sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

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Zack Weinberg

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Feb 11, 2014, 8:26:56 PM2/11/14
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regarding
https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
:

> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
> first-time users. Some of these tile placements will be from the
> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
> mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.

I get why this might seem like a good idea if you don't think about it
very hard, but it is a profoundly bad idea and I'm not kidding at all
when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke. To be clear, I
am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.

The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
monetized via advertising. That monoculture is a Bad Thing for the
usual reasons why monocultures are always Bad Things: it produces a
reality distortion bubble in which actions that would otherwise be
beyond the pale seem normal (such as selling highly private
information about your nominal customers, in this case); and it exerts
pressure to conform, to the extent where it can be hard to even
*imagine* alternatives. We (Mozilla) should be taking active steps to
*undermine* it, right now, as a top priority. Not adding to the ways
in which it is everywhere.

It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
interests from our users' interests. We have always taken money from
third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
exactly the same placements. The moment we change either of those
things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine. I know I am doomsaying,
and I know there's a reason the camel's nose fallacy is called a
fallacy, but I have seen exactly this evolution happen to literally
every internets company that decided to try this tailored
advertisements thing, *since there has been an internets*.

And finally, it is a bad idea because even if you think this somehow
*does* undermine the ad monoculture (willing to be convinced, but
right now I don't see it), and even if you think you can keep that
camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
*already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
conclusions, and it will only get worse. We shrug and move on when
people kvetch about the UI changes "to be just like Chrome" (whether
or not that is true), but this is *genuinely* a move toward Google's
modus operandi, and I could see it losing us ALL of the goodwill and
trust we have accumulated over the years.

zw
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Nicholas Nethercote

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Feb 12, 2014, 12:12:03 AM2/12/14
to Zack Weinberg, dev. planning
Some quotes from
http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:

- "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
- "This sounds even more like ads to me."
- "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
- "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."

Nick
> _______________________________________________
> dev-planning mailing list
> dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
> https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/dev-planning

Marco Zehe

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Feb 12, 2014, 1:17:35 AM2/12/14
to dev. planning
I totally agree with what Zack said and also with what is being stated
in the comments Nick quoted. I, too, am very uncomfortable with this
idea. Because this will, if it turns out to be attractive, also spread
to Firefox for Android and Firefox OS. And this means that ad partners
will want access to the Geo location data, so they can tailor their ads
towards the geographic location as well, and who knows what else they
demand once they realise they can apply pressure.

One of the reasons I don't use an Android device for more than Firefox
for Android testing is that Google want every bit of my personal data to
squeeze even more info out of me for personalized ads. Accessing call
logs and SMS? Root access via a system service that doesn't even have to
tell me what it updates and turns on if it so chooses? Eves-drop on me
with Google Now's "on via a voice command" 'feature'? No, thank you very
much!

At least with Apple I know they build the software to sell me their own
hardware. In fact the first thing I do on a new device is turn off that
unique ad identifier feature. And if I can, I buy or upgrade to
non-sponsored apps.

So far, I have always been confident in Mozilla that we put the privacy
of our users front and center. In fact, one of the main arguments I use
when recommending Firefox to friends and family is exactly that. So
whatever we do with those tiles, if they become a reality, WE MUST NOT
WEIVER FROM THAT! We MUST NOT sell our users to advertising companies in
a manner that we can no longer guarantee the safety of our user base's
privacy. Heck I'd even go as far as recommend we offer, as an
alternative, a kind of subscription model that keeps users ad-free in
those tiles on any device in exchange for a donation.

I'd put this in a comment below the original blog post if comments were
open. But since they aren't, I'm putting this here.

Marco

On 2/12/2014 6:12 AM, Nicholas Nethercote wrote:
> Some quotes from
>
http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:
>
> - "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
> - "This sounds even more like ads to me."
> - "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
> - "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
> is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."
>
> Nick
>
>
> On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 5:26 PM, Zack Weinberg <za...@panix.com> wrote:

Jim Porter

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Feb 12, 2014, 2:42:10 AM2/12/14
to
On 02/11/2014 07:26 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> regarding
> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
> :
>
>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>> first-time users. Some of these tile placements will be from the
>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>> mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.

Thanks for bringing this up; I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes me
seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to get
published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to say
that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there really
no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really careful
before we start talking about putting ads into the actual browser"
before this post was published?

I obviously wasn't involved in any internal discussion with "Directory
Tiles", but I'm hoping that this is something that was already fairly
well-known amongst Firefox Desktop devs. If not, there is a Problem.
There have been occasions at Mozilla where I had a vague suspicion that
someone who wanted a controversial feature simply chose not to mention
the feature to relevant parties who might object on privacy/ethical/etc
grounds; I sincerely hope this was only my paranoia speaking, and not
the truth of the matter. The same applies to this situation as well.

If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
Mozilla as a whole).

This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
users, but our contributors (and employees!).

- Jim

Pascal Chevrel

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Feb 12, 2014, 3:18:50 AM2/12/14
to Jim Porter
Hi

I think this thread should be cross-posted to mozilla.governance (doing
that on this reply) as this is not just an implementation issue but a
discussion about what Mozilla values are and how these values impact our
products.

I share the same concerns although I would like to know the details of
the implementation before dismissing it. For example if we get a couple
of sponsored ads on the first time a new user uses the new tab feature
and that this feature is not based on any communication of the user's
data, I think I would be OK with that. For me the touchy point from a
moral point of view for Mozilla is the user's personal data, not ads per
se. If we don't leak to advertisers any of the user data to display a
sponsored tile, then I think it's ok with our values to show an ad once
or twice on this page.

Of course by preserving the user's privacy, we can't provide details
allowing more targetted ads for which advertisers would pay more, but on
the other hand we don't need to make such compromises to maximize
revenue, especially since we wouldn't be an intermediary (as we are with
our search engine partners) and would therefore get the direct full
payment for the sponsored ads.

So to give an example, if a new French Firefox user sees the first time
he uses Firefox a tile about let's say a popular online shop in French
speaking countries (like fnac.com for example), and that we selected
this ad for the French Firefox build, then I think it's OK as we are not
basing this ad on the user's data.

If we intend to show tiles based on the user's data (browing, settings
in preferences...) then I think that it is a lot more touchy and that it
needs a wider discussion with all of Mozilla to make decisions based on
what is good for Mozilla in the long run and not what seems good on the
short term.

Regards,

Pascal

Gijs Kruitbosch

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Feb 12, 2014, 5:11:45 AM2/12/14
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 12/02/2014 07:42, Jim Porter wrote:
> On 02/11/2014 07:26 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> regarding
>> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
>>
>> :
>>
>>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>>> first-time users. Some of these tile placements will be from the
>>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>>> mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> Thanks for bringing this up; I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
> To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes me
> seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to get
> published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to say
> that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there really
> no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really careful
> before we start talking about putting ads into the actual browser"
> before this post was published?
>
> I obviously wasn't involved in any internal discussion with "Directory
> Tiles", but I'm hoping that this is something that was already fairly
> well-known amongst Firefox Desktop devs.

It was presented and discussed at the Firefox desktop work week in
Paris, early January. There were many other ideas that were shot down
well before they were even shown to the Fx desktop team.

> If not, there is a Problem.
> There have been occasions at Mozilla where I had a vague suspicion that
> someone who wanted a controversial feature simply chose not to mention
> the feature to relevant parties who might object on privacy/ethical/etc
> grounds; I sincerely hope this was only my paranoia speaking, and not
> the truth of the matter. The same applies to this situation as well.
>
> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
> need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
> tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
> somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
> Mozilla as a whole).
>
> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
> users, but our contributors (and employees!).
>
> - Jim

As Bryan Clark put it on Twitter,

> The "Mozilla ads" inside Firefox is actually taking us from
> http://cl.ly/image/033X3C3R1m3f to http://cl.ly/image/3I172o2f202k
> for first run

https://twitter.com/clarkbw/status/433333066514198528

To the best of my knowledge, there are no plans on using any kind of
user data for deciding what ends up on the empty tiles. As the blogpost
noted,

> "Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem,
> some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and
> some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help
> support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission"

which I would assume to be based on the Firefox locale, just like the
existing facilities for search providers in the search box.

I would also hope that we trust the other people in Mozilla to have the
user's interests at heart. That includes the people who decide what kind
of image/text is shown in the tile, and what tiles we would consider
shipping and what tiles we would not.

If you do not trust the people making these decisions, I would argue
that is a separate problem (to be taken up in .governance) to having the
ability to prepopulate these tiles.

We already prepopulate:
- bookmarks
- search providers
- links to Firefox/Mozilla support/help/information sites

We monetize some of what is in the search provider list (but not
everything).

I don't understand why implementing the ability to prepopulate the
tiles, and monetizing some (but not all) of them, has some people
commenting here so much more worried than the current state of affairs,
and why this would get us onto a slippery slope that we were not on before.

Note also that you can remove sites from your tiles, just like you can
remove (sponsored or otherwise) search providers. I would expect us to
continue providing that possibility.

~ Gijs

Onno Ekker

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:45:28 AM2/12/14
to
Being a keyboard junky I never saw the benefit of seeing the recent tabs
when I open a new tab. I just type a few characters in the location bar
and the page I want appears, most of the times.

That's why I toggled browser.newtabpage.enabled to false and set
browser.newtab.url to about:blank...

I don't suppose that's what Mozilla will do for new users though :-(

Onno

Gijs Kruitbosch

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:30:32 AM2/12/14
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 12/02/2014 10:11, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
>
> As Bryan Clark put it on Twitter,
>
> > The "Mozilla ads" inside Firefox is actually taking us from
> > http://cl.ly/image/033X3C3R1m3f to http://cl.ly/image/3I172o2f202k
> > for first run
>
> https://twitter.com/clarkbw/status/433333066514198528

It was pointed out to me that these links (images) don't have a clear
text alternative. My apologies. A description follows:

The first image shows the about:newtab page as it currently looks for
new users: with 9 tiles, 8 of which are blank. The only other one
contains the first-run page (that is, the "Welcome to Firefox" page).

