Mozilla stops Firefox fullscreen VPN ads after user outrage
I noticed this yesterday. I've been using Mozilla/Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox as my primary browser for over 20 years. They've made some questionable calls, sure, but most of the recent things that have bothered people (like Pocket integration) haven't really irked me.
This is the first time where I got a visceral feeling that maybe this isn't the browser I knew and loved anymore. It's not like I'm uninstalling and switching to something else, but I do feel bummed out.
Did you miss the episode in 2017 in which they used an internal control to force the installation of an add-on as part of a promotion for a television show?
I feel similarly to you...long-time user, bummed out by stuff like this. Sometimes it feels like Firefox would be a lot better off without Mozilla occasionally making deals like this.
The execution was definitely terrible, but "browser company ships promotional easter egg" isn't that bad as "browser company inserts ads into browsing experience" in my opinion. These ads are why Windows 10+ has become a trash fire despite all the technical improvements made to Windows.
Mozilla were stupid enough to try and sneak this Roboto stuff in, probably as part of the requirements or intentions of the ad campaign, rather than be transparent about it. Stupidity rather than malice.
The VPN ad is a targeted decision comingffrom within the non-profit. I sort of get it, Mozilla is desperate for income because Google is keeping them afloat, barely anyone who donates cares about anything but the browser, and the for-profit ventures aren't gaining much success.
The thing is, if I was somewhat interested in a Mozilla VPN service, this spectacularly idiotic decision to deploy full-page intrusive advertising into Firefox makes it 100% certain I will never buy the Mozilla VPN service--because, how can I trust that they won't do the equivalent to that service? What's to stop them from blocking certain sites (on the other side of the VPN) as part of some promotion? Or worse?
They've made it clear they don't believe their own language about privacy and user choice. They've compromised one product to advertise another. And perhaps worse, they doubled-down about it in Bugzilla with corporate doublespeak, which to me is the tell that they'll absolutely do it again.
It's amazing how apt the trust-thermocline analogy is.
Isn't the Mozilla VPN service just a white label of Mullvad? They don't own it
I see what you're saying but.. it's one popup. Maybe you can't, but I can live with that.
Correct. There’s a bit of entitlement here by some.
Slippery slope has people scared.
> The execution was definitely terrible, but "browser company ships promotional easter egg" isn't that bad as "browser company inserts ads into browsing experience" in my opinion. These ads are why Windows 10+ has become a trash fire despite all the technical improvements made to Windows.
I'm not sure I agree. The Mr. Robot "promotional easter egg" was done by installing an add-on via the Shield Study system. This system is enabled by default, and it is intended to allow the Firefox devs to run A/B tests with browser features. This sort of system already makes some non-trivial minority of users bristle. For Mozilla to co-opt it specifically for an advertising campaign perfectly validates the concerns of that group of people. So then we get a thread on HN in which several Firefox devs post about how badly they and their colleagues felt about the whole debacle, and how it would undoubtedly lead to many internal conversations. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that happened, and apparently Shield Studies now require some level of scientific rigor behind them before they are deployed. But unfortunately, the marketing department still seems to be willing to sacrifice the ever-diminishing good will their remaining users seem to place in Mozilla as the steward of Firefox the browser. It doesn't feel to me like they fully appreciated the lessons of 2017.
They could have hard coded it, would that have been better or worse in your view?
Hmm...if you mean, would it be better or worse if they distributed the Looking Glass add-on in an automatically installed update, I think that would be...roughly equivalent? I feel like they're breaking some sort of implicit social contract: my browser shouldn't automatically install add-on software not foundational to its operation that I didn't ask for.
If you mean would it be better or worse if they did a more traditional pop-up ad promotion for Mr. Robot like they did for their VPN service...I dunno, unfortunately I've grown to expect new Firefox releases to have found excuses for promoting Mozilla services, even though I've done a fair amount of work to try to disable all that nonsense.
At the end of the day, it's all pretty gross really. What I'd really like is a way to pay Mozilla actual money in a way that ensured it was directed solely at development of Firefox in exchange for not doing any of this stuff to me. But for some reason this doesn't seem possible.
> my browser shouldn't automatically install add-on software
I would say that would be worse. Presumably there would be no way to remove it without patching the source.
how are you differentiating "promotional easter egg" from "ad"?
You had to enable extensions.pug.lookingglass before it even loaded the code.
They did a better job of hiding the promotional easter egg.
I read a conspiracy that Google has paid off Mozilla management to specifically sabotage the browser development. Actions like this make it hard to dispute the moves that frequently seem deliberately anti-user.
Th other conspiracy I've heard is Google subsidizes Mozilla so they have a credible claim there's competition in the market.
Doing both makes sense. Google has a clear motive to keep Firefox in the market, at the same time they have repeatedly shown that they want Firefox to have the smallest market share possible. For antitrust purposes it might be enough to show "people could to Firefox", even if nobody does.
If true, it really backfired on them as buying Mozilla's default search is currently being used against them in a search engine antitrust suit.
According to a weird definition of "really backfired," because they would without question have been hit a long time ago with credible antitrust if they hadn't kept Firefox afloat (though user-hostile enough to keep people on Chrome.)
