Mozilla, known for endorsing ad-blockers on Firefox as an antidote for users overwhelmed by excessive unsolicited ads while surfing the internet, recently faced backlash for promoting its own ads. They claim that an average user is bombarded with roughly 4,000 ads daily, which is a tad excessive. However, Mozilla has ironically found itself amongst ad-displaying companies by inserting an unavoidable ad for its proprietary VPN service.
The Mozilla VPN, a subscription-based service, is crafted to protect users’ online activity. With hundreds of servers scattered across over 30 countries, it enhances privacy and elevates the internet experience. Mozilla introduced this service to diversify its income streams, considering the company predominantly relies on funds from Google Search to support Firefox’s marketing and development.
The past week saw Mozilla introducing fullscreen ads for its VPN service, much to the irritation of Firefox users. This ad campaign received a cold reception, with many criticizing it for being disruptive and intrusive, going against Firefox’s supposed core principles. The ad was distributed via the browser’s Messaging System, making it hard to block using standard ad-blockers such as uBlock Origin.
Moreover, the VPN ad appeared to disrupt some users’ Firefox and web browsing functionality. Despite several bug reports being lodged on the Bugzilla platform, Mozilla developers initially dismissed these as “resolved,” arguing that the ad functioned as intended and had nothing to repair. However, proficient users could disable the VPN ad entirely by altering the browser.vpn_promo.enabled configuration to ‘false’ on the hidden about config page.
Ultimately, Mozilla chose to halt the ad campaign and issued an apology to its users. The company clarified its intention was merely to discern optimal ways of communicating with Firefox users, but it achieved the exact opposite. This unwelcome, intrusive “trial” was hastily retracted, much like Mozilla’s past attempts.
Compounding the annoyance and counterproductivity of the VPN ad situation, there was an error in Firefox’s code. The browser’s Messaging System is programmed to display a Firefox-produced promotional ad after 20 minutes of user inactivity. However, the VPN ad was reportedly being activated incorrectly due to a time computation error.