The second image shows a mockup of the feature, which has all 9 tiles
populated. The text labels for the tiles are:

"Firefox"
"Mozilla Foundation"
"Firefox OS"
"Electronic Frontier Foundation"
"Amazon"
"Facebook"
"Wikipedia"
"Twitter"
"Yahoo!"

The images shown in the tiles are the logos of the respective entities.

The tiles for Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo! have a small orange icon with
an arrow pointing to the top right; I'm not sure if this is an artifact
of the mockup or meant to indicate they are sponsored. Irrespective of
that, from what we heard in the work week, I am 99.99% certain the
mockup isn't at all final.

Gijs

David Rajchenbach-Teller

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:44:41 AM2/12/14
to Gijs Kruitbosch, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
On 2/12/14 11:11 AM, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
>> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
>> need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
>> tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
>> somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
>> Mozilla as a whole).
>>
>> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
>> users, but our contributors (and employees!).

We have run through several variants of this idea on the Firefox Desktop
Work Week in Paris. I seem to remember that there were ~40 Fx devs.
Several ideas were clearly rejected. However, there seems to have been a
general consensus among people involved in the conversation that this
idea could be executed in a way that would be both
- beneficial for the users;
- absolutely non-intrusive wrt privacy;
- monetizable.

> I don't understand why implementing the ability to prepopulate the
> tiles, and monetizing some (but not all) of them, has some people
> commenting here so much more worried than the current state of affairs,
> and why this would get us onto a slippery slope that we were not on before.
>
> Note also that you can remove sites from your tiles, just like you can
> remove (sponsored or otherwise) search providers. I would expect us to
> continue providing that possibility.

Not only this, but in several of the variants we discussed, sponsored
tiles would eventually disappear in favor of websites actually visited
by the user.

Cheers,
David

--
David Rajchenbach-Teller, PhD
Performance Team, Mozilla

Gervase Markham

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Feb 12, 2014, 8:23:55 AM2/12/14
to Zack Weinberg
Hi Zack,

On 12/02/14 01:26, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke. To be clear, I
> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.

Are you also opposed to pay-for-inclusion default bookmarks, and/or
pay-for-inclusion search engine list entries? If not, why are those two
things different?

> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
> the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
> monetized via advertising.

I'm not sure of the logic here. "No-one has worked out how to make money
on the Internet apart from via advertising. Therefore we should eschew
all revenue streams that people have some experience of working, and
only pursue ones which no-one has ever made work before"?

> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
> every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
> interests from our users' interests. We have always taken money from
> third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
> kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
> exactly the same placements.

I'm fairly sure that's not totally true. The search engine list is
locale-dependent.

> The moment we change either of those
> things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
> the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
> logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
> precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.

Perhaps a tangent, but: if we logged everyone's clickstreams
client-side, and worked out which ad that meant the user should see
client-side, and the only thing the ad server ever found out was the
final decision (i.e. what ad was downloaded) and even that wasn't tied
to a unique identifier... would that be wrong?

My point: I think many, many Mozillians are deeply concerned about
privacy, and many are much more concerned about it than they were before
last June, and I don't think that all of them deciding suddenly not to
care about their own and other Firefox users' privacy is a likely
scenario. And even if it were, blanket bans on "we will never do X",
like laws, tend to not be good at predicting future circumstances.

Can privacy-preserving ad targetting be done? I'm genuinely not sure,
but we're never going to be able to find out if we simply said "we will
never do targetted ads".

> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
> conclusions, and it will only get worse.

Then we need to do better PR.

Gerv

Mike Hoye

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Feb 12, 2014, 9:39:33 AM2/12/14
to dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
On 2/12/2014, 2:42 AM, Jim Porter wrote:
> To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes
> me seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to
> get published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to
> say that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there
> really no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really
> careful before we start talking about putting ads into the actual
> browser" before this post was published?
Do you - does anyone on this thread - actually believe that none of the
people involved in making a big, user-facing change to our our most
successful product did not once raise their voices to ask if it was
aligned with our mission or our values, or considered the impact it
would have on our users? Nobody from engineering, UX, management, anyone?

Seriously?

- mhoye

Johnathan Nightingale

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Feb 12, 2014, 10:59:43 AM2/12/14
to Ken Saunders, mozilla.dev.planning group, gover...@lists.mozilla.org
On Feb 12, 2014, at 9:40 AM, Ken Saunders wrote:

> I personally (as a user and Mozillian), have no problems with this being done because I understand the need and I know and trust Mozilla. The problem is, the greater majority of users and the public in general do not.
>
> Clearing up internal concerns about why more people aren't aware of this, the transparency process and so on are valid, but the greatest immediate need right now (in my opinion of course), is providing us (or is it we) Mozillians with some precise details so that we can accurately and with confidence, respond to the concerns of users, diffuse the hype, and if need be, defend this.


I was going to start my reply with something like "Let's all pause for a second, here and take a breath" but as I re-read the thread, almost everyone is already doing that and the discussion has been really thoughtful and measured. Thank you all for that. Headline writers get paid to inflame, it's nice to know that we have an ample supply of anti-inflammatories.

Headlines aside, let's get really specific. The thing we're talking about today is the experience of a new Firefox user with an empty profile. We give them a new tab page with a bunch of blank tiles. That's a crappy first experience and we should make it better. Darren's team looked at that, and realized that we could make this better for users and generate income for Mozilla if we were smart about it. Pre-populating those tiles, like we already pre-populate search providers, is just a better experience. As with search, we should make the choices that make the most sense for our users, we should make them localizable even if we have certain global defaults, and we should give users choice over whether to use them at all. Of course the implementation has to be done in ways that respect our users and serve our values as a project. I think that is all self-evident to people who read these groups, but I know that surprise and confusion is an uncomfortable place, and makes it harder to reason from trust.

Like any other feature, this will land in m-c, be scrutinized, have bugs, fix bugs, get tested in pre-release, get redesigned, &c. Just like with search, we'll need to figure out which entries make sense, which ones are commercial and should have a revenue sharing piece, and which ones are non-commercial (like our inclusion of wikipedia search) and how we manage that list. This is early days, so if there aren't answers to some of those things yet, it's mostly because we're figuring them out together, not because they're devious answers that we haven't figured out how to "message". Again, I think this is self-evident to most people on the list, but reminders help.

J


PS - Cross posting since the thread is in both places. Contrary to Pascal, I think this does belong in dev.planning so I'd recommend follow ups go there. I hear Pascal's argument that this goes to values, but our values impact our products and development across the board. Values should be part of every discussion, not just the remit of governance, imo.

---
Johnathan Nightingale
VP Firefox
@johnath

PhillipJones

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Feb 12, 2014, 11:51:56 AM2/12/14
to
You should at least add a button with some teeth when person click No
Ads it mean no Ads that person receives no Ads what so ever. Except
what is actually on web. Which AdBlock plus can take care. I don't want
my information email address web Address regular address what car I own
whether I own a House, etc going to nobody except those I choose to do
so and even then would only be email address. This advertising has go
out of hand. We got to the point we can't even go to the little boys
room at your/my house without having to see advertising. I don't want it
, I don't look at it. I never want it. And I am less likely no more
likely not to buy from Internet advertisers. If I want something, I
research on the net find a Place I want to buy from. The two scourges
of the Internet is number one Spam and number two Advertising. In fact I
consider all form of advertising on the Internet as spam that has been
given the green light. I wish Spam software would come up with a way to
kill advertising.

--
Phillip M. Jones, C.E.T. "If it's Fixed, Don't Break it"
http://www.phillipmjones.net mailto:pjon...@comcast.net

Jim Porter

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Feb 12, 2014, 2:07:51 PM2/12/14
to
On 02/12/2014 07:23 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
> Hi Zack,
>
> On 12/02/14 01:26, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke. To be clear, I
>> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
>> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
>> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
>> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> Are you also opposed to pay-for-inclusion default bookmarks, and/or
> pay-for-inclusion search engine list entries? If not, why are those two
> things different?

I can't speak for others, but I'm not a huge fan of either of those. The
search engines don't bother me too much though, since as Zack said,
they're pretty generic (and form the basis of actually finding things on
the web). Everyone uses search engines on a regular basis, so including
them by default makes sense.

My issue with sponsored tab entries is that they would really only
affect new and inexperienced internet users; anyone with experience on
the web will almost certainly know about all the sponsored links we're
showing (I doubt a small company could afford the placement), and
chances are good they already have browser history they'd rather see
there (e.g. by importing their history from Chrome). Most of the places
that can afford something like this use the same business model: they
provide a free service to users in exchange for the chance to build a
salable consumer profile on that user.

Now, I'm not trying to condemn these sites for their business model. I
still use Google, Facebook, and friends despite it, but I'm comfortable
with doing so because I've made an informed decision. What makes me
uncomfortable is that we're creating a feature targeted at inexperienced
users who probably can't make an informed decision about what to do with
their personal information; it's not like Facebook is going to be
bluntly honest with new users that everything they say is being tracked.

>> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
>> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
>> conclusions, and it will only get worse.
>
> Then we need to do better PR.

I'll admit that the tone of the article is part of what made me
uncomfortable, although it was so short on actual details that there
wasn't much else to go on. That's part of what I meant when I questioned
the genesis of this blog post. It seems tailor-made to make people
worried, and I'm surprised that it was published as is. Much of it is
from the point of view of business and marketing, and even the word
choice reflects that. Many people have a pretty dim view of online
advertising; just look at how popular AdBlock Plus is. If we're going to
expand the use of "sponsored content", I think we should be very careful
to show - in detail - how this actually benefits the user.

If the main thrust of this blog post had been about how to introduce new
users to the virtues of the web and to educate them about it benefits
and risks, I don't think anyone would be so worried, even if it did have
a blurb about sponsored content in there somewhere.

- Jim

Jim Porter

unread,
Feb 12, 2014, 3:07:06 PM2/12/14
to
As I mentioned in another post, one of my biggest concerns is how the
blog post was presented. It doesn't actually show *how* this is going to
benefit users; it merely makes the assertion that it will. I have hope
that the Firefox Desktop developers I know would be pretty concerned
about that, and the lack of any substantive details on that front was
especially worrying.

