Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Go Home, Firefox. You’re Drunk.

Dear Mozilla,

I like you guys. Before the slick beauty that is Chrome, before the geeky elegance of Opera (at least before I knew about it), you were my original liberator from Internet Explorer. Your expandable add-ons always struck me as a forerunner to the app ecosystem that made the modern smartphone possible. Before Google made webmail into the best alternative, Thunderbird was a nice solution.

True, you lost your lead in a big way when you took forever to update versions 3 and 4 of Firefox. And your new-version-every-month strategy since then is a little…odd. Big G has caught and passed you, but you were the originator. Deep down, I always pulled for you to find your way again. So with that understanding, I say, WTFirefox?

A few weeks ago, we got word that Firefox would be making do-not-track the default setting for its browser. The project appears on track for a June roll-out. By blocking tracking cookies, the little pieces of software that allow advertisers to serve targeted ads, they make things difficult for…everybody.

Targeted ads might be marginally better from a consumer perspective. I mean if somebody’s been surfing car sites all day, odds really are better that they might find a car ad useful. But I won’t act like anybody thanks the Lord anytime a Camry banner shows up. So the industry rhetoric about the horror of being served untargeted ads is probably overblown. If men browsing past feminine hygiene product banners, and the return of those “Hit Osama and Win an iPod” banners is the worst price consumers have to pay for extra privacy, I’m pretty sure most of them will take the deal. But it isn’t.

To continue that narrative, however, I’ll have to go the other side of the aisle, and discuss what happens on the advertiser side. Targeted ads are more valuable than untargeted ones. Think of it like fishing. If you know where the fish are hanging out, it’s a better use of your resources to cast a hook there, than it would be to cast into random parts of the river. Well, fishies, if the price of ad inventory drops, ad networks, publishers and others stand to make less money. Less money means established players can afford to do fewer awesome, useful, fun things with their web properties. It also makes it less appealing for new, innovative players to enter the marketplace. And there, the consumers really do lose.

So Mozilla, I know you’re trying to do the right thing in the face of opposition from a lot of big, mean corporations. I’m also aware that you’re more or less a ward of Google at this point, and this could really make them mad. And I expect you’d have a tough time finding another captain-save-a-mo if they chose to yank the rug out from under you in the future. So, I applaud your bravery and user-focus. But ultimately, everybody—advertisers, their agencies (hi!), consumers, and quite possibly you—stand to lose here. So please, quit Kim Jong Un’ing the internet, and get back to work on that mobile OS or whatever.

Love,

John

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