I noticed this yesterday. I've been using Mozilla/Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox as my primary browser for over 20 years. They've made some questionable calls, sure, but most of the recent things that have bothered people (like Pocket integration) haven't really irked me.
This is the first time where I got a visceral feeling that maybe this isn't the browser I knew and loved anymore. It's not like I'm uninstalling and switching to something else, but I do feel bummed out.
The execution was definitely terrible, but "browser company ships promotional easter egg" isn't that bad as "browser company inserts ads into browsing experience" in my opinion. These ads are why Windows 10+ has become a trash fire despite all the technical improvements made to Windows.
Mozilla were stupid enough to try and sneak this Roboto stuff in, probably as part of the requirements or intentions of the ad campaign, rather than be transparent about it. Stupidity rather than malice.
The VPN ad is a targeted decision comingffrom within the non-profit. I sort of get it, Mozilla is desperate for income because Google is keeping them afloat, barely anyone who donates cares about anything but the browser, and the for-profit ventures aren't gaining much success.
The thing is, if I was somewhat interested in a Mozilla VPN service, this spectacularly idiotic decision to deploy full-page intrusive advertising into Firefox makes it 100% certain I will never buy the Mozilla VPN service--because, how can I trust that they won't do the equivalent to that service? What's to stop them from blocking certain sites (on the other side of the VPN) as part of some promotion? Or worse?
They've made it clear they don't believe their own language about privacy and user choice. They've compromised one product to advertise another. And perhaps worse, they doubled-down about it in Bugzilla with corporate doublespeak, which to me is the tell that they'll absolutely do it again.
It's amazing how apt the trust-thermocline analogy is.
> The execution was definitely terrible, but "browser company ships promotional easter egg" isn't that bad as "browser company inserts ads into browsing experience" in my opinion. These ads are why Windows 10+ has become a trash fire despite all the technical improvements made to Windows.
I'm not sure I agree. The Mr. Robot "promotional easter egg" was done by installing an add-on via the Shield Study system. This system is enabled by default, and it is intended to allow the Firefox devs to run A/B tests with browser features. This sort of system already makes some non-trivial minority of users bristle. For Mozilla to co-opt it specifically for an advertising campaign perfectly validates the concerns of that group of people. So then we get a thread on HN in which several Firefox devs post about how badly they and their colleagues felt about the whole debacle, and how it would undoubtedly lead to many internal conversations. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that happened, and apparently Shield Studies now require some level of scientific rigor behind them before they are deployed. But unfortunately, the marketing department still seems to be willing to sacrifice the ever-diminishing good will their remaining users seem to place in Mozilla as the steward of Firefox the browser. It doesn't feel to me like they fully appreciated the lessons of 2017.
Hmm...if you mean, would it be better or worse if they distributed the Looking Glass add-on in an automatically installed update, I think that would be...roughly equivalent? I feel like they're breaking some sort of implicit social contract: my browser shouldn't automatically install add-on software not foundational to its operation that I didn't ask for.
If you mean would it be better or worse if they did a more traditional pop-up ad promotion for Mr. Robot like they did for their VPN service...I dunno, unfortunately I've grown to expect new Firefox releases to have found excuses for promoting Mozilla services, even though I've done a fair amount of work to try to disable all that nonsense.
At the end of the day, it's all pretty gross really. What I'd really like is a way to pay Mozilla actual money in a way that ensured it was directed solely at development of Firefox in exchange for not doing any of this stuff to me. But for some reason this doesn't seem possible.
I read a conspiracy that Google has paid off Mozilla management to specifically sabotage the browser development. Actions like this make it hard to dispute the moves that frequently seem deliberately anti-user.
Doing both makes sense. Google has a clear motive to keep Firefox in the market, at the same time they have repeatedly shown that they want Firefox to have the smallest market share possible. For antitrust purposes it might be enough to show "people could to Firefox", even if nobody does.
According to a weird definition of "really backfired," because they would without question have been hit a long time ago with credible antitrust if they hadn't kept Firefox afloat (though user-hostile enough to keep people on Chrome.)
There's such a marginal difference between the quality of the two browsers, and Chrome is held back in what it can be by the necessity of furthering Google's commercial interests. The only limit Firefox has had is that they can't abuse the trust of their users. Firefox had to voluntarily (and often aggressively) inflict a huge amount of reputational and functional damage on itself to reduce its market share to the place that it has.
edit: it's important to say that they didn't really backslide technically; it's user-hostile (management) decisions that have hurt the browser, not anything to do with the skill of Firefox developers.
Safari can probably be discounted since Apple discontinued the Windows version in 2012. A browser that can only run on 18% of desktops worldwide isn't necessarily the competitor Google is looking for.
Edge is available on Windows, Linux and macOS, so it would probably do. But that would allow one of Google's biggest competitors to drop an under-performing product and lobby for antitrust against Google. Unlikely to happen, but a risk Google might not want to take.