If people did have ideas for how this would actually benefit new users
(e.g. by educating them about the web), then I think they should have
been presented in the blog post. Their absence was conspicuous.

The blog post also isn't up-front about the financial goals of the
sponsored content. For me to learn about that, I had to read a
supplementary message from the "Mozillians Town Hall" to see that it was
motivated by a fear that search engine referrals would cease to provide
sufficient revenue. That's not exactly surprising, but again its absence
in the blog post was conspicuous. Being up-front about that sort of
thing is a lot more reassuring.

You might say that my worries are because I don't trust Mozilla. And in
a way, you're right. I think Mozilla has a lot of potential for doing
good, but we're not incorruptible. No one is. When potentially-bad
developments arise, I think we need to show - not just tell - how this
is still in keeping with our values. We shouldn't expect people to take
it on faith.

- Jim

Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 5:51:27 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 12:12 AM, Nicholas Nethercote wrote:
> Some quotes from
> http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:
>
> - "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
> - "This sounds even more like ads to me."
> - "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
> - "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
> is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."

Being off in my own corner doing my own thing most of the time, I am not
surprised these days when the first I hear about some Mozilla initiative
is on Twitter, but in this case, it's not helping my opinion of the
proposal any that it doesn't appear to have been discussed at all on
either -security or -privacy prior to the announcement. Reactions that
I've seen in the past 24h continue to be overwhelmingly negative, btw...
here's a sample:

"It is always an emotional moment when someone commits suicide."
- -- @textfiles

"Wait what? The reason I use Firefox is that it's not made by an ad
company!" -- @xor

"[the official announcement] is some serious weapons-grade spin. It?s
ads. We are talking about built-in banner ads in Firefox." -- @wilto

"Remember when @Firefox decided to block all third-party ad cookies by
default? Instead, ads of their own:" -- @rlove

"Disappointed that Mozilla is making money by putting ads in Firefox
rather than code that mines for bitcoin while the browser is running."
- -- @yanzhu [no, we shouldn't do that either -ed]

"I'm excited to see Firefox die off ASAP and stop holding web standards
back, and I'm glad Mozilla did its best to secure that today."
- -- @kaepora

zw
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Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:07:37 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 10:59 AM, Johnathan Nightingale wrote:
>
> The thing we're talking about today is the experience of a new
> Firefox user with an empty profile. We give them a new tab page
> with a bunch of blank tiles. That's a crappy first experience and
> we should make it better.

So, it's certainly not the main thing I am objecting to here, but to
some extent I do in fact think a bunch of blank tiles is a GOOD
first-run experience, precisely because it expresses no opinion about
what you would like to do with this shiny new portal into the
infosphere that you have just downloaded. Many new users will have
some concrete thing they wanted to do next, that they downloaded
Firefox in order to do; distracting them with social networks and
suchlike at that point might actually be a bad experience.

> Darren's team looked at that, and realized that we could make this
> better for users and generate income for Mozilla if we were smart
> about it. Pre-populating those tiles, like we already pre-populate
> search providers, is just a better experience. As with search, we
> should make the choices that make the most sense for our users, we
> should make them localizable even if we have certain global
> defaults, and we should give users choice over whether to use them
> at all. Of course the implementation has to be done in ways that
> respect our users and serve our values as a project. I think that
> is all self-evident to people who read these groups, but I know
> that surprise and confusion is an uncomfortable place, and makes it
> harder to reason from trust.

I will have more to say about this in a reply to Gerv downthread,
because he raised more specifically the issues that concern me, but I
want to say here that I see two key differences between pre-populated
search providers and pre-populated new tab tiles (paid or otherwise):
First, the search box genuinely *needs* to work out of the box (sorry,
pun unavoidable), whereas the new-tab screen being blank is not nearly
as big a deal. Second, we have always taken product placement money
for the search box, the search bar on the old default homepage (does
that still exist?) and the default bookmarks (do *those* still exist?)
To be clear, I do think that it is, philosophically, wrong for us to
take money for those things. But a known, well-documented, and
above-all *fixed* set of places where we have compromised our duty to
our users, in the service of continuing to exist as an organization,
is one thing; a *growing* set of such places is a much greater cause
for concern.

> Like any other feature, this will land in m-c, be scrutinized,
> have bugs, fix bugs, get tested in pre-release, get redesigned,
> &c. Just like with search, we'll need to figure out which entries
> make sense, which ones are commercial and should have a revenue
> sharing piece, and which ones are non-commercial (like our
> inclusion of wikipedia search) and how we manage that list. This is
> early days, so if there aren't answers to some of those things yet,
> it's mostly because we're figuring them out together, not because
> they're devious answers that we haven't figured out how to
> "message".

And strictly as a media-strategy concern, I think we should have had
this conversation BEFORE posting an announcement on an official blog
that makes this sound like it's already much more worked out than
you're now telling me it is.

zw
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Christian Heilmann

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:09:52 PM2/12/14
to Zack Weinberg, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
Ah Twitter, where research and insights blossom and people always consider the effects their needling has on the people who work hard on the things that were just called dead and broken.

Hubert Figuière

unread,
Feb 12, 2014, 6:15:44 PM2/12/14
to dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
On 12/02/14 06:07 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> So, it's certainly not the main thing I am objecting to here, but to
> some extent I do in fact think a bunch of blank tiles is a GOOD
> first-run experience, precisely because it expresses no opinion about
> what you would like to do with this shiny new portal into the
> infosphere that you have just downloaded. Many new users will have
> some concrete thing they wanted to do next, that they downloaded
> Firefox in order to do; distracting them with social networks and
> suchlike at that point might actually be a bad experience.

Just a question:

How does a bookmark in a tile differ from a bookmark in the bookmarks or
the bookmark bar?

How does this encroach on users' privacy?

Perhaps what we are missing here is an explanation on how this feature work.

Hub

signature.asc

Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:27:51 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 06:15 PM, Hubert Figuière wrote:
> On 12/02/14 06:07 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> So, it's certainly not the main thing I am objecting to here, but
>> to some extent I do in fact think a bunch of blank tiles is a
>> GOOD first-run experience, precisely because it expresses no
>> opinion about what you would like to do with this shiny new
>> portal into the infosphere that you have just downloaded. Many
>> new users will have some concrete thing they wanted to do next,
>> that they downloaded Firefox in order to do; distracting them
>> with social networks and suchlike at that point might actually be
>> a bad experience.
>
> Just a question:
>
> How does a bookmark in a tile differ from a bookmark in the
> bookmarks or the bookmark bar?

A tile is far more prominent - you have to click at least once to see
bookmarks in the menu or the bar at all.

> How does this encroach on users' privacy?

That's not clear to me at this stage. Prepopulated things that depend
in no way on users' personal information - not even on demographic
categories like the locale - would be much less problematic than
prepopulated tiles that do, but the way the feature was described, it
sounded like there was going to be some degree of dependence on user
information, and that more than anything else is what I hope to
squelch right now before we lose any more goodwill.

zw
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Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:32:39 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 07:44 AM, David Rajchenbach-Teller wrote:
> On 2/12/14 11:11 AM, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
>>> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the
>>> loop, we need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my
>>> part, I've always tried to run my crazier ideas past a few
>>> people before posting it somewhere more public to help prevent
>>> embarrassment (both for myself and Mozilla as a whole).
>>>
>>> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not
>>> only our users, but our contributors (and employees!).
>
> We have run through several variants of this idea on the Firefox
> Desktop Work Week in Paris. I seem to remember that there were ~40
> Fx devs. Several ideas were clearly rejected. However, there seems
> to have been a general consensus among people involved in the
> conversation that this idea could be executed in a way that would
> be both - beneficial for the users; - absolutely non-intrusive wrt
> privacy; - monetizable.

As with what Jonathan brought up, I am going to address this point in
more detail in an upcoming reply to Gerv, but let me just say here
that I consider any proposal that involves us taking money for product
placement in a new location within the browser to be unacceptable on
its face, regardless of potential benefits to users, and regardless of
how carefully the privacy implications are finessed.

zw
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Kyle Huey

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:36:42 PM2/12/14
to Zack Weinberg, dev. planning
On Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 7:32 AM, Zack Weinberg <za...@panix.com> wrote:
> As with what Jonathan brought up, I am going to address this point in
> more detail in an upcoming reply to Gerv, but let me just say here
> that I consider any proposal that involves us taking money for product
> placement in a new location within the browser to be unacceptable on
> its face, regardless of potential benefits to users, and regardless of
> how carefully the privacy implications are finessed.

It's pretty clear that we're not going to reach common ground here then.

- Kyle

Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:37:03 PM2/12/14
to
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Let me reiterate here that the first I heard of this project was when
it started scoring hostile reactions on Twitter; my initial reaction
was in fact to assume that it was a bad joke - an April Fools' prank
accidentally put up two months early, perhaps; and when I actually
clicked through (after several more such hostile reactions) the text
of the announcement failed to convince me that it *wasn't* a joke.
Hence the tone of my initial reaction.

Public communication surrounding this project could have been handled
much better. For instance, as I said to Jonathan, it would have been
good to float it as a proposal on -security and/or -privacy before
making any public-facing announcement.

zw
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Cameron McCormack

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:45:53 PM2/12/14
to Zack Weinberg, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
Zack Weinberg wrote:
> That's not clear to me at this stage. Prepopulated things that depend
> in no way on users' personal information - not even on demographic
> categories like the locale - would be much less problematic than
> prepopulated tiles that do, but the way the feature was described, it
> sounded like there was going to be some degree of dependence on user
> information, and that more than anything else is what I hope to
> squelch right now before we lose any more goodwill.

Even if the tiles that are shown are dependent on the locale of the
build, these aren't typical Web ads where you have an <iframe> to the ad
server which can get at the referrer, IP address, etc. I assume these
will operate just like bookmarks, and the logos that are shown there are
not loaded remotely but are baked into the browser. So as far as I can
tell there would be no communication of personal information involved
here. (All assumptions of course since there isn't much technical
detail out there.)

