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Mozilla will start showing first-time users ads in blank Firefox tabs

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Mozilla is working on its own OS and hardware abroad, but it's also trying to make its existing software more relevant for users... and a little more profitable. Today, the organization announced a change that will turn vacant screen real estate into suggestions for new users. When a user first installs Firefox, opening a new tab will bring up a mostly blank page, with only Firefox's own welcome message as a frequently or recently visited site. As they break in the browser, the tiles will fill up, but now Mozilla plans to kickstart the process with something it calls Directory Tiles.

Directory Tiles are described as a set of pre-packaged selections with a limited level of personalization. Mozilla says it will add a mix of sites from its own ecosystem, popular sites from a particular geographic location, and "sponsored tiles" from partners. The sponsored tiles will be labeled, and unless users end up visiting those sites a lot, they'll presumably soon be replaced by more organic content. A previous experiment let users opt to give Mozilla access to their web history in order to match it with broad interest categories (gadgets, cooking) and personalize the browser. Directory Tiles seem to be in a relatively early stage, and Mozilla says it's just starting to talk to potential advertising partners.

With this announcement, Mozilla is also extending an olive branch to advertisers; it's previously clashed with the Interactive Advertising Bureau particularly because of plans to block third-party cookies that let ad networks track consumers. "Mozilla hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with all viewpoints in the digital content community," says a blog post announcing the change, but the organization still wants to help advertisers deliver "compelling content." While the Mozilla Foundation itself is non-profit, it has a for-profit subsidiary in the Mozilla Corporation, although both follow the same principles. Most of its revenue right now comes from a partnership that makes Google the default Firefox search engine, so this will add another possible source of funding, though how much it will bring in remains a mystery.