There's such a marginal difference between the quality of the two browsers, and Chrome is held back in what it can be by the necessity of furthering Google's commercial interests. The only limit Firefox has had is that they can't abuse the trust of their users. Firefox had to voluntarily (and often aggressively) inflict a huge amount of reputational and functional damage on itself to reduce its market share to the place that it has.
edit: it's important to say that they didn't really backslide technically; it's user-hostile (management) decisions that have hurt the browser, not anything to do with the skill of Firefox developers.
> would without question have been hit a long time ago with credible antitrust if they hadn't kept Firefox afloat
It is questionable, and being declared a search engine monopoly would be far worse for Google than Chrome being a browser monopoly. They only make Chrome to push their search/ad network.
This is the correct answer
Why would Google try to prop up Firefox as a competitor? Both Safari and Edge on desktop are twice the market share of Firefox, so the browser market is competitive enough without Firefox.
Safari can probably be discounted since Apple discontinued the Windows version in 2012. A browser that can only run on 18% of desktops worldwide isn't necessarily the competitor Google is looking for.
Edge is available on Windows, Linux and macOS, so it would probably do. But that would allow one of Google's biggest competitors to drop an under-performing product and lobby for antitrust against Google. Unlikely to happen, but a risk Google might not want to take.
Safari and Edge (which is also Chrome) having twice the dismal market share of Firefox doesn't make the browser market competitive. Safari is an appliance delivered exclusively on machines manufactured by a single company that holds a small, though luxury, part of the market. Edge (is Chrome, and) is only available on one OS [edit: I'm guess I'm wrong about this, didn't imagine that Edge would be available on Macs.]
Firefox is the only "credible" competitor, although Firefox's only profitable customer is Google itself.
Google would probably prefer if Safari and Edge did not gain market share. They're both developed by large corporations that pose a major threat to Google. Firefox, not so much.
It is plausible that it's part of a broader antitrust litigation defense strategy
Chrome, edge and safari are just, well chrome, on a single family of rendering engines
> I read a conspiracy that Google has paid off Mozilla management to specifically sabotage the browser development. Actions like this make it hard to dispute the moves that frequently seem deliberately anti-user.
IIRC, didn't Mozilla lay off some R&D team that was doing some promising work on modernizing and improving its browser engine?
My annoyance is more the half-brained projects which Mozilla pursues. Then surprised Pikachu when they have to cut budgets and Firefox is impacted.
That "promising work" was "inventing the Rust programming language," and, yes.
I think parent is refering to the servo team.
It's not a conspiracy that Google pays Mozilla for default search engine placement.
Maybe that arrangement led to the stagnation of Firefox, without malicious intent from any party. Hanlon's razor, yadda yadda
Hanlon's razor only makes sense if you're a teenager posting on reddit. Just world theory and all that.
Once you get into corporate politics it's the exact opposite.
God help you if you ever get into the nuts and bolts of governmental, or gasp intergovernmental politics.
Eh, from my experience in several large companies there's some malice, but there's way more incompetence.
From my experience, companies are happy to strategically feign incompetence, blindness and deafness.
That makes no sense. Mozilla goes so hard on the VPN ads exactly because it wants to diversify its revenues away from its vassalage to Google.
A pet theory of mine is Mozilla’s C-suite knows no matter how bad Firefox gets and how low their user count, Google will continue to fund them because Google likes something to point to if antitrust came knocking - in fact the lower Firefox’s influence the better as Chrome can then unilaterally control the web.
So they spend all of Mozilla’s money on various BS like Pocket and now VPN to try to make more money so they can further increase their already high salaries, instead of reinvesting into Firefox - hence the anti-user intrusive ads, the reduction of head count while paying themselves millions of dollars.
Reminds of good old Mr Elop.
(Not the OP.) Nope, and I also didn't miss the torrent of HNers saying "what's the problem, you already trust them to provide the software, you should trust anything they want to send along with it."
Firefox at least exposes an endless amount of toggles to tweak pretty much every behaviour the browser has.
This is includes settings for removing or disabling all the integration with Mozilla services and their ads.
See for example: https://github.com/arkenfox/user.js
FF removed the ability to delete the sites from MRU list in the address bar, the ability which it had since ages. It was removed when moved to Photon, 2017. They finally would add it back in FF 113, so 2023. Six / Fucking / Years
Yes, but the default should be to show no ads. If I want ads, I'll use Chrome or Edge with no ad blocker.
Even Edge with adblocker shows a ton of ads and Microsoft shit that on one wants as part of the default browser behavior.
The downturn of Firefox began a long time ago when Brendan Eich was forced to leave Mozilla in 2014. I highly recommend giving Brave browser a try, as Brendan Eich now serves as its CEO.
It's not that I like Firefox so much as that all the competition is unusable. Firefox has gone downhill, but at least it's extensible enough that I can largely reverse the decay.
Firefox is much less configurable than it used to be, though. I can no longer fix all of the stuff in it that needs fixing.
It's not that I like Firefox so much as that all the competition is unusable.
I'm inching closer to using the Duck browser full-time. If you haven't tried it, give it a shot to see if it works for you.
It's not as customizable as Chrome or Firefox, but it gets the job done if you don't do a lot of heavy lifting with your browser.
Right now, I'm 60% Safari, 10% Firefox, and 30% Duck. And I use Firefox less and less lately.