Jim Porter

unread,
Feb 12, 2014, 6:53:21 PM2/12/14
to
On 02/12/2014 05:32 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> As with what Jonathan brought up, I am going to address this point in
> more detail in an upcoming reply to Gerv, but let me just say here
> that I consider any proposal that involves us taking money for product
> placement in a new location within the browser to be unacceptable on
> its face, regardless of potential benefits to users, and regardless of
> how carefully the privacy implications are finessed.

I think I'm a bit softer on this issue; I wouldn't flatly reject any new
product placement (although it would stick in my craw a bit), but the
blog post announcing it was tone-deaf at best.

While it may be feasible to do this in a way that does bring real value
to users and respects their privacy, there wasn't anything substantial
in the post about either of those points. It's entirely possible that
those involved have some great ideas for achieving those goals, but they
just weren't addressed.

Even looking at this optimistically (i.e. people really do have some
great ideas that could edify* new users), the announcement was phrased
in exactly the sort of way that would provoke a visceral response from
people who are tired of advertising, product placement, and even public
relations in general.

- Jim

* I think it's considerably more important to help teach new users about
the benefits (and risks!) of the web than it is to merely entertain them.

Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 6:59:00 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 08:23 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
> Hi Zack,
>
> On 12/02/14 01:26, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke. To be
>> clear, I am skeptical about the value of populating those blank
>> tiles in general, but it is specifically the notion of
>> "sponsored" tiles that is a terrible idea which we should
>> immediately recant, possibly to the extent of claiming that it
>> *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> Are you also opposed to pay-for-inclusion default bookmarks,
> and/or pay-for-inclusion search engine list entries? If not, why
> are those two things different?

I think that those are also, in the abstract, contrary to our
principles, and we should be working toward a future in which we do
not need them in order to survive as an organization.

However, a well-known, small, and above all *never expanded* set of
places in which we compromise those principles in order to survive as
an organization is acceptable. Moreover, default bookmarks and
default search engines are much less intrusive than default anything
in the content area.

>> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to
>> reinforce the monocultural business model in which everything on
>> the Internet is monetized via advertising.
>
> I'm not sure of the logic here. "No-one has worked out how to make
> money on the Internet apart from via advertising. Therefore we
> should eschew all revenue streams that people have some experience
> of working, and only pursue ones which no-one has ever made work
> before"?

I did not say that we have to give up *current* revenue streams - that
would be silly. And I didn't say that advertising was the only
presently workable revenue model; I can think of several alternatives
that work at least to some extent, and could probably be made to work
for us. What I said was that advertising is a monoculture: it has
overwhelming mindshare, and it is the thing everyone reaches for
first. And I said that we should be working to undermine that
monoculture, by, for instance, actively searching out alternative
revenue models that work for us, rather than expanding the set of
places where we rely on it. (I also think we should be actively
*promoting* alternative revenue models that can work for Web-based
businesses, but that's off topic for this conversation.)

>> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind
>> as every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging
>> our own interests from our users' interests. We have always
>> taken money from third parties in exchange for product placement
>> - the search engine kickbacks - but they are highly generic
>> products and all our users get exactly the same placements.
>
> I'm fairly sure that's not totally true. The search engine list is
> locale-dependent.

To the extent that is true, it is problematic in my book, but
mitigated because the search engine list is not revealed to third
parties (so it doesn't contribute to user fingerprintability in
general) and because the only thing it reveals to the search engines
on the list is something they already knew, viz. user preferred language.

>> The moment we change either of those things, the Sell Everyone's
>> Personal Information camel has its nose in the tent, and a few
>> years later we *will* be telling ourselves that logging
>> everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more precisely
>> tailored popover ads is Just Fine.
>
> Perhaps a tangent, but: if we logged everyone's clickstreams
> client-side, and worked out which ad that meant the user should
> see client-side, and the only thing the ad server ever found out
> was the final decision (i.e. what ad was downloaded) and even that
> wasn't tied to a unique identifier... would that be wrong?

Yes, that would still be wrong, because: The ad provider may be able
to learn nontrivial amounts of information about the user *just* from
the ads downloaded (which we cannot help but reveal). Storing the
clickstream data, even if it is never transmitted anywhere, makes the
user profile an even more tempting target for local-access exploits
than it already is. And, last but not least, *we* would now have
(control over automatically updated software which has) access to the
clickstream data. We should not lead ourselves into temptation in
this way, if you will forgive the use of the phrase.

> My point: I think many, many Mozillians are deeply concerned about
> privacy, and many are much more concerned about it than they were
> before last June, and I don't think that all of them deciding
> suddenly not to care about their own and other Firefox users'
> privacy is a likely scenario. And even if it were, blanket bans on
> "we will never do X", like laws, tend to not be good at predicting
> future circumstances.
>
> Can privacy-preserving ad targetting be done? I'm genuinely not
> sure, but we're never going to be able to find out if we simply
> said "we will never do targetted ads".

My position, and I think it is 'just' taking my own deep concern about
privacy to its logical conclusion, is that it is unethical even to
*attempt* to target ads, no matter how much finesse one applies to the
protection of privacy.

>> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
>> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped
>> to conclusions, and it will only get worse.
>
> Then we need to do better PR.

Certainly (see response to Jonathan) but in this case I am not
convinced any amount of PR work could have prevented the negative
reaction. Please imagine the following in flowchart format:

0. You are thinking about doing a thing.
1. Is there *any possible way* in which this thing could be
spun (perhaps by people who wish us ill) as us selling out our
users to advertising companies, Big Government, or any other
widely hated organization(s)?

[No] Proceed to step 2.
[Yes] You should not do that thing.

zw
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Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:07:33 PM2/12/14
to
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It does make this sort of thing less problematic if there is no
communication with any of the sites unless and until the user actually
clicks on one of the tiles, if the set is baked into each new release
rather than being updated from the cloud at more rapid intervals, and
if the only variation introduced is via broad demographic categories
like the locale.

However, I still consider it to be problematic just because of the
encroachment of product placement into new areas of the browser (as
discussed at more length elsewhere) and I also would not trust that
the sites in question *couldn't* learn something about the users just
from the change in inbounds.

zw

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Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:10:52 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 06:59 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> [...] a well-known, small, and above all *never expanded* set of
> places in which we compromise those principles in order to survive
> as an organization is acceptable.

So I just noticed that someone in this thread did assert that there is
concern that the ongoing revenue from search engine placement is
inadequate or will become inadequate. If that is the case I would
appreciate hearing the concrete numbers behind that concern - I'll
understand if they can't be shared, but it would make it a lot easier
to understand where the Foundation is coming from.

zw
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Asa Dotzler

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:13:48 PM2/12/14
to
On 2/12/14, 3:59 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> However, a well-known, small, and above all *never expanded* set of
> places in which we compromise those principles in order to survive as
> an organization is acceptable.

Zack, you're confused about why we built search into the browser. It had
nothing to do with sustainability or compromising our principles.

It didn't compromise our principles and still doesn't. And we didn't do
it for revenue.

We did it because we were careful students of how people were using the
Web. The Web back then (mid 2002) was moving from directories and other
"cool site" listings to search as a primary navigation tool.

We did it years before anyone knew there was going to be any associated
revenue. We did it because it was a great feature that well-supported a
critical need for our users and people loved it.

Putting this into some kind of "we're compromised" category is confused
and wrong.

- A



Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:21:48 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 07:13 PM, Asa Dotzler wrote:
> On 2/12/14, 3:59 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> However, a well-known, small, and above all *never expanded* set
>> of places in which we compromise those principles in order to
>> survive as an organization is acceptable.
>
> Zack, you're confused about why we built search into the browser.
> It had nothing to do with sustainability or compromising our
> principles.
>
> It didn't compromise our principles and still doesn't. And we
> didn't do it for revenue.

I did not mean to say that the *existence of the search feature* is a
compromise of our principles. I meant to say that *accepting money in
exchange for placement into/within the default list of search engines*
is a compromise of our principles. And I have to say that I do not
see how you could have misunderstood me given the context.

zw
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chris hofmann

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:27:34 PM2/12/14
to Zack Weinberg, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
On 2/12/14 3:07 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> Second, we have always taken product placement money
> for the search box, the search bar on the old default homepage (does
> that still exist?) and the default bookmarks (do*those* still exist?)

This is not true. The search bar feature proved its worth and value to
millions firefox pre-1.0 users in advance of any suggestion or execution
of monitization.

That's a better model, and a model that I've always been a proponent
of. I think we benefit a lot by letting the feature develop and grow
and evolve organically; letting it prove its worth to users. If it makes
past that hurdle in measurable ways then, and only then, pursue ways
that it can help sustainability of the project.

This thread shows the downside of trying to combine the two. Generally
lots misinterpretation, misunderstanding and suspicion of what the
feature could/might actually look like or do. This happens largely
because there is nothing concrete to evaluate, test, and use yet. We
get way to far out in front of ourselves when we just make it an
assumption that we can and will deliver a feature that will be
universally loved and admired around the world without actually doing
it. The road to those kinds of features is hard, and success comes
only part of the time. That's where the focus should be.

-chofmann

Zack Weinberg

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Feb 12, 2014, 7:33:30 PM2/12/14
to
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On 02/12/2014 07:27 PM, chris hofmann wrote:
> On 2/12/14 3:07 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> Second, we have always taken product placement money for the
>> search box, the search bar on the old default homepage (does that
>> still exist?) and the default bookmarks (do*those* still
>> exist?)
>
> This is not true. The search bar feature proved its worth and
> value to millions firefox pre-1.0 users in advance of any
> suggestion or execution of monitization.

I do not go back far enough with the organization to have known this.
Thank you for the correction.

> This thread shows the downside of trying to combine the two.
> Generally lots misinterpretation, misunderstanding and suspicion of
> what the feature could/might actually look like or do. This
> happens largely because there is nothing concrete to evaluate,
> test, and use yet. We get way to far out in front of ourselves
> when we just make it an assumption that we can and will deliver a
> feature that will be universally loved and admired around the world
> without actually doing it. The road to those kinds of features is
> hard, and success comes only part of the time. That's where the
> focus should be.

I concur that an awful lot of the trouble here comes from poor
messaging and in particular announcements too far in advance of
concrete plans and without larger community discussion.

