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Firefox is building an “ad-free internet,” and plans to pay publishers directly

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“The online advertising ecosystem is broken,” announced Mozilla—developers of the Firefox browser—earlier this year. “The majority of digital advertising revenue is going to a small handful of companies, leaving other publishers with scraps.”

As a solution, Mozilla proposed a better web ecosystem balance that puts publishers (and users) at the center of the online value exchange. The company is now sharing a first look at how this initiative will work.

Users are now being invited to a free trial of the Firefox Ad-free Internet, which is currently in development, and will cost $4.99 per month once the trial ends. “No other browser out there is taking a step to really push user privacy as a differentiating feature,” says Vesta Zare, a senior product manager at Firefox.

Mozilla says they have partnered with “some of the world’s greatest publishers” to bring users a better journalism experience, thereby drawing some direct comparisons to Apple News+. The company is actually collaborating with Scroll, a news subscription startup that enables web users to pay for an ad-free experience on publisher sites, across devices. 

Scroll currently offers ad-free versions of sites that include The Atlantic, Slate, Vox, The Verge, Gizmodo, USA Today and more. While many of these partner sites don’t have paywalls, most of them display ads on their pages.

“By enabling more direct funding of publishers, Scroll’s model may offer a compelling alternative in the ecosystem,” says Peter Dolanjski, a product lead at Firefox. This collaboration with Scroll, Peter says, helps the company better understand consumer attitudes and interest towards an ad-free experience on the web as part of the alternative funding model. 

In this model, the company directly shares user payments with the sites they read, so publishers can make more money, which means, in Mozilla’s parlance, “they can bring you great content without needing to distract you with ads just to keep the lights on.” 

For publishers, we believe that these same measures will help shift long-term ecosystem incentives which are currently stripping value from publishers and fueling rampant ad fraud.

Peter Dolanjski, Firefox Product Lead, Privacy & Security

Mozilla’s version of Apple News+ will also provide subscribers access to audio versions of articles, exclusive recommended reads, cross-platform syncing of news stories, and also an app “that helps you find and finish great content, all without the distraction of advertising.” 

Incidentally, Pocket—the popular app and web service for managing a reading list of articles from the Internet—is also owned by Mozilla.

Given that the response to Apple’s News+ subscription service has been lukewarm at best, it will be interesting to see how Mozilla’s initiative pans out. The company also hasn’t provided further details on how the revenue will be split between publishers, Mozilla, and Scroll.

The upcoming launch of Firefox Ad-free Internet comes at a time when Mozilla is trying to diversify itself away from its primary revenue source, Google. The lion’s share of Mozilla’s revenue comes from its arrangement with Google to make it Firefox’s default search engine.

“We’ve turned our attention toward finding a more sustainable ecosystem balance for publishers and users alike,” says Peter.

Users can sign up for the Firefox Ad-free Internet beta launch here.

Download WNIP’s comprehensive report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.