I switched away from Firefox a couple of years ago for a number of reasons that can be collectively summarized as "Firefox no longer meets my needs".
But as a Firefox user from the very beginning, I still keep tabs on it, hoping that it will improve enough for me to return to it. Things like this, however, strongly indicate to me that Firefox is just lost and will never find its way back.
I wanted to like Firefox. So much so that I used to carry my keys on a Firefox branded lanyard. Eventually, I gave up and switched. Presently, Im trying Brave. I don't really like it, but I'm now at the point where I don't think there is such a thing as a user-friendly browser anymore.
What don't you like?
In no specific order: the new Proton UI, Pocket, overemphasizing Mozilla's VPN, innocuously-sounding by sometimes privacy-invasive 'studies', automatic updates, the archane method of disabling automatic updates despite having a built-in configuration UI, having to restart the browser in the middle of my workflow due to automatic updates I did not want in the first place. In general, I get the feeling that Mozilla has adopted Reddit's business model of trashing their product by contuously fixing what isn't broken.
Thanks. Oh, I misunderstood you ;-) and thought you were talking about Brave. I stopped using Firefox quite a while ago and settled on Brave. Some config is needed but it works (very) well for me.
Brave is okay. I don't like that copying a URL on mobile requires one tap, while everywhere else you tap and hold to select. I also hate the tiles that replaced the list of "tabs." And I don't like the fact that it's based on Chromium.
What did you switch to?
I'm using Brave right now as a stopgap until/unless I can find a better one. Brave isn't fantastic, but it works better for me than FF.
Have you tried Vivaldi? I am still not switched over for various reasons but it seems to be well aligned for me.
Same boat, used it since Win XP but they've been bleeding out badly since Eich left with no signs of recovery.
I do want to like Brave, as it is Firefox II in spirit, but the combo of web3 crap, Chromium and the fact that it still pings outbound (with it all 'off') puts me off entirely.
Maybe it's time for me to fork KHTML and do what needs to be done.
Note that KHTML is dead: https://github.com/KDE/khtml/tree/master
The writing was on the wall as KDE moved to first QtWebkit and then the Blink based QtWebEngine.
The Android version of Firefox recently started promoting commercial bookmarks on the home screen, another case where it seems they've lost the plot.
You can't turn it off? I haven't used Android in a while, but always like Firefox made it easy to turn this type of stuff and telemetry off.
A while back I got a push notification on my Android device to some preachy blogpost about Facebook being bad politically
I don't want my browser to be a vector from which you push your blogs, Mozilla. I want a browser that isn't Chrome
I recently switched to Brave
As long as they make it easy to turn off, I simply don't care. I also don't understand others acting like it's the end of the world. Like this is the equivalent of your most beloved partner turning out to be a complete hoax. Give me a break. If anyone is looking for a nice "new tab" filler I highly suggest the "tabbliss" plugin.
Makes you wonder how someone thought this was a good idea in a browser that was an early pioneer of popup blockers. Imagine if Firefox in the 2000's had seen popup ads and said "Yeah let's get in on that action!"
At least it was a small scale experiment and not something that rolled out to the whole install base, I use Firefox on a couple of computers and didn't see it myself. But should you really need user feedback to know that inserting an overlay that looks like in-page ad content is a bad idea?
Mozilla management are malicious snakes. This isn't the first time they've tried something like this and it won't be the last. Each time they issue noncommittally apologies, if you can call them that, but it keeps on happening. They're testing the water for even more ads in Firefox, trying to normalize this until people stop complaining. Keep the heat on them, don't give them an inch or they'll take a mile.
> Each time they issue noncommittally apologies, if you can call them that, but it keeps on happening.
An apology needs three parts: admission that you did wrong, expressing regret for your wrongdoing, and a change in your behavior so that you don't do it again.
Mozilla's tendency to just do the first two and skip the third means that, in my view, those weren't real apologies.
It's hard to say they even do the first two. This one for example is not "sorry we added ads", but a "We're sorry you're concerned or confused".
> Each time they issue noncommittally apologies
Introduced by a bunch of gaslighting that it isn't actually happening or isn't anything different that what was always happened, then interleaved with accusations of bullying and entitlement directed at its userbase.
They might not care anymore or trying to do a Hail Mary, once >99% of browser-share is just Chromium and Webkit/Safari, then popular websites might not even work with FireFox anymore.
It's not all management. It's Mitchell Baker. She needs to step down as CEO.
I’m not sure what “something like this” you are referring to.
But Firefox is an ad supported browser and has been for nearly 2 decades.
That they want to take ownership of the advertising is no surprise. Who knows when google will turn off the faucet.
But this is definitely not the right way
If they keep doing things like this, people will stop complaining. Because they drive users away, and there will be nobody left to complain.
To be fair I've notice that apologies for company screwups have gone up in quality significantly afte r the introduction of chatgpt, and I await their with interest to see if the trend holds.
If something like this happens once it could be a slip, but we've been there again and again. Mozilla is testing how far it can go only backpedaling when there is resistance. I don't trust them a bit and would switch Browser anytime if there was a visble alternative.