With this reply I have hit my personal limit for responses to a single
thread per day and will now shut up again until tomorrow evening.

zw

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PhillipJones

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Feb 12, 2014, 8:24:03 PM2/12/14
to
A bookmark Tile is like those buttons you see on Windows 8 and they will
be preloaded with advertising from the likes of say Publishers clearing
House or eBay or whatever.
Chrome already has them. I think Safari does as well. A Bookmark in a
Bookmark menu are link to sites you choose. You click on it and go to
that site.

Asa Dotzler

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Feb 12, 2014, 8:58:52 PM2/12/14
to
On 2/12/14, 4:21 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> Hash: SHA256
>
> On 02/12/2014 07:13 PM, Asa Dotzler wrote:
>> On 2/12/14, 3:59 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>>> However, a well-known, small, and above all *never expanded* set
>>> of places in which we compromise those principles in order to
>>> survive as an organization is acceptable.
>>
>> Zack, you're confused about why we built search into the browser.
>> It had nothing to do with sustainability or compromising our
>> principles.
>>
>> It didn't compromise our principles and still doesn't. And we
>> didn't do it for revenue.
>
> I did not mean to say that the *existence of the search feature* is a
> compromise of our principles. I meant to say that *accepting money in
> exchange for placement into/within the default list of search engines*
> is a compromise of our principles. And I have to say that I do not
> see how you could have misunderstood me given the context.
>
> zw

I don't see any contradiction with our principles in taking money from
the commercial entities who benefit financially from a Firefox feature
that preferences them. Neither did the overwhelming majority of project
leadership when we made that deal almost 10 years ago. Leaving hundreds
of millions of dollars in free money on the table would have been a huge
failure of Mozilla's responsibility to the project and could very well
have doomed it.

- A


Adam Roach

unread,
Feb 12, 2014, 9:03:50 PM2/12/14
to Marco Zehe, dev. planning
On 2/11/14 22:17, Marco Zehe wrote:
> Because this will, if it turns out to be attractive, also spread
> to Firefox for Android and Firefox OS. And this means that ad partners
> will want access to the Geo location data, so they can tailor their ads
> towards the geographic location as well, and who knows what else they
> demand once they realise they can apply pressure.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/slippery-slope


--
Adam Roach
Principal Platform Engineer
a...@mozilla.com
+1 650 903 0800 x863

Leman Bennett (Omega X)

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Feb 13, 2014, 12:19:21 AM2/13/14
to
Its common reverberation that has been happening over the past three
years. Mozilla is no longer considered the "shining knight of the
people" it used to be.
--
==================================
~Omega X
MozillaZine Nightly Tester

Christian Heilmann

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Feb 13, 2014, 4:01:12 AM2/13/14
to Leman Bennett (Omega X), dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
That's how public channels work - people want "big things" to fail. Especially in Open Source. It reminds of a Punk scene mentality - people love your demos and concerts, but as soon as you have a label deal, you are a sell-out. These are also the people who bring their own beer cans to gigs where you sell $1 beers and leave them in the parking lot. Much like many of the people complaining about the tiles never ever donated any money or work to Mozilla and a few months ago told me continuously that we are "owned by Google" as we have no independent revenue stream.

It is no indicator of what people think or what effect it has. It is people trying hard to be heard by being controversial - accidental trolls, so to say. The best example for this is every single time there is an iOS change - the first two days are all about "this is the end of iOS, Apple has lost it without Jobs, this is terrible" followed by two weeks of "why doesn't everyone do the same as Apple; this is amazing".

Twitter is like feedback you get directly after a talk - polarized. As the New York Times put it "the valley of the blahs" (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/25/valley-of-the-blahs-how-justin-biebers-downfall-exposed-twitters-achilles-heel/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0) - it is not about making a point, it is about the one that gets retweeted the most and that means strong messages without data to back it up.

This was a very badly timed piece of publication on our side. This is what we should take away as a learning and act upon. We put out one blog post without giving Mozillians a heads up and all of our PR professionals are tied up with MWC preparations.

For the future, what should happen with a controversial topic like that is:

1) Pre-announce it as an *idea* to Mozilla internally and Mozillians. Show Mozillians what the thinking about it is and what discussions already happened. This is important as it shows that this is not a "top down" decision.
2) Create a bullet-proof FAQ what the concept is and what it isn't
3) Coach and mentor our community to know what this is about and how to deal with grumpy people (point to the FAQ, send to spokespeople)
4) Make sure that on the day of announcing it our spokespeople have time to react to immediate press and public requests

Following this methodology we'd have a win-win release. What happened here was not a failure on a personal level but a miscommunication of our different publication channels (which is happening more and more and annoys me to no end - being a voice also means having a responsibility towards your colleagues).

I worked for Yahoo, and had worse things being published as a surprise for me to act upon. The biggest problem with any of this is that your own colleagues are to blame in many cases as they leak information to the press and public without context. If we keep everyone savvy about what's coming and more importantly WHY it is coming, we're shiny.

David Bruant

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Feb 13, 2014, 4:41:12 AM2/13/14
to Christian Heilmann, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
Le 13/02/2014 10:01, Christian Heilmann a écrit :
> This was a very badly timed piece of publication on our side. This is what we should take away as a learning and act upon. We put out one blog post without giving Mozillians a heads up and all of our PR professionals are tied up with MWC preparations.
>
> For the future, what should happen with a controversial topic like that is:
I fully agree and support what comes below. Maybe even for
not-so-controversial news.

> 1) Pre-announce it as an *idea* to Mozilla internally and Mozillians. Show Mozillians what the thinking about it is and what discussions already happened. This is important as it shows that this is not a "top down" decision.
> 2) Create a bullet-proof FAQ what the concept is and what it isn't
Until the news hits the public, it can't be that bullet-proof, but we
can be reactive in evolving it (wiki that only vouched Mozillians can edit)

> 3) Coach and mentor our community to know what this is about and how to deal with grumpy people (point to the FAQ, send to spokespeople)
Empower the community to be ready to engage with people who may
misunderstand/misinterpret, answer questions, answer criticisms on
Twitter/G+/HN, etc. Doug Belshaw engaged with me on Twitter, dissipating
some initial misunderstandings of mine.
He wrote a clarifying blogpost too
http://thoughtshrapnel.com/post/76426536112/is-mozilla-putting-ads-in-firefox
I did engage with some other people later that day too.
Sending to the FAQ, to spokespeople works but isn't enough. We need to
be ready to engage with confused people. MoCo can't hire enough
spokespeople, the community scales much better. It also lets the
spokespeople to focus on what the community might be less ready to
address like PR.
Improve the FAQ over time as feedback is collected.

> 4) Make sure that on the day of announcing it our spokespeople have time to react to immediate press and public requests
>
> Following this methodology we'd have a win-win release. What happened here was not a failure on a personal level but a miscommunication of our different publication channels (which is happening more and more and annoys me to no end - being a voice also means having a responsibility towards your colleagues).
Now that we agree, how do we take this idea and make it a reality?
Mozilla is getting more and more outside of its comfort zone, I think
this sort of events may occur more and more often.

David

Gijs Kruitbosch

unread,
Feb 13, 2014, 5:54:32 AM2/13/14
to
On 12/02/2014 23:59, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> On 02/12/2014 08:23 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
>> Then we need to do better PR.
>
> Certainly (see response to Jonathan) but in this case I am not
> convinced any amount of PR work could have prevented the negative
> reaction. Please imagine the following in flowchart format:
>
> 0. You are thinking about doing a thing.
> 1. Is there *any possible way* in which this thing could be
> spun (perhaps by people who wish us ill) as us selling out our
> users to advertising companies, Big Government, or any other
> widely hated organization(s)?
>
> [No] Proceed to step 2.
> [Yes] You should not do that thing.

Err, what? On the one hand, we should be guided by our principles, but
on the other, by the possibility of bad PR?

I very strongly feel that we should NEVER let the possibility of bad PR
stop us from doing anything. stopwatching.us could have been construed
as "aiding and abetting terrorists" (and I'm sure Fox News and co did),
opposition to third-party cookies *was* in actual fact construed as us
wanting to kill small businesses (and taught me that in some people's
eyes, that was as bad or worse than killing kittens), and so on. Haters
gonna hate, and all that. By all means have the principles discussion,
and obviously PR in this particular case wasn't great, but the mere
possibility of stuff being spun badly is a terrible, terrible motivator
to (not) do anything.

~ Gijs

Axel Hecht

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Feb 13, 2014, 6:30:00 AM2/13/14
to
We did some compromises when we changed our search setup for users of
Firefox in Russian, at least.

Axel

Boris Zbarsky

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Feb 13, 2014, 10:41:23 AM2/13/14
to
On 2/13/14 4:01 AM, Christian Heilmann wrote:
> The biggest problem with any of this is that your own colleagues are to blame in many cases as they leak information to the press and public without context.

This deserves emphasis. I've been flabbergasted every time this
happens, and the fact that it _does_ happen makes pre-communicating any
sensitive information incredibly difficult. I'm lucky in that I've not
had to make that sort of decision so far, because if I had to, I'm not
sure what I'd decide. :(

Of course in this particular case I don't see how a leak would have been
any worse PR-wise than what we ended up publishing.

-Boris

David Rajchenbach-Teller

unread,
Feb 13, 2014, 12:17:01 PM2/13/14
to Jim Porter, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
Yes, the blog post was quite awkward both in its timing and in its
phrasing. It was obviously not targeted towards the Mozilla community
(the Town Hall announcement of the prior day was).

However, having been part of one of the meetings at which this stuff was
discussed, I can only say that it looks very promising, non-intrusive
and even useful to the user.

