Not surprisingly, the latest discussions around content blocking have resulted in a polarizing debate about the users who choose to block content as a way to control their Web experience, and the commercial interests who monetize that content. All of this inevitably leads to a discussion about which content is good, which content is bad, and which content should be blocked.
Rather than focusing on the symptoms of the problem, we should be asking ourselves why users have sought to use blunt instruments like content blockers to help them navigate their online lives. We don’t know the full answer to this question yet. What we see is that the reasons differ among users and may depend on the device (e.g. on desktop users may be focused on privacy and performance may be a side benefit, whereas on mobile performance and data usage may be a main focus). We as an industry need to understand the user’s needs.
User needs and commercial interests are not a zero-sum game – they are complementary parts of one thriving, resilient Web. Creating a balance between commercial profit and user benefit is critical to the health of the Web.
An issue needing more balance is user data. The collection and use of data is not inherently harmful. It helps with powering personalized features, keeping products up to date, providing user support and improving the ways products work. Providing user value through data collection is a healthy and necessary way to help create compelling experiences. However, when data is collected without providing the user with value or control, and the value exchange becomes opaque, confusion sets in. Then users start to mistrust the entire system—including the good actors.
We are trying to get to the root of the problem – but not just through research. We are also working to develop products, features and engagement supporting a great user experience and commercial sustainability.
We need your help to find this delicate balance and to chart the path for a Web based on trust.
You can help us test Private Browsing with Tracking Protection in Firefox Beta. The tracking protection feature in private browsing is targeted toward those users who are seeking more control – whether that control is about the protection of data or the desire for better performance. Additionally tools such as Lightbeam, Smart On Privacy, and Web Literacy programs educate users and offer better insight into how the Web works.
On the commercial end of the equation, we are playing a leading role with publisher initiatives to take charge of the experiences delivered on their sites and deliver more acceptable advertising experiences to users.
As an industry we need to keep the user at the center of the product vision rather than viewing the user as just a target to acquire. It’s the only way to honor the user’s choice and deliver the best, most trusted and most valuable experiences possible.