Orion (from Kagi) is "planning support for other platforms in the future," if that lands for Windows I'll probably bail on Firefox
For me it's been downhill since they removed "Compact" UI density, and I'd just as soon not jump through a bunch of custom CSS hoops to have sidebar tabs when nearly all the other browsers (outside of Chrome/Safari) are building them in natively. The main thing going for Firefox is being the independent rendering engine, for customization and power user features it's nothing special anymore.
This ad overlay shows such a fundamental lack of understanding on what Firefox was built on that the people who greenlighted this need to go immediately.
They are completely out of their depth and not fit for their job.
The people who greenlighted this were the people who ousted those who built Firefox. The current crop of "leaders" have a vision that does not include Firefox being the best browser it can be.
Trust me, they're politically aware of what they are doing, and are only gauging outrage now. Give it some time and they'll figure out how to leverage the outrage, as they did before.
Never let a good crisis go to waste, and all that.
> The people who greenlighted this were the people who ousted those who built Firefox.
Mozilla got rid of their founder, Brendan Eich, for donating to a California initiative against gay marriage. Now we see what that costs us.
There would have been a cost to keeping him as well. There is a significant percentage of tech workers who are gay or trans, which would have reduced the hiring pool available to Mozilla.
> There would have been a cost to keeping him as well. There is a significant percentage of tech workers who are gay or trans, which would have reduced the hiring pool available to Mozilla.
Having the best pool of workers in the world aren't going to make a difference if they are working for power-mongers who use outrage to achieve a coup.
The reverse is not true - having fewer skilled workers to choose from can be irrelevant when they are working for someone who is focused on goals that are aligned to the user.
IOW, there's no point in having the absolute best and the brightest people employed by self-serving schemers who wanted to use firefox as a vehicle for their political/virtuous ambitions.
There might be, however, a point in having "only" the 90% best people employed towards making firefox better.
 And, it looks like it didn't make a difference.
Jeff Bezos donated more than Eich in 2018 to Cory Gardner, who is anti-equal marriage, anti-LGBT+ discrimination laws, and against same-sex adoption. It's interesting we don't hold the same standard to Bezos, or speculate that Bezos' donation affected his hiring pool.
It's not interesting at all. Exactly who was going to fire Bezos from Amazon?
Also, I know this is the internet, but disapproving of one person doesn't mean that you're promoting another random person that wasn't even part of the conversation. If you want to bring Bezos in, at a minimum you're required to find a single person, living or dead, who thinks that Bezos's donations were fine but Eich's were terrible.
Boards pressure people like Bezos to step down all the time, often due to public scrutiny.
I know no one is promoting Bezos. I'm just saying it's ridiculous how Bezos gets to white-wash incidents like this while causing untold harm to society, while Eich legitimately was furthering good causes in good ways and a single personal superficial detail prevented him from continuing to do that.
Yes, because Brave is the model of ethics! Oh, wait a sec...
> Yes, because Brave is the model of ethics! Oh, wait a sec...
Short answer: Well, compared to FF and the fine article that we are commenting on ... yes, it's certainly a model that FF could adopt!
Long answer: I don't see ads in Brave. I don't recall even installing any third parties to block ads. As far as the adtech space goes, Brave is indeed more ethical than FF (or Chrome, or Edge).
Now if you are of the view that, ethically, blocking ads is a bad thing, then I'm afraid we cannot actually discuss this any further, because there are very few arguments that will get me to change my mind about blocking advertisements, not least of which is the ad under discussion, i.e. "FULL-SCREEN-IN-YOUR-FACE-COVER-EVERYTHING-AND-STOP-THE-USER-FROM-DOING-ANYTHING-UNTIL-THE-AD-IS-DISMISSED" type of ad.
What are you talking about? There are ads on new tabs even if you configure it to just be a blank page!
Microsoft basically got in on this with a lot of their recent Windows stuff. With Windows 7, suddenly you saw people's PCs were no longer full of adware. Then by 8 or 10, Microsoft thought, "Wait, people put up with adware for decades, let's get on that and put it into the OS ourselves."
Now now, it's just Good and Proper Business to Milk Your Customer Dry.
Makes me wonder why so much of Corporate America make decisions based on "What's the outrage threshold for our users and how can we sneak up close to it?"
>Makes you wonder how someone thought this was a good idea in a browser that was an early pioneer of popup blockers.
Two reasons: clueless management who chases short term returns, and a rabid fanbase that will constantly make excuses for them no matter how much they decline, because "at least they're not Google/Microsoft"
"Rabid fanbase"? I feel like the majority of us are only begrudging users. Best of the worst available options.
Amongst my friends, I was consider a "rabid firefox user" because I kept using it for a few years after everyone else bailed on it after quantum.
>and a rabid fanbase that will constantly make excuses for them no matter how much they decline, because "at least they're not Google/Microsoft"
To their defense, that ought to be more about the rate of decline that Google/MS goes compared to Mozilla. It is usually supported out of necessity, not ideology. But I'm not sure for how long this will actually work.
I think something not getting enough attention is the design of the popup itself. It is chock-full of dark patterns (different sized click targets, "not now" dismiss action instead of "No") and doesn't include any way to disable similar "messages" in the future.
It's concerning that someone at Mozilla designed this and didn't see any problem with foisting these dark patterns on their users. This is the kind of user-hostile design I expected from Microsoft Edge not Firefox, which I thought was trying to be a user-respecting alternative.