Safari and Edge (which is also Chrome) having twice the dismal market share of Firefox doesn't make the browser market competitive. Safari is an appliance delivered exclusively on machines manufactured by a single company that holds a small, though luxury, part of the market. Edge (is Chrome, and) is only available on one OS [edit: I'm guess I'm wrong about this, didn't imagine that Edge would be available on Macs.]
Firefox is the only "credible" competitor, although Firefox's only profitable customer is Google itself.
> I read a conspiracy that Google has paid off Mozilla management to specifically sabotage the browser development. Actions like this make it hard to dispute the moves that frequently seem deliberately anti-user.
IIRC, didn't Mozilla lay off some R&D team that was doing some promising work on modernizing and improving its browser engine?
A pet theory of mine is Mozilla’s C-suite knows no matter how bad Firefox gets and how low their user count, Google will continue to fund them because Google likes something to point to if antitrust came knocking - in fact the lower Firefox’s influence the better as Chrome can then unilaterally control the web.
So they spend all of Mozilla’s money on various BS like Pocket and now VPN to try to make more money so they can further increase their already high salaries, instead of reinvesting into Firefox - hence the anti-user intrusive ads, the reduction of head count while paying themselves millions of dollars.
FF removed the ability to delete the sites from MRU list in the address bar, the ability which it had since ages. It was removed when moved to Photon, 2017. They finally would add it back in FF 113, so 2023. Six / Fucking / Years
I switched away from Firefox a couple of years ago for a number of reasons that can be collectively summarized as "Firefox no longer meets my needs".
But as a Firefox user from the very beginning, I still keep tabs on it, hoping that it will improve enough for me to return to it. Things like this, however, strongly indicate to me that Firefox is just lost and will never find its way back.
I wanted to like Firefox. So much so that I used to carry my keys on a Firefox branded lanyard. Eventually, I gave up and switched. Presently, Im trying Brave. I don't really like it, but I'm now at the point where I don't think there is such a thing as a user-friendly browser anymore.
In no specific order: the new Proton UI, Pocket, overemphasizing Mozilla's VPN, innocuously-sounding by sometimes privacy-invasive 'studies', automatic updates, the archane method of disabling automatic updates despite having a built-in configuration UI, having to restart the browser in the middle of my workflow due to automatic updates I did not want in the first place. In general, I get the feeling that Mozilla has adopted Reddit's business model of trashing their product by contuously fixing what isn't broken.
Brave is okay. I don't like that copying a URL on mobile requires one tap, while everywhere else you tap and hold to select. I also hate the tiles that replaced the list of "tabs." And I don't like the fact that it's based on Chromium.
As long as they make it easy to turn off, I simply don't care. I also don't understand others acting like it's the end of the world. Like this is the equivalent of your most beloved partner turning out to be a complete hoax. Give me a break. If anyone is looking for a nice "new tab" filler I highly suggest the "tabbliss" plugin.
Makes you wonder how someone thought this was a good idea in a browser that was an early pioneer of popup blockers. Imagine if Firefox in the 2000's had seen popup ads and said "Yeah let's get in on that action!"
At least it was a small scale experiment and not something that rolled out to the whole install base, I use Firefox on a couple of computers and didn't see it myself. But should you really need user feedback to know that inserting an overlay that looks like in-page ad content is a bad idea?
Mozilla management are malicious snakes. This isn't the first time they've tried something like this and it won't be the last. Each time they issue noncommittally apologies, if you can call them that, but it keeps on happening. They're testing the water for even more ads in Firefox, trying to normalize this until people stop complaining. Keep the heat on them, don't give them an inch or they'll take a mile.
Introduced by a bunch of gaslighting that it isn't actually happening or isn't anything different that what was always happened, then interleaved with accusations of bullying and entitlement directed at its userbase.
If something like this happens once it could be a slip, but we've been there again and again. Mozilla is testing how far it can go only backpedaling when there is resistance. I don't trust them a bit and would switch Browser anytime if there was a visble alternative.
Orion (from Kagi) is "planning support for other platforms in the future," if that lands for Windows I'll probably bail on Firefox
For me it's been downhill since they removed "Compact" UI density, and I'd just as soon not jump through a bunch of custom CSS hoops to have sidebar tabs when nearly all the other browsers (outside of Chrome/Safari) are building them in natively. The main thing going for Firefox is being the independent rendering engine, for customization and power user features it's nothing special anymore.
Jeff Bezos donated more than Eich in 2018 to Cory Gardner, who is anti-equal marriage, anti-LGBT+ discrimination laws, and against same-sex adoption. It's interesting we don't hold the same standard to Bezos, or speculate that Bezos' donation affected his hiring pool.
It's not interesting at all. Exactly who was going to fire Bezos from Amazon?
Also, I know this is the internet, but disapproving of one person doesn't mean that you're promoting another random person that wasn't even part of the conversation. If you want to bring Bezos in, at a minimum you're required to find a single person, living or dead, who thinks that Bezos's donations were fine but Eich's were terrible.
Boards pressure people like Bezos to step down