Cheers,
David

On 2/13/14 12:53 AM, Jim Porter wrote:
> I think I'm a bit softer on this issue; I wouldn't flatly reject any new
> product placement (although it would stick in my craw a bit), but the
> blog post announcing it was tone-deaf at best.
>
> While it may be feasible to do this in a way that does bring real value
> to users and respects their privacy, there wasn't anything substantial
> in the post about either of those points. It's entirely possible that
> those involved have some great ideas for achieving those goals, but they
> just weren't addressed.
>
> Even looking at this optimistically (i.e. people really do have some
> great ideas that could edify* new users), the announcement was phrased
> in exactly the sort of way that would provoke a visceral response from
> people who are tired of advertising, product placement, and even public
> relations in general.
>
> - Jim
>
> * I think it's considerably more important to help teach new users about
> the benefits (and risks!) of the web than it is to merely entertain them.
> _______________________________________________
> dev-planning mailing list
> dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
> https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/dev-planning


--
David Rajchenbach-Teller, PhD
Performance Team, Mozilla

Mike Hoye

unread,
Feb 13, 2014, 12:41:53 PM2/13/14
to dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
On 2/13/2014, 5:54 AM, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
> On 12/02/2014 23:59, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>>
>> Certainly (see response to Jonathan) but in this case I am not
>> convinced any amount of PR work could have prevented the negative
>> reaction. Please imagine the following in flowchart format:
>>
>> 0. You are thinking about doing a thing.
>> 1. Is there *any possible way* in which this thing could be
>> spun (perhaps by people who wish us ill) as us selling out our
>> users to advertising companies, Big Government, or any other
>> widely hated organization(s)?
>>
>> [No] Proceed to step 2.
>> [Yes] You should not do that thing.
>
> Err, what? On the one hand, we should be guided by our principles, but
> on the other, by the possibility of bad PR?

" If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of
men, I will find something in them which will hang him", said Cardinal
Richelieu.

"One or two tweets will also do the trick", he did not add.

This idea that we shouldn't do a thing if there's any possible way it
can be spun negatively amounts to a white flag. It means we will never,
ever do anything ever again, and that we should never have done anything
that we've actually done in the past. It means "everyone pack up and go
home, we surrender".

Should we build a cellphone? No way, those things are government
tracking devices, we can't do that. Why are we making an Android
browser, when it's just making Google's corporate-controlled platform
more compelling? Why are we building anything at all out of Javascript,
when all it does is let complete strangers run random code on our
hardware? And we're trying to make it run _faster_? That's insane, we
shouldn't do that! Tools down everyone, we should all stop building the web.

Except no, it turns out we're doing all of those things. And they're
really important, and we're doing them really well, and they're making
hundreds of millions of people's lives better.

It also turns out that we have a lot of work left to do, and we need to
keep the lights on in order to do that. But even though we need to keep
the lights on and the water running and so on, there are sites - lots
and lots of sites, turns out - that wouldn't go into the Firefox default
install if they parked a shipping container full of cash outside every
last one of our offices. We're in it for the long game here, and every
last person here understands that the trust of our users and the
confidence of our community are lot harder to earn, and a whole lot
easier to lose, than money.

Right now, when new user opens a new tab in a new install of Firefox,
they get a bunch of blank spaces, which is also what they'd see in their
bookmarks, if we hadn't prepopulated them with a few things, and their
search bar, if we hadn't pre-set that with a few search engines. Which
is to say, nothing.

By and large, people do not want nothing. It's not a great experience;
they want something. You may want nothing and if so I salute you. You
can easily get from something to nothing here, and if you have a
different idea about what a good something is, we actively defend your
ability to make those changes.

But people who want nothing are in the extreme minority compared to
people who want something. And being that first, default piece of
something - even if the user can change it later, or delete it, or any
of the other things we go to enormous lengths to make sure users can
safely do - is a very interesting prospect to many people, some of whom
are well-aligned with our values, and our mission, and are willing to
pay for the privilege.

There are places in the product - these default tiles, bookmarks, search
engines - where people interested in being the default settings can
express their interest in reaching our audience with money, without
compromising our users' safety or our values as an organization. We also
put things in the browser that we think will make our users' lives
better for no money, because even though keeping the lights on is
important, it's a lot less important than our users' safety and trust.

I'd love - love, you understand - to spend the rest of my day watching
people in this thread make vague allegations of bad faith, incompetence,
corruption or, God help us all, that somebody might change something.

But since I've got a lot of confidence in the people I work with to make
smart, principled decisions for our users and the future of the Web, I
think perhaps I won't.


- mhoye




Millwood

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Feb 13, 2014, 1:00:34 PM2/13/14
to
When I bought my kindle I want for the sponsored add version to save
money - with the option of upgrade. I never even though about upgrade -
it's no bother at all - and I sort of enjoy the varying screen saver
even if it is an add!

smaug

unread,
Feb 13, 2014, 3:20:29 PM2/13/14
to David Rajchenbach-Teller, Gijs Kruitbosch, dev-pl...@lists.mozilla.org
On 02/12/2014 02:44 PM, David Rajchenbach-Teller wrote:
> On 2/12/14 11:11 AM, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
>>> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
>>> need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
>>> tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
>>> somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
>>> Mozilla as a whole).
>>>
>>> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
>>> users, but our contributors (and employees!).
>
> We have run through several variants of this idea on the Firefox Desktop
> Work Week in Paris. I seem to remember that there were ~40 Fx devs.

Curious, were there any Gecko developers involved (selfishly thinking especially old timers).
I feel rather betrayed when a user (FF) of my work (hacking gecko) is planning to do
something which I feel very uncomfortable, and I wasn't informed in anyway.

And I'm very worried that adware-ism will effectively prevent us getting any new
contributors (at least volunteers) hacking Gecko or Firefox (and we'll probably lose some existing ones ).





-Olli



> Several ideas were clearly rejected. However, there seems to have been a
> general consensus among people involved in the conversation that this
> idea could be executed in a way that would be both
> - beneficial for the users;
> - absolutely non-intrusive wrt privacy;
> - monetizable.
>
>> I don't understand why implementing the ability to prepopulate the
>> tiles, and monetizing some (but not all) of them, has some people
>> commenting here so much more worried than the current state of affairs,
>> and why this would get us onto a slippery slope that we were not on before.
>>
>> Note also that you can remove sites from your tiles, just like you can
>> remove (sponsored or otherwise) search providers. I would expect us to
>> continue providing that possibility.
>
> Not only this, but in several of the variants we discussed, sponsored
> tiles would eventually disappear in favor of websites actually visited
> by the user.
>
> Cheers,
> David
>

PhillipJones

unread,
Feb 13, 2014, 5:52:12 PM2/13/14
to
I want Mozilla to live and Thrive. Got to have something Besides IE, or
Chrome, Or Safari
I just don't want them to Boneheaded things.

Robert O'Callahan

unread,
Feb 13, 2014, 9:20:20 PM2/13/14
to smaug, mozilla.dev.planning group
On Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 9:20 AM, smaug <sm...@welho.com> wrote:

> On 02/12/2014 02:44 PM, David Rajchenbach-Teller wrote:
>
>> We have run through several variants of this idea on the Firefox Desktop
>> Work Week in Paris. I seem to remember that there were ~40 Fx devs.
>>
>
> Curious, were there any Gecko developers involved (selfishly thinking
> especially old timers).
>

I wasn't at that meeting, but I was aware this was coming. Ditto Brendan of
course.

And I'm very worried that adware-ism will effectively prevent us getting
> any new
> contributors (at least volunteers) hacking Gecko or Firefox (and we'll
> probably lose some existing ones ).
>

I doubt the former. Scanning lwn and other fora, it's clear there's a very
wide range of opinions about this.

Rob
--
Jtehsauts tshaei dS,o n" Wohfy Mdaon yhoaus eanuttehrotraiitny eovni
le atrhtohu gthot sf oirng iyvoeu rs ihnesa.r"t sS?o Whhei csha iids teoa
stiheer :p atroa lsyazye,d 'mYaonu,r "sGients uapr,e tfaokreg iyvoeunr,
'm aotr atnod sgaoy ,h o'mGee.t" uTph eann dt hwea lmka'n? gBoutt uIp
waanndt wyeonut thoo mken.o w

Gervase Markham

unread,
Feb 14, 2014, 5:28:12 AM2/14/14
to Zack Weinberg
On 12/02/14 23:59, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> I think that those are also, in the abstract, contrary to our
> principles, and we should be working toward a future in which we do
> not need them in order to survive as an organization.

Can you outline briefly what ways of making money you think would be in
line with our principles?

Other than requesting donations, people give you money because you give
them something they want. So in any such relationship, there is always
the risk of "and I'll stop if you don't do evil thing X..." or "and you
also have to do evil thing X...". We've done a good job at avoiding
those things with our current deals. What makes you think we'll fail in
the future?

> However, a well-known, small, and above all *never expanded* set of
> places in which we compromise those principles in order to survive as
> an organization is acceptable.

How important do you think it is, e.g. to avoid the risk of one
organization having too much potential control over us, that we
diversify our revenue base? If you think it's important, how do you
match that with your "never expanded" point?

> I did not say that we have to give up *current* revenue streams - that
> would be silly.

Well, you did say they were incompatible with your understanding of our
principles.

> And I didn't say that advertising was the only
> presently workable revenue model; I can think of several alternatives
> that work at least to some extent, and could probably be made to work
> for us.

Please do expand on this point. What are they?

> To the extent that is true, it is problematic in my book, but
> mitigated because the search engine list is not revealed to third
> parties (so it doesn't contribute to user fingerprintability in
> general) and because the only thing it reveals to the search engines
> on the list is something they already knew, viz. user preferred language.

How would this new idea necessarily contribute to user fingerprintability?

>> Perhaps a tangent, but: if we logged everyone's clickstreams
>> client-side, and worked out which ad that meant the user should
>> see client-side, and the only thing the ad server ever found out
>> was the final decision (i.e. what ad was downloaded) and even that
>> wasn't tied to a unique identifier... would that be wrong?
>
> Yes, that would still be wrong, because: The ad provider may be able
> to learn nontrivial amounts of information about the user *just* from
> the ads downloaded (which we cannot help but reveal).

Not necessarily; we could download ten and only show one. And if we
don't permit the sending or setting of cookies on such a download, how
is the advertiser ever to know _who_ it was who downloaded the ad? Or,
we could serve the ads from our own server.

> Storing the
> clickstream data, even if it is never transmitted anywhere, makes the
> user profile an even more tempting target for local-access exploits
> than it already is.