Someone needs to make a "Firefox Marketing Department Greatest Hits" page; this isn't the first time, by far, they've tried to shoe-horn some absolutely user-hostile garbage into some release, followed by the usual "we will do better" back-pedalling non-apology
Yeah, something similar to "Killed by Google". Maybe we need a template on Github for such sites to catalog bullshit, lord knows there's a lot of categories of bullshit we can catalog...
Oh actually they do have their source available: https://github.com/codyogden/killedbygoogle
arewefishyyet.com is available.
It's really a wonder Mozilla keeps going. They've absolutely lost it.
Free google money so chrome isn’t seen as a monopoly
Does 2.7% market share really count as "going"? Mozilla certainly isn't relevant anymore.
"But freedom and openness!"
"The advertisement boosts Mozilla VPN, a paid open-source VPN service that constitutes a crucial revenue source for the not-for-profit company."
In 2021, Mozilla CEO received $5M in compensation. I don't really consider them a non-profit.
It's intentionally confusing but "not-for-profit" and "non-profit" are two very different things and it seems the article gets them confused.
Wish my non-profit paid like that.
That's how you don't make a profit
Mozilla's primary sources of revenue are for setting the default search engine. $500 Million.
>"We’re continuously working to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox. Ultimately, we accomplished the exact opposite of what we intended in this experiment and quickly rolled the experience back.
What absolute lies. All they would have to do is a quick search on HN and boom - enough user input to last quite some time. In my country (perhaps others), the best way to "continuously work[ing] to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox." would be to actually communicate with people... "Ultimately, we accomplished the exact opposite of what we intended in this experiment" No, you got called out for trying to cheat people.
> The most recent relevant report on Mozilla’s bug tracking platform received the "RESOLVED WORKSFORME" tag
Typical Mozilla. At this point I don’t know why they even allow bug submissions from the public at all.
Now changed from WORKSFORME to FIXED
Nothing to see here, folks!
(until marketing comes up with its next blunder)
I'm pretty sure "WORKSFORME" was somebody trying to be so aggressively mocking of users who complained that they forgot there was an actual bug in the ad.
This isn’t a bug, so the resolution is expected. What I don’t understand is how Mozilla thought this would work out.
Seems like it should have been WONTFIX, then.
I suppose now is a good time to ask if there are any good _non-corporate_ open source browsers out there?
Seems to me that businesses operate within an incentive structure that will always encourage them to take maximum advantage of users and do anti-user things no matter what their original goals were. The non-corporate part is key imo (see Canonical, Mozilla now etc.)
On KDE, Falkon.
On Gnome, "Web".
On macOS, Safari may not pass your "non-corporate" requirement, but it's spiritually non-corporate, and functionally "just a browser". It's also wicked fast and extremely light on your resources.
On many platforms, "ungoogled-chromium" may satisfy your needs. It's under the name "eloston-chromium" in many repos. https://github.com/ungoogled-software/ungoogled-chromium
Safari – such a pleasure to use it.
Safari is the MSIE 6 of this time period.
Safari is the fastest browser, the most standards compliant browser, and regularly updated, the only similarity to IE6 is it’s buggy. Chrome, on the other hand, followed IE’s whole playbook: leverage a platform monopoly to push the browser, then leverage browser monopoly to undermine standards, coercing devs into dropping support for the competition.
How is the the most complaint browser?
Looks like its the worst. Unless you have something proving otherwise. Till then I'll assume all your facts are bullshit.
That's lazy stereotyping and not even close to being a useful or accurate analogy.
It's the default browser for many people and also the browser with the most quirks.
We're not getting anywhere without the social support for it. Virtually all tech conferences are corporate-funded, for example, so they're not going to praise independent browsers. Conversations get stifled.
Self-plug but my indie conferences  promote software that respect the user's quality of experience. One of my favorite presentations that we've featured is SerenityOS (including their open-source browser) which made headlines at the time. 
You have to keep moving; Brave has been relatively good to me for now but I assume it will slump into the melt at some point.
To burst your bubble: https://digdeeper.neocities.org/articles/browsers#brave
Gnome-Web if you're on linux and it is fine. It is a little light on features, but it does the basics. Falkon is another for the QT/KDE crowd. There are several forks of chrome and firefox, if that's your thing.
I'm trying to ungoogle and switched to Vivaldi without enough research. Its a really nice browser and I really like the community around it (like their Mastodon service), but I basically jumped from one corporation's browser to another.
I love Firefox but starting to hate Mozilla. How many more tricks like that do they have in store for us?
It's as if someone there is determined to undermine this browser's reputation.
It's not like their main competitor pays them half a billion a year.
They always feign being sorry about doing things like that, but come back a few months later with the same bullshit over and over again, like a wife-beater.
They are completely pathetic and dysfunctional as an organization.
Wow, I experienced this yesterday while I was absentmindedly using my computer.... I assumed I had clicked something without realizing it. The idea that it was an intentional pop up didn't even enter my head.
For me it hit as a double-whammy. I tried opening a new tab, but had to stop what I was doing to restart Firefox instead because of a Snap update, then I got this immediately after Firefox started back up. A really nasty snapshot of where free software is at in 2023.
