More Details on Directory Tiles

Darren Herman


We’ve received lots of feedback about the Directory Tiles idea I discussed on Tuesday. Some of it was supportive, some of it was curious, some of it was pretty harsh. I’m grateful for all of it, though. It shows the passion and commitment people have for Firefox, and for Mozilla’s mission. I’ve been a fan of Mozilla for a long time, but I’m still new here, and it’s been an education.

I have prepared a FAQ based on the most common questions we have received:

What are Tiles?

Every time a user opens up a new tab in Firefox, the browser displays nine boxes, or Tiles. Frequent Firefox users see screenshots of the websites they visit most often in their Tiles.

What appears in Tiles is currently based on a “frecency” algorithm: your recency of visiting a site and your frequency of visiting a site.  Sites that have been visited with the most recency and frequency appear in a user’s Tile.

What are Directory Tiles?

Directory Tiles are a new project from Mozilla, to deliver a better experience for new Firefox users.  Because a new Firefox user has no browser history, they don’t see content in tiles when they open a new tab.  Our idea with Directory Tiles is to pre-populate the new tab page for those users with sites we think they’ll find useful or interesting.

Will users know which tiles are sponsored?

Yes, the sponsored Tiles will be clearly labeled.

What is the timeline for Tiles?

There’s a lot of questions still to answer about how Directory Tiles will feel in practice, and how we choose the right set. Directory Tiles will go live once we have the details right.

How will Firefox determine which Tiles to show users?

At the outset, Firefox will be rotating content in Directory Tiles for each user to test the results.

How long will a user see Directory Tiles after they start using Firefox?

Our frecency algorithm takes about 30 days of normal browsing behavior to update Tiles.

At that point the user will start seeing content that reflects the sites they’ve recently and frequently visited.

Will Directory Tiles Profile Users to Target Content?

We will use GeoIP to ensure Tiles content is relevant to the user’s location, just as we recognize where a visitor to our homepage came from so we can localize the language, but no other user information is collected or considered.

What information will Mozilla provide sponsored content partners from the Directory Tiles?

Mozilla is putting together just the basic metrics that marketers or content publishers might need to understand the value they are receiving.  As of now, our expectation is that we’ll be delivering the number of impressions (how many times a tile was shown) and interactions (how many interactions with a tile, i.e. clicks).

Would a publisher be able to recommend specific articles in a Tile?

We’ll consider and test different approaches to directory tiles content, but whatever systems are implemented will need to be aligned with Mozilla’s mission, values and privacy policy.

Publisher Transformation with Users at the Center

Darren Herman


*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:


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.


Hello World, Content Services Has Arrived

Darren Herman


Back in November, Mark Surman had a great quote on our Mozilla blog:

“We’re a global community gathered around the idea that the Web shouldn’t be closed off from everyone. We believe the Web must be an open, shared resource available to all. We roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of making. If the Web needs a new piece of technology, we build it. If the world needs to understand the Web, we teach it. “

We build it, we teach it, and we work hard to make sure the Web is a shared resource available to all.  This is the mission that motivates us to come to work each day and volunteer our time and resources.

Sustainability is something we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about especially as it pertains to continuing to build, teach and share our products and services such as Firefox.  We recognize that the majority of our revenue comes from our search partnerships and we would like to continue our growth to keep up with the evolution of the Web, and to do this, will take some additional resource in the form of revenue.

We have hired and spun up a Content Services team in the Mozilla Corporation that is working  to identify areas of additional value we can create for our users.  We are then looking to hand-pick partners that are content owners, creators, or curators to help us bring additional value into the project.

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be updating this blog with more information.  We’re excited about the ways we can help drive additional enhancements through content partnerships.  I’ll have more information on our plans and how to get involved soon, and in the meantime you can get in direct contact with me here or @dherman76 on Twitter.