Really? Given the choice of bank logins, email logins, and clickstream
data, people are going to write malware to steal clickstream data?

"Hey, we're this new business, and we have awesome insight into
behaviour of customers who happen to be running unpatched versions of
Windows XP. Give us some money."

"That sounds interesting. Where did you get it?"

"Er..."

> And, last but not least, *we* would now have
> (control over automatically updated software which has) access to the
> clickstream data. We should not lead ourselves into temptation in
> this way, if you will forgive the use of the phrase.

We already have such control. Firefox has access to your clickstream
data. Why would the step where we actually download and abuse it be any
less controversial in our community if it were a little technically
easier to implement at the moment we did it?

>> Can privacy-preserving ad targetting be done? I'm genuinely not
>> sure, but we're never going to be able to find out if we simply
>> said "we will never do targetted ads".
>
> My position, and I think it is 'just' taking my own deep concern about
> privacy to its logical conclusion, is that it is unethical even to
> *attempt* to target ads, no matter how much finesse one applies to the
> protection of privacy.

It's unethical for me to advertise my mountain biking shop in "Mountain
Biking Monthly"? Or, for a closer example, on "mountainbiking.com"?

> 0. You are thinking about doing a thing.
> 1. Is there *any possible way* in which this thing could be
> spun (perhaps by people who wish us ill) as us selling out our
> users to advertising companies, Big Government, or any other
> widely hated organization(s)?
>
> [No] Proceed to step 2.
> [Yes] You should not do that thing.

I'm afraid we have a fundamental disagreement on this one. I do not
believe that the rightness of an action is judged based on people's
ability to imagine bad things that may happen because of it.

Gerv

Zack Weinberg

unread,
Feb 28, 2014, 5:28:38 PM2/28/14
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA256

On 02/11/2014 08:26 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> regarding
> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
>
>
:
>
>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>> first-time users. Some of these tile placements will be from
>> the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>> mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> I get why this might seem like a good idea if you don't think about
> it very hard, but it is a profoundly bad idea ...
....
[and then me again in a different message]
> I have hit my personal limit for responses to a single thread per
> day and will now shut up again until tomorrow evening.

I apologize for letting this discussion drop for two weeks. As you
might imagine, I do have actual work I have to do. :-) Also because
of actual work, I was not able to attend the "town hall" on this
topic. I regret any rehashing of stuff that was covered there.

Because of the delay, I'm going to write one big response to everyone
and post it once. If you asked me a direct question which I failed to
address, it's because I missed it in this voluminous thread; please
just go ahead and ask again. Please don't cc: me on replies to the
list, but if you want to take some subthread off-list that's fine.

So, this whole thing started because of a poorly-communicated plan to
have some "default" tiles on the new tab page for brand new users. I
concur with what Christian Heilmann said about the poor communication,
and have nothing further to add. The default tiles, in themselves,
are a fine idea. I wasn't sure what I thought of it initially, but on
reflection, having some signposts for people who may be completely new
to the Internets, or even computers in general -- here's how you can
get an email address, here's some options for online socializing, what
to do if you want your own website, what to do if you want to learn to
code, did you know this very browser is made by Viewers Like You and
you can help? That would be a Good Thing.

Where I -- apparently, still -- part company with the people pushing
this plan is: I think it would be a CATASTROPHICALLY BAD IDEA, both in
the short and the long run, to allow anyone to give us money in
exchange for placement on this screen. Let's start with the short-run
reasons. The most basic and immediate reason this is a bad idea is
that people will be angry at us over it; it will cost us more in
goodwill than we could possibly hope to get out of it in cash. In
fact, people are *already* angry with us just for suggesting it. We
might still be able to restore those people's good opinion of us if we
recant. Mitchell's blog post about it last week did not qualify as
recanting; she was quite clear that the possibility of paid placement
remains on the table.

I said that last time around, and nobody got it. I got lots of
responses drawing a moral equivalence between this and the existing
product placement in the search box and the bookmarks. The funny
thing is I agree with that moral equivalence -- but I think those are
*also* bad things, but bad things we are stuck with in the short run.
More on that point below. I also got responses which amounted to
"well, why should we listen to these people? Look at what we can get
out of this!" ("What" basically amounts to hypothetical reduced
dependence on the Google deal, afaict.) This is also a fair reaction;
people get mad at us all the time and often we decide that we don't
care. But in this case, we *should* care.

The first and most nakedly mercenary reason we should care is because,
unlike the search box, the unpopulated new-tab page is a
high-visibility but low-frequency context. The search box drives
traffic to Google every day from (to first order) every single one of
our users, so Google is prepared to give us a whole lot of money to
continue to be the default option in there; but you have to go out of
your way to think about it as something bought and paid for, and it
also happens to be the default that many of our users would pick
themselves, so nobody (to first order) gets angry with us for taking
that money.

The unpopulated new-tab page, in contrast, will be seen order of ten
times by each new user. There are anywhere between three and nine
slots on that page depending on how big your device is. That's not
enough ad impressions for anyone to give us very much money for. But
it is an *extremely* visible context, and a context in which most
people's immediate assumption is going to be that those slots are
bought and paid for. In fact, even if we *don't* take money for
placement on this screen, we may never be able to *convince* people we
don't! Thus, the potential loss of goodwill far outweighs the amount
of money we could plausibly hope to bring in.

Selling slots on the new-tab screen would also hamper our ability to
make the new-user experience *even better* in the future. Concrete
example: right now, the best "you probably want an email address,
huh?" option for someone completely new to the tubes is one of the big
webmail providers: they're reliable, they've got good spam filters,
they've got people whose job is to worry about the servers getting
cracked. But they also have significant drawbacks: many of them
suffer from UI designed without any idea of how email *ought* to be
used (probably the designers are too young to know), they don't
support PGP, all your email is stored in plaintext in a gigantic
database under the provider's control, etc. In the medium term,
something better may come along. If what's on the new-tab screen is
entirely up to us, we can just change it. If it's paid for, we have
to get out of a contract somehow. This already does come up with the
search box -- was it two or three years ago that Google wanted to be
the default in *all* locales, overriding localizers' preferences? I
don't recall how that turned out.

Moving on to the longer-term picture: because hypothetical advertisers
would be paying for not very many impressions per user, we would
naturally come under pressure to stop limiting the impressions to the
"until there is a populated history" first-few-runs setting. They'd
give us more money! I think this is what scares the commentariat
most: not the highly limited thing that has been proposed, but the
much more aggressive thing it could become. This is a *rational*
fear, and a scenario we should bend over backward to avoid.

Advertising inherently intrudes on people's attention; people learn to
ignore it; the advertisers respond by making the ads bigger, brighter,
flashier, and more carefully targeted; the people still learn to
ignore it, because brains are really good at ignoring things; the
advertisers escalate again, because what else are they going to do?
Fast forward a few cycles and you get the sites we've all seen where
the above-the-fold display is a logo, an article title, and
advertising; you have to scroll down to get the content you wanted.
And there's probably an "interstitial" pop-over ad, too. And *still*
nobody clicks on the ads, but now they are irritated and may close the
window. It doesn't just happen online; the billboards on I-80 in San
Francisco have gotten progressively bigger, brighter, and more
obnoxious over the past 25 years; you can measure the steady slow
decline of the newspaper industry by the proportion of the Sunday
edition that is useless supermarket coupons and suchlike.

I understand that part of why we're talking about new forms of product
placement is because we're organizationally uncomfortable with
depending so much on a single source of revenue, namely the Google
deal. But we've gotten lucky with that: it brings in lots of money,
but it doesn't bring us under pressure to escalate. (At least, not
that I know of. Perhaps the sales team has been quietly declining
propositions to bundle the Ask Toolbar in the default download for
years now. ;-) If we start soliciting deals from a wider market, for
a wider range of options, we'll be opening ourselves up to pressure to
escalate, to become ever more ad-driven, and ultimately to start doing
the sorts of clearly unethical things that everyone here agrees we
*shouldn't* do, but that otherwise-respectable companies keep being
caught doing. Swapping out ads in content for our own ads, adding ads
to pages that didn't have them in the first place, feeding user
tracking data to third parties, that sort of thing.

It is my considered opinion that the only way to be *sure* we don't
find ourselves over that kind of barrel in the future is not to do any
more business with the advertising industry than we already do, and to
make it an explicit long-term goal to phase out our existing
involvement. Yes, we should diversify our revenue stream; no, we
should not diversify within the advertising sector. Rather, we should
pursue entirely different sources of income. I can think of several
plausible options just off the top of my head. Revenue sharing with
carriers shipping Firefox OS phones is probably already being
negotiated, and could ramp up to big bucks more quickly than anything
else. Transaction fees on some sort of marketplace (for webapps?) is
the next most obvious option. Partnering with an online payment
provider, to allow in-browser identity to be a purchasing principal.
Merch and donations from users probably won't scale to big bucks, but
sponsorship deals from huge companies might. (It wouldn't be my
favorite thing, but I'd be okay with a line of type at the bottom of
the new-tab page saying something like "Development of Firefox 42 was
funded by [Weyland-Yuutani], the [Umbrella Corporation], [SPECTRE],
and [many others]. Did you know that [you can help]?" where square
brackets indicate hyperlinks. This strikes me as much less likely to
bring us under escalation pressure (because the organizations
mentioned are not paying for the mention, but to directly fund
development) and it's a thing that people have seen in other context
and understand, so it is also less likely to make them angry with us.
There should probably be an X to make it go away.)

To be clear, I can imagine ways in which the above suggestions for
alternative revenue would wind up putting us in an awkward position
with to our principles and/or our duty to our users, but I think they
are all relatively unlikely. This stands in stark contrast to
doubling down on the ad revenue, which I think is practically
*certain* to put us in an awkward position later if not sooner.

