropping.
    Slowly, at first, but increasing numbers flocking to other browsers as they become know for adware.

    I used to think highly of Mozilla, but this is making me re-think their company.
    Mozilla? Think twice please. Think 3 times, if you need to. Or 5.

    Because once you lose a loyal fan, sometimes it is almost impossible to get them back!

    Reply

  28. Marius wrote on :

    Much as I’d like to avoid it, I won’t use let alone recommend Firefox in the future. There are more than twenty people whom I turned to Firefox over the last few years. No more.

    And it’s not because of the advertising alone. That is definitely a major turn-off. But if asked straightforwardly, directly, honestly, then I might have considered it.

    But this appalling corporate doublespeak is too much. I will not support a project that spits into my face like that.

    I wonder why corporations never take any lessons from other corporations’ errors and mistakes. Incidents like the recent sinking of ZoneAlarm could have been a lesson. They wanted to monetize. Fair enough. But not only did they make the installer add a browser bar, they responded with this exact same kind of evasive doublespeak when asked about it on their forums. Now their install ranks are in the toilet, where Firefox is inevitably headed, seeing as Mozilla sees fit to insult our intelligence like that.

    Do not insult your user base. What part of that don’t you understand?

    Reply

  29. Chris wrote on :

    Your idea is bad. You should feel bad for having it, and feel bad for promoting it. The Mozilla project is supposed to help us avoid this kind of pervasive tracking and advertising, not give advertisers a direct avenue to our views and clicks.

    What am I going to tell non-technical parents and friends to use if this feature makes it in? I’m not sure yet, but it won’t be Firefox.

    Reply

  30. Somebody wrote on :

    “Their tiles – those nine rectangles that populate over time with the most frequent and recent websites they visit – are empty. The new tab page isn’t delivering any value for them.”

    They’re supposed to be empty if you’ve done nothing with them. If this sort of thinking becomes the norm, next thing will be Apache will be putting advertisements on blank OpenOffice documents.

    Reply

  31. Mal wrote on :

    I never see the tiles because I instantly browse to the site I want. So, worst case, this would just bloat the browser app. Even if I look for the tiles, they are empty, presumably because I clear cookies every session.
    Mozilla wouldn’t introduce a delay to display such tiles. That would be suicidal.

    Reply

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