I went through the song-and-dance for several versions to remove the Snap firefox and go back to the deb, and now that the deb is gone I just downloaded it directly from mozilla so it can use its own internal autoupdate feature. It works better that way anyway.
Same here, my first reaction wasn't anger. It was to dismiss it so I could get back to work.
I think that there needs to be a level of accountability here for the programmers who did this. Tech workers need to stand up against this kind of anti-user hostility. Firefox is an openly-developed project, who wrote the code to allow this kind of attack, and should we ask them to commit to not writing such code again?
I'm not sure what this would achieve? I mean, surely it wasn't some random developer who came up with this idea and implemented it. This is a management decision and management decisions are driven by the company culture.
If I joined a company like Mozilla as a programmer rather than Google etc my motivation would probably be to create a privacy-protecting browser. If my company asked me to implement user-hostile features I’d just walk out. It’s not like someone like that can’t find a different job somewhere else.
How do you forcefully eject an ineffective "CEO" of a nonprofit from their position when they have failed their duties and violated their org's charter/mission while giving themself unjustified pay-raises and bonuses? Is there any gov process we can invoke to hold them accountable?
Wow if ad blockers can work does that mean Firefox injects this advert?
Its not just and overlay but code added to the webpage?
I'm awe struck at the stupidity of this idea.
No it's not blocked by ad blockers, since this was not injected in pages but part of the browser UI (the "chrome").
I wonder why I have not seen the advert popup then. I run Firefox daily for 8 to 10 hours and I've not seen it once... Something must be blocking it for me.
Looks like that was an experiment targeted to a subset of the user base, and you were just not in the pool.
As far as I can tell, it was run for a few hours and required Firefox to be left open and idle for 20 minutes before it appeared.
Unlikely. My guess is that the ad code runs in the context of the browser itself or some newly created context, rather than of the page you were reading before, but whatever fetch() or similar call it makes to load the ad goes through a subsystem that is affected by ad blockers.
Put another way, when you allow ublock or whatever you're using permission to intercept requests for ALL pages, that includes the "page" that mozilla is using to serve this ad.
Further evidence in favour of this hypothesis is that the ad can temporarily disable the rest of the firefox UI until you deal with it, which normal pages certainly can't do.
I doubt it was injected into pages. The screenshots shows the top chrome dimmed. I suppose people conflated not being randomly selected to get the ad with an ad blocker blocking the ad.
Bring back the browser wars. I'm tired of only having essentially two browsers to choose from, both from unethical companies that use slimy marketing speak to disguise their intentions.
I see it as a larger trend away from general purpose computing and toward appliances:
The browser does a lot of my computing now, and I'm not surprised the "General Purpose Browser" is disappearing, replaced by an appliance with user-hostile behavior that might, maybe, sometimes ... give you some internet browsing. Remember AOL Online?
The solution isn't very complicated. Copyleft  uses copyright to preserve user freedom, instead of restricting it -- so the company that wants to monetize the software can't block the user from making copies of the source code.
Let's skip the quibbling over Affero GPL, that's boring. How about inventing a license, where the license restricts the valid activites of the software?
A browser restricted to only make network requests authorized by the user. An OS restricted from spying on the user. A computer that is personal again.
Hear, hear! The problem is that browser complexity has exploded to the degree that at this point it seems impossible for a small team to reinvent the wheel. Who wants to write a web assembly engine from scratch, let alone the rest?
My main browser has been Waterfox which I update manually, which doubly insulated me from this. But don't misunderstand...I hate pretty much all browsers now, too.
> Who wants to write a web assembly engine from scratch
Webassembly engine is one of the simpler things to implement in a browser. It's essentially a giant switch statement in a loop.
> let alone the rest?
Meh. Webassembly has polyfills. I think an incremental approach wouldn't be as hard as people make it out to be but someone does have to sit down and do it.
A lot of organisations/entrepreneurs have made decisions that are so out of touch with the user base that people would question why would someone do that.
Like, I can understand maximising profit, but you don’t have to enrage your user base to achieve your goals
Depends on your goals. Facebook has done well selling outraged eyeballs.
The outrage Facebook feasts on is not directed at Facebook. That is just a byproduct.
Here Mozilla decided to place a nice target on their backs asking for money.
Sure. But my tinfoil hat is at the drycleaner so I will let you use your imagination to come up with a scenario where ill will toward Mozilla benefits someone.
Cui Bono as they say.
And I guess a lot more people now know about Mozilla VPN. No such thing as bad publicity I guess?
Mozilla needs a new wway to make decisions, the current one is obviously not working. New features should have an Enhancement Proposal document that the community can read beforehand and a council that approves it.
All directly or indirectly ad-supported business models will sooner or later come to the point of breakage in serving user”s best interests, as the fundamental misalignment of incentives between the business and its users creates a force too strong to contain.
This is entirely driven by a simple fact that in ad-supported businesses users are not the same as the customers.
I advocated several times and will do it again - Firefox should completely embrace a freemium browser business model, align incentives with its users, and attempt to have a second golden age (first was 2005-2010).
Agreed. I can't help but think that giving normal, technical users a great browser, and then catering on bended knee to enterprises for a very controllable, supported, extended version as the source of revenue that supports the normal browser is a sustainable model. Maybe not a model that takes over the world, but one that sustains development of a good open source browser.
