Mozilla enabled ads in Firefox and they're active in Fedora

Petr Viktorin pviktori at
Thu Nov 20 14:28:11 UTC 2014

On 11/19/2014 09:11 AM, Benjamin Kerensa wrote:
> Hello Free Software Friends,
> I want to encourage the Fedora Community to think carefully about making
> a switch
> to another browser as the default in Fedora. I would not get hung up on
> these tiles
> (Ads) too much and remember they are necessary in order for Mozilla to
> continue
> building Firefox, Thunderbird, Seamonkey, Firefox OS and supporting the
> very literally
> hundreds of movements and thousands of events it does each year.
> But that all aside I hope you will weigh whether the alternatives will
> provider your users
> any better of an experience in terms of Stability, Performance, Privacy
> or Trust.
> I think it will be difficult to find an alternative that offers what
> Firefox does to your
> users and frankly I think you will have a fair amount of users that will
> be upset that
> you switched the default on them. Sure they can still install Firefox
> but the fact is
> Fedora users come to expect Firefox to be the default much like they
> expect Gnome
> to be the default. (Also remember there are very likely thousands of
> Mozilla Contributors that use Fedora)

In other words: you have achieved have vendor lock-in.
Congratulations! Good for you. Not so good for me.

> Whatever your decision have a good release cycle and keep on building that
> awesome free software!

Free software is, and always has been, about users. If something does 
not benefit the users should be able to switch away – where "something" 
is not whole applications, but individual *features* of applications.

Compare, for example, to the ad-ridden, spy-heavy, vendor-locked-in 
Android ecosystem, where users can't turn off unwanted features. Most 
software there is written to benefit the *developers*, not the *users*. 
Sure, it is more profitable for them that way, and the terms of some of 
those apps are even acceptable. But the fact that this model is finding 
its way into free software is worrying at best.

I think the line we should not cross is: including features that don't 
benefit the user and may be considered harmful. If I opt-in to ads – if 
you politely ask, and I, with mutual respect and understanding, agree to 
help your cause – then it's perfectly fine. (See vim's "Help kids in 
Uganda" message.) If you just quietly make money off me, or distract and 
annoy me until I have paid, then I can't and will not respect you.

It's not about tracking per se – I'm fine with e.g. opt-in usage reports 
that feed into research for making a better browser – that benefits me 
(in a very indirect and miniscule way, but in the end the purpose is for 
the *user's* benefit).
Ads are a feature that only benefits the upstream and the companies that 
pay for the ads. From my (user's) perspective, there is no reason to 
have them on my system. There is no benefit to me from this feature. 
None at all. This is a major difference from Gnome search providers, 
which I personally don't like either, but I can see how they might be 
good for someone.

If I wanted software that works and is adequately funded, I'd use 
Chrome. If Mozilla slides into forcing ads on people, the difference 
between Chrome and Firefox becomes quantitative, not qualitative – 
Google does the same bad stuff, but worse.

Personally, I sadly no longer trust Mozilla to do what's best for me. 
(Please don't become the next Google. Yes, I'm aware Google makes lots 
of money and can easily fund development and thousands of events each 
year. That does not make them an example I think Mozilla should follow.)

If Fedora starts including, as soldiers in a Trojan horse of default 
software, upstreams' features that don't benefit me and may be 
considered harmful, then Fedora will lose my trust as well.

tl;dr: I think the line we should not cross is: including features that 
don't benefit the user and may be considered harmful.


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