This also means that I am not a fan of new or proposed Web-platform
features whose primary function is to make advertising "less terrible"
and/or "less privacy-invasive". For all the same reasons that we
might find ourselves under pressure to escalate our *own* use of
advertising as a revenue stream, we would also be opening ourselves up
to "regulatory capture", as it were, if we added these kinds of
features. Gerv brought up a hypothetical situation in which each
browser installation, perhaps in concert with Mozilla-controlled
servers dedicated to the purpose, selects ads from a repertoire and
displays the most plausibly relevant ones to the user, based on some
sort of personalization algorithm carried out client-side. This would
in fact be a short-run improvement on the status quo, where the ad
servers make guesses about what's relevant and vacuum up as much data
as they can in order to attempt to personalize, and there's no one
involved who particularly cares about making sure the ads are not
malware. (I tell people to run aggressive ad blockers *just* because
of ad-sourced malware, nowadays.)

The catch, though, is that we would then have features directly
targeted at the ad industry, so their use cases would drive future
development of those features. Even with the best of intentions, I
seriously doubt we could succeed in keeping a privacy wall intact in
the long term; there are just too many ways that the advertisers could
potentially figure out what our ad-selection algorithm is doing, and
the more features we added, the easier it would get.

Even if this didn't happen, the features themselves would be sucking
up developer time and attention that would, I think, better be turned
to new platform features that offer Web companies *alternatives* to
in-site advertising. The obvious thing is, again, in-browser identity
as payment credential, and making it easier to put up a site that
takes payments. I haven't thought about this as much, but I'm sure
there are more things we could do.

Thank you all again for your attention.

zw
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Robert Kaiser

unread,
Mar 3, 2014, 9:55:57 AM3/3/14
to
Zack Weinberg schrieb:
> I apologize for letting this discussion drop for two weeks. As you
> might imagine, I do have actual work I have to do. :-) Also because
> of actual work, I was not able to attend the "town hall" on this
> topic.

Then please watch https://air.mozilla.org/town-hall-directory-tiles/
before making any further conclusions as there's quite a bit of good
information there to build on.

> Where I -- apparently, still -- part company with the people pushing
> this plan is: I think it would be a CATASTROPHICALLY BAD IDEA, both in
> the short and the long run, to allow anyone to give us money in
> exchange for placement on this screen.

Apparently you don't know what the plan is, then. From all I heard,
there are no plans to allow "anyone" to give us money for placement. We
will only allow very carefully hand-picked organizations/companies that
align with our mission, from all I heard, and, BTW, also for a minority
of the 9 tiles on that screen. What that exactly means is something that
we probably will only know in detail once we actually have some offers
and the team compiles an initial list.
An example was that if you are in Germany, putting an open-minded
high-quality news site on there - but if that's "Frankfurter
Allgemeine", "Süddeutsche Zeitung", "Die Zeit", "Der Spiegel" or
something else in that same category might not matter. And why not
accept some money for selecting a specific one of those?

Money is not evil. It's what people do with it that can be good or evil.
From how I take it, we are aimed to take monkey only from those where
we believe they make it by doing something good and we take it so we can
do even more good with it. Today, we take almost all our money from
search referral to Google, I hope you agree that it's a good idea to not
depend solely on that. Also, the ads on the search result have proven to
be quite useful to many people (though not always, as we also know - we
can do better if we control what's being shown, like we intend to do
with Directory Tiles). And, in the end, we want a good amount of people
working on the Mozilla project to be able to invest their full time in
it and still feed themselves and their families, so we need money from
somewhere.


> The unpopulated new-tab page, in contrast, will be seen order of ten
> times by each new user. There are anywhere between three and nine
> slots on that page depending on how big your device is. That's not
> enough ad impressions for anyone to give us very much money for.

That's something where apparently you disagree with the team responsible
for this as they seem to think it is enough.

> In the medium term,
> something better may come along. If what's on the new-tab screen is
> entirely up to us, we can just change it. If it's paid for, we have
> to get out of a contract somehow.

We just have to make contracts that are no longer than "medium-term". Or
contracts that allow us to vote for not showing them at any time and
just not getting money then. That's all solvable :)

> Moving on to the longer-term picture: because hypothetical advertisers
> would be paying for not very many impressions per user, we would
> naturally come under pressure to stop limiting the impressions to the
> "until there is a populated history" first-few-runs setting. They'd
> give us more money! I think this is what scares the commentariat
> most: not the highly limited thing that has been proposed, but the
> much more aggressive thing it could become. This is a *rational*
> fear, and a scenario we should bend over backward to avoid.

That's something we should be mindful of for sure and I agree - but I
also think that what should ensure us is internal pressure to work for
the users and stick to our mission, we as the community, both paid and
volunteer, need to keep our eyes on it and push for correction if
something moves in the wrong direction.

> Advertising inherently intrudes on people's attention; people learn to
> ignore it; the advertisers respond by making the ads bigger, brighter,
> flashier, and more carefully targeted; the people still learn to
> ignore it, because brains are really good at ignoring things; the
> advertisers escalate again, because what else are they going to do?

We as Mozilla control what's being shown there, I trust this will not be
remotely loaded, esp. not without our control. So we can make sure
there's no actually annoying tiles - and we will provide the possibility
to everyone to click away specific tiles or turn off the whole damn
thing. If the tiles would get too annoying, they would be clicked away
by too many people. That also helps to keep them honest and positive.

> It is my considered opinion that the only way to be *sure* we don't
> find ourselves over that kind of barrel in the future is not to do any
> more business with the advertising industry than we already do, and to
> make it an explicit long-term goal to phase out our existing
> involvement.

We also could work to improve how Internet advertising works, which
would actually be what our mission agrees with. Mozilla is not around to
turn its eyes away from bad things that happen, but to try and make
things better.

> Yes, we should diversify our revenue stream; no, we
> should not diversify within the advertising sector. Rather, we should
> pursue entirely different sources of income.

Please bring those up with the team working on this, I'm sure they are
interested.

> (It wouldn't be my
> favorite thing, but I'd be okay with a line of type at the bottom of
> the new-tab page saying something like "Development of Firefox 42 was
> funded by [Weyland-Yuutani], the [Umbrella Corporation], [SPECTRE],
> and [many others].

So you are OK with ads after all, as that's not really any different.
They pay money for being displayed and linked there - and in that case,
without any direct user benefit. Not sure if that's that much better.

> This also means that I am not a fan of new or proposed Web-platform
> features whose primary function is to make advertising "less terrible"
> and/or "less privacy-invasive".


So you'd rather let the advertising industry pervert even more features
of the Internet (they already did it to cookies, which were good and
useful originally) rather than having us as stewards of the Open Web
help them to actually do what they want in a more user- and
privacy-friendly way? Here I surely do not agree with you.

> The catch, though, is that we would then have features directly
> targeted at the ad industry, so their use cases would drive future
> development of those features. Even with the best of intentions, I
> seriously doubt we could succeed in keeping a privacy wall intact in
> the long term; there are just too many ways that the advertisers could
> potentially figure out what our ad-selection algorithm is doing, and
> the more features we added, the easier it would get.

If they intentionally *want* to invade user privacy, they just will work
with something else than our tools and go for the "evil" methods in use
today or other privacy-invasive hacks that can be found. But you assume
that they are evil by choice, which I very much doubt. They want to
deliver value to their customers by displaying something of value to the
users - ultimately they want users to buy something from their
customers, usually, and that will only work if the user gets some
positive impression. They do not want to invade privacy, IMHO, they just
do it because it helps them increase value for the user (as the user in
most cases doesn't realize they are giving away privacy). If we do not
assume that one of the largest industries of this planet is
intentionally out there to do evil, then we can assume they are
interested in providing their services in better ways, and then we can
also assume that we can help them and the people ("users") on the web at
the same time. That's AFAIK one reason why we brought in Darren Herman,
who used to work in that industry, to work with us here.

> Even if this didn't happen, the features themselves would be sucking
> up developer time and attention that would, I think, better be turned
> to new platform features that offer Web companies *alternatives* to
> in-site advertising. The obvious thing is, again, in-browser identity
> as payment credential, and making it easier to put up a site that
> takes payments

What does payment handling have to do with actually finding the products
and services you are interested in in the first place?

KaiRo


PhillipJones

unread,
Mar 3, 2014, 12:17:59 PM3/3/14
to
Unless you’re an employee or a vouched for user you can't.

I signed accepted user name and password But receive warning: "only
Employees or Vouched for users can view this site." Despite my being a
user of Mozilla products back to the days of Netscape Navigator 3 gold,
I am not vouchable user.

You might go to the site and sign in but, not get in obviously they want
yes people who only agree with the idea put forward.

Philipp Kewisch

unread,
Mar 4, 2014, 3:44:05 AM3/4/14
to
On 3/3/14, 3:55 PM, Robert Kaiser wrote:
> Money is not evil. It's what people do with it that can be good or evil.
> From how I take it, we are aimed to take monkey only from those where we
> believe they make it by doing something good and we take it so we can do
> even more good with it.

Try a wildlife reserve, or maybe a zoo? Hilarious typo, this saved my
day :-)


Philipp

Philip Chee

unread,
Mar 4, 2014, 7:37:27 AM3/4/14
to
On 04/03/2014 01:17, PhillipJones wrote:
> Robert Kaiser wrote:

>> Then please watch https://air.mozilla.org/town-hall-directory-tiles/
>> before making any further conclusions as there's quite a bit of good
>> information there to build on.

> Unless you’re an employee or a vouched for user you can't.
>
> I signed accepted user name and password But receive warning: "only
> Employees or Vouched for users can view this site." Despite my being a
> user of Mozilla products back to the days of Netscape Navigator 3 gold,
> I am not vouchable user.

It's not that difficult getting vouched. You only need one voucher.
That's assuming you haven't been a naughty boy.

> You might go to the site and sign in but, not get in obviously they want
> yes people who only agree with the idea put forward.

I've frequently disagreed with the direction Mozilla is heading. I'm
still vouched. You need to adjust your tin-foil hat. It's obviously been
crammed on too tightly.

Phil

--
Philip Chee <phi...@aleytys.pc.my>, <phili...@gmail.com>
http://flashblock.mozdev.org/ http://xsidebar.mozdev.org
Guard us from the she-wolf and the wolf, and guard us from the thief,
oh Night, and so be good for us to pass.

Zack Weinberg

unread,
Mar 4, 2014, 2:15:10 PM3/4/14