Are there any open source projects run like that? The closest thing I can think of is, like, Chromium but they don’t really make a framework that anyone can customize, they are inextricably tied to Google, right?
IMO open source works best as a community implementing small, single-purpose programs, which the users can integrate however they’d like. Web browsers have gotten too monolithic and the internet has gotten too over-complicated for a healthy open source web browser to exist.
So, what do people think of Vivaldi? I'm a long-time Firefox user but I've been scanning for a new browser for a while now. Even if it weren't for stuff like this, I'll have to change anyway when Firefox dips below ~3% and websites stop supporting Gecko.
I use it as main browser for the last 7 years I believe. And honestly - I love it. It have some gimmicks - sometime its slow a bit, sometime there some bugs that you have to wait for fix in the new version, but amount of customizability is a thing that overcome any issues.
With Vivaldi I can be sure that my preference will not be removed in the next version as unnecessary or as not popular enough. And there a LOT of preferences to customize as you want.
So, I personally, love it. Again, its not perfect with performance and bug minor happens, but for me its ok. I prefer the feeling that I decide what browser will do and how it feels. Not some corp.
I used Vivaldi on and off over the past few years, but I've been using FF full time since late last year. Vivaldi eventually starting slowing way down for some reason. Startup took nearly 10 seconds, when it used to be < 3. Not sure what did it. It may be due to the chrome (UI) as it's a very heavy custom CSS solution.
Also their address bar behavior was way different than Chrome or FF, and it kept messing me up.
It might be better now, they've had many updates since I last used it. Might give it another go, now that FF is doing this stuff.
I saw this yesterday while I was using the browser at work. At first I really thought nothing of it. It was was strange seeing it out of nowhere and I was indifferent about it. I love the browser and it has saved me time and my sanity by allowing be to block advertisements that infect us all and being reliable as a browser I can always count on to work how I want.
With that said, after reading the bug reports and comments a sense of indignation did wash over me. But only after reading the comments. I honestly forgot about it right after clicking the button.
I saw this too and wasn't too bothered, although I wondered if there was something I did on the page that somehow triggered the "we think you should know about our VPN thing" popup. Which IMO is also a bad thing - users don't know why you're showing them that thing at that particular moment.
The best place to show something like this is probably in an update splash screen. "Hey great news you're updated to v.next, you might want to know about our VPN thing too"
Are the bean counters and ad freaks taking the helm? Maybe time to look for a different browser…
What in the world were they thinking. Are we going to have to run IceWeasel builds again
i gave up on firefox when i couldn't stop it from connecting to Google on a network device i was working on. Removing all the links from the advanced settings made it fail to start. That's when I realized how hypocritical they are. ( arm64 firefox-esr.) Even the latest chromium on arm64 connects to Google almost daily. i use epiphany-browser for that project now. no unwanted internet traffic from epiphany.
Yeah when my DNS went sporty I noticed Firefox got very slow to load even local ips and investigated.
Turns out it does two dozen queries on every start. Mostly to unknown Mozilla services but also a few from Google and others I couldn't identify (IP on either AWS or CloudFlare, likely just more Mozilla). And when it can't resolve those hosts it seems to continually retry every few seconds...
Before the apologists arrive, try it yourself. Disable all your add-ons and set your homepage to blank, close Firefox, start wireshark, start Firefox and watch the avalanche.
Unfortunately normal for the mainstream ones, you can even see similar with Brave.
Any issues with DRM content?
As a firefox user of a couple of decades, I am now starting to look at alternatives. Anything chromium is a big no, but there are few alternatives. Perhaps it is time to go back to using Lynx.
I keep hoping some of the laid off devs will fork the project and we can get back to a mostly volunteer model focused on just the browser. I'd much rather donate to something like that than the Mozilla foundation, at least as it currently stands.
We have Librewolf fer desktop, and Mull and Fennec for Android. They are forks
The particularly terrible thing about this is that the Mozilla VPN product is actually Mullvad underneath, one of the better and more ethical VPN providers. Then they have to do this popup ad bullshit pushed by the browser and take a dump all over it.
I have Mullvad running on my devices all the time...
I wonder if they showed the ad to Mullvad users?
Also, Mullvad is unique in that it generally doesn't do commissions or special sale prices, etc. The "top rated" VPNs on review sites and YouTube channels are usually the ones paying the most in commission. And it's a reason Mullvad is rarely in the "top rated" lists -- it doesn't pay commissions.
I wonder how that works with Mozilla? Surely Mozilla is getting a commission?
Without actually researching this, my impression is that Mullvad is a white label provider that the Mozilla VPN product is built on.
That's very different business arrangement than Mullvad paying commission for customer acquisition.
What is the value proposition of using Mozilla VPN over Mullvad directly, other than adding a layer of USA on top of it (which is a bad thing imo)?
Also, has Mozilla VPN also a windows client, or is it more like the Opera Proxies (which were called VPN for some reason)?
I use Mozilla VPN rather than Mullvad because it was a nice way of supporting mozilla and thus firefox.
I also think that while mozilla may handle my finances, mullvad handle the VPN. Mozilla doesn't get the technical details of mullvad and thus don't know what IP I'm on, and I don't think mullvad know my name. Sure it's not quite cash in an envelope, but paranoia comes with a cost too.
