If you want to sell ads, sell ads. Own it. Don’t try to coat it with a layer of frosting and tell me it’s a f***ing cupcake.
I have to agree with John’s take on how Mozilla has tried to spin this. It feels slimy and dishonest. At the same time — and without trying to excuse the way they are sugarcoating it — I read the description of what they are planning to do, and it sounds much less offensive than I initially assumed it would be. Firefox has a “tiles” feature that works much the same way that Safari’s “Top Sites” does, and the only place that “sponsored content” will appear on Firefox is within some of those tiles. “Ad-supported” software has such a bad reputation these days that when I first read that Firefox was planning to introduce ads, I assumed the worst: that ads were going to be in-your-face and could pop up at anytime during your browsing session. This appears not to be the case.
Whether or not the feature ends up being one that can be turned off, the “tiles” themselves can still be toggled off altogether.1 And since Firefox is open source, there is nothing preventing somebody from shipping a version that does not contain this new “feature” (in fact, it would shock me if nobody did this). I wouldn’t even be surprised if the code for “directory tiles” is not even checked into the public code repository by the Mozilla folks.
Still, I’m saddened both by the news as well as the way it was announced, mainly because it stinks of desperation to me. It is depressing to see an application that I once held in high esteem fall to such a low point that they feel the need to go through with something like this.
Setting Safari to not display Top Sites on new browser windows or tabs is one of the first configuration changes I make on a new install. I have never been fond of that feature in any of its incarnations that I have run across. If I still used Firefox on a regular basis and had not read the news about “directory tiles”, I probably would never have even run across it. ↩