Mozilla figures out how users can avoid online ads and sites can still make money

Mozilla's new Ad-free internet service helps users deal with pesky online ads, while not stiffing the hosting sites.


Image: Mozilla

It's 2019. Do you know where your online ad is? Most likely, it's either smacking you square in the face, or it's hidden behind a browser ad blocker.

It's that latter category I want to address. Why? Because I hold a different opinion about online ads than many. My opinion is that online ads are many a website's primary source of revenue. In fact, numerous small sites wouldn't exist if it weren't for online advertising. 

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I've written for websites that depended on every single impression and click generated by viewers. Some viewers complained about ads and some stayed silent. However, the owner of the site knew that without those advertisements the site would go dark.

And so, I go about my daily life without the help of ad blockers--assuming that, at some point in time, someone would come up with a way to make both sides of the coin happy. 

That time has finally come. And it should be of no surprise that those behind the solution are from within the open source community—specifically, Mozilla (which may or may not be in conjunction with a new venture, namely Scroll).

How are they solving this little conundrum (that has perplexed the masses for years)? With a new service they're calling Ad-free Internet. Just what is this new service? It's as equally brilliant as it is simple (and surprising that no one else has realized this solution already).

The solution

Here's how it works. People (that's you, me, and everyone who uses the internet) can pay $4.99 USD/Month. In return, you get to browse all supporting websites, ad free. 

But wait--Mozilla is taking your cash and then--what?

Well, Mozilla distributes the monthly fee with the partnership sites you read, so those sites can still earn revenue while their ads are suppressed (which they probably would have been anyway—at least by a large portion of readers—by ad blockers). So you get to read news without ads, and websites still get paid. Is the revenue generated equal to what they would have made from ads? Clearly,  that cannot be either verified or calculated (as the service is only now rolling out, and these things take time).

However, should Mozilla's Ad-free Internet catch on, this could be a serious game changer.

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But why bother?

I can already hear your grousing. Why would you pony up five clams (figuratively speaking, as Mozilla doesn't take actual clams for payment) a month for something you can do for free, by way of a browser extension? 

The answer is simple. You want those sites to continue feeding you news, right? You want to support the efforts of those who deliver your content, right? Seriously. How many mom-and-pop websites have you seen come and go? How many of those sites were taken down by a lack of revenue? Of those, how many do you wish you could bring back? Even if that answer is only one or two, you can understand why Mozilla's service is important.

Before you make the assumption, I do not have an agenda here (other than supporting open source software, and the hopes and dreams of those who follow the oft-paraphrased, "If you build it, they will come" ). I have honestly hoped for someone to come up with such a service for a very long time. Why? Because I don't block ads in my browsers. No matter how annoying and intrusive they can be, I allow them. Granted, there are cases where an ad is constructed so poorly that it renders my browser unresponsive. In those cases, I will either avoid the site or temporarily enable an ad blocker so I can view the content in question. But that's rare occasion. 

Now, I can have the best of both worlds.

How will this play out?

That's the big question. First off, the service isn't even available yet. In fact, by clicking on the $4.99 subscribe button, you are taken to a page indicating:

Thank you for your interest in Firefox Ad-free Internet!

This product isn't available yet, but we're working on it. Would you please click the Next button to take a short survey to tell us what you think? At the end of the survey we'll get your (optional!) e-mail address so that we can let you know when the Firefox Ad-free Internet beta launches. If you don't want to give feedback, click here to skip to the sign-up page.

You are also invited to take a survey. Said survey asks the following questions:

  • When this product becomes available, how soon would you consider subscribing to it? 
  • When this product becomes available, how likely are you to subscribe to it? 
  • How interested are you in a paid subscription to this product?

Second, will enough people join the service? That's the big question. If a scant few people are willing to pay for an Ad-free internet, the service will fail, and it's back to browsing with ads (or blocking them), and hoping someone will eventually come up with a viable solution. 

This is not ad shaming

Before anyone finds themselves in a bit of a tizzy, do not think (for a second) that I am "ad shaming". Using an ad blocker is your choice. But for those who do consider the best interests of the sites they regularly browse, the new Mozilla Ad-free internet service might be the ideal solution. You get to read your content, unhindered by advertisements, and the sites that offer you helpful, important, and newsworthy articles will make minuscule bank from your visit. That's a win-win we've all needed for a long time. 

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....