> Also, has Mozilla VPN also a windows client, or is it more like the Opera Proxies (which were called VPN for some reason)?
No idea, but it has a linux client and an ios client. It's a nice simple wireguard VPN
For myself as possible VPN end user I don't see the value proposition, but presumably, Mozilla is treating this as a new source of revenue (they get some percentage of the total monthly recurring or a one time sign up commmission or something from Mullvad?) as a way to be very slightly less dependent on Google for most of their incoming revenue stream.
I can see ordinary non technical users who want to "buy a VPN service" going with this as a decent option. It seems to be fairly consumer friendly and have a well documented setup process.
The only thing that makes me choose it over Mullvad is how well the integration with Multi-Container in Firefox. It is a first class citizen compared with VPN profiles support for others.
I looked this up and it looks very cool! Why aren't they advertising this better?
I now want this for mullvad too tbh
>has Mozilla VPN also a windows client?
Yes, actually has something for all three major Desktop OSes, iOS and Android. 
It was cheaper the last time I looked at it. $5.00/mo for Mozilla, and Mullvad is Euro5.00/mo.
I use firefox everyday for several hours and I have never seen this before. In the US.
If the privacy crowd expected different treatment from a woke tyrannical organization in full control of their choice of browser, they only have themselves to blame.
Well, I'm not going to use Chrome, but I guess WebKit is okay... what browser should we be using now?
Brave is pretty good.
Ah, yes. The closed-source, single-platform, invite-only browser made by a company nobody's ever heard of outside the startup ecosystem.
I never saw the ad and I use Firefox an day, I use ublock, would this have blocked it?
No, this was in the browser chrome itself. It covered the address bar and tabs as well as the page.
I've never seen this on my machine. Been using FF exclusively for years.
Happened to me today.
It mostly caused mild exasperation.
I want FF to survive so this gave me mixed feelings.
First off: they are allowed to try things!
Great they are trying to keep the income incoming.
Bad that they don’t know their users enough that they are attempting this tack. It screams of expensive external consultants building a campaign… Depleting the funds for FF.
I wouldn't mind seeing Mozilla VPN ads in the Settings menu or the 'new tab' page tbh. But injecting it on top of web pages directly is just scummy.
This was definitely not one of their best moves.
it's a bit unclear what they intended here but I see a lot of people assuming the absolute worst intent.
That Firefox would fully intend to insert full page unskippable adverts of it's own into unrelated websites is a major accusation and there is evidence this was an accident.
Looks more to me like bleepingcomputer purposefully sensationalized the issue as clickbait.
Did you even read the article? There's a screenshot which shows that this "feature" even got its own config items (browser.vpn_promo.*). This hardly looks like an "accident".
Also note the weasel language of their statement: "We’re continuously working to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox. ...".
"Communicate" my *ss. It really makes my blood boil how the Mozilla management hijacked Firefox for their unethical bullshit (because it happens again and again, as soon as the dust has settled over the last 'accident').
Firefox's responses are absolutely shit, for sure.
But Firefox has all kind of promo things (the latest I saw was adverts on their overview/links page - which you can also disable), so the presence of a config item for this doesn't mean they intended for it to show up where it did.
What else could they have been trying to do? From seeing the bug filed/fixed wrt the issue, it seems like the only unintentual part was that the popup appeared to quickly, it was showing up after 20ms instead of 20s or something like that
they could have been intending to insert the advert into other places, which wouldn't be quite as outrageous (though I happen dislike them inserting them anywhere, but some places are definitely worse than others).
This is not the first time Mozilla has injected an ad campaign into the browser chrome.
They did this a couple years ago as well to similar backlash, that time with a plugin that they force-installed for users.
That sounds pretty bad but what do you mean by "browser chrome"? Isn't the claim here that they injected an ad into an actual page?
No, they did not. The complaint is poorly worded. They added an internal browser pop-up that covers pages to display an ad.
No, browser chrome is the part that isn't the web page (i.e. browser UI itself).
Bugzilla links in yesterday's post:
seem to indicate that Mozilla intended for the popup to be shown if the user is AFK for 20 minutes but that timer malfunctioned
The last thing I want is my browser popping something up when I'm AFK.
(Bug reporter here)
I don't know exactly what anyone else experienced. What I experienced is: I was away from my computer and noticed that my Syncthing folders were out of date, so I used KDE Connect to make sure Syncthing was running on my PC, which opens a tab connecting to Syncthing on the local machine in the default browser - Firefox in my case. Some time later, I unlocked my PC and found the advertisement on top of my Syncthing admin page.
So yes, it popped something up while I was AFK, though I can't guess whether it would have done so if I hadn't remotely triggered a new tab. Needless to say, I was very surprised to see that behavior from Firefox, and even more surprised that despite posts to reddit and HN complaining, I didn't find a report in Bugzilla.
> seem to indicate that Mozilla intended for the popup to be shown if the user is AFK for 20 minutes
Wow, that would have been a whole lot worse than what actually happened!
This is a great way to freak people out and make them distrust you — move their stuff while they're not looking.
Can you point to that evidence? I'm wondering how that change was even ideated let alone rolled out to people.
Recent and related:
Firefox displayed a pop-up ad for Mozilla VPN over an unrelated page - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=36077360 - May 2023 (328 comments)