Updated: February 19, 2014
No, I am not going to do what everyone else has been doing. And that is quoting the original announcement by some Mozilla hobnob, telling us how they intend to use the tiles page, which shows nine thumbnails for most frequently used sites, to display ads to first-time users. Anyhow, that is the background story.
And this is my story, or rather, my interpretation of what is happening here, and how the world should react to this latest move by Mozilla. Not that long ago, I entertained you by my Firefox suckfest article, which tells about how Mozilla is becoming Chrome and their latest wannabe user interface called Australis, or rather Ausfailis. Now, we will talk about integrity and honesty.
So what we have is a VP Whatever telling us about publisher transformation with users at the center. He is excited about Directory Tiles, about the inherent value, about content personalization, enjoyment, trust, transparency, diversity, and another hundred corporate slogans. Paraphrasing:
When a VP says he is excited, it means your sphincter ought to clench, prepare for entry.
Publisher Transformation means sugarcoated advertisement.
Directory Tiles - A glorified name for the quick-dial page showing thumbnails of your pr0n sites.
Sponsored Tiles - MOAR ads.
We think users will enjoy - Corporate fascism, join our fledgling movement.
Sponsored content - MOAR MOAR ads.
Diversity - Calculated racism.
Inherent value - This is what we think is best for you.
The new page ain't delivering value for users - It ain't delivering money for Mozilla.
Users' content experience - Enema treatment with GPL licenses.
User - Bitch.
Not angry. I have NO problem with Mozilla making money. Honestly. Really. I want them to have a sustainable finance model. But I demand honesty. That's my only beef with this whole bullshit. If they change the name of this program to We want money, I can relate to that and I can appreciate that. But I cannot accept it when they treat me like some moron with a double-digit IQ, and pretend to give me valuable content in the form of the shittiest and useless personalization would-be fascism.
Let's see what gives. Try this approach instead. Call the Directory Tiles program a revenue program. Tell users this is in order to get more money and sustain the browser so they aren't left with monopoly like there was one in the days of Internet Explorer, and tomorrow Chrome. Tell them this is optional, and that you can actually disable the tiles, so you need not have to suffer stupidity. Indeed, you can always disable the tiles. Here's how you do it:
When you open a new tab, you will notice a small nine-squares grid icon in the top right corner, just below the Bookmarks bar. If you click on it, it will in turn toggle on and off the New Tab dial. No need for burrowing into the configuration. Thanks Geoff for this tip!
I bet this won't help with the advertisers too much, but you will remain loyal to your users, to your own manifesto, and in the long run, gain more trust and followers. After all, never forget that, Firefox came about as a backlash to what was happening at the market at that time, and if you spoil it now, this is the one thing that will bring you down in the long run.
The situation isn't really any different from what Google is doing, or any OEM is doing in the mobile space, bundling sponsored content into applications, into the UI of their products and all that. But no one is pretending this is anything but a money strategy. You might want to embrace that goal, too. Call it by its name. Put your mouth where your balls are. And all will be well.
Sometimes, things are so utterly simple. Honesty is the bread and butter of success, wherever you need interaction with users. Down the road, it's what makes the difference. Microsoft is learning this the hard way with their Faildows 8.X. Mozilla, you cannot afford to go down the same road as Redmond, you don't have the resources to sustain such a large fiasco. You might manage to be profitable for a while, but you will bleed loyalty dry, and you will eventually shove yourself into obscurity as another boring, visionless corporate wannabe. You know I'm right. I always am. Take heed.
Anyhow, dear readers, you can disable these tiles or ignore them, and there's nothing to it. Another company wants to sell you useless shit. So from that perspective, things are pretty much as they have always been. Just take a look at your smartphone or tablet. Or any toolbar-bundled application for Windows. What is at stake is honesty and transparency, and we must not let that die. So tell Mozilla what you think about their pretend statements. If they amend them, and stick to honesty, I will bow in humility. If not, I will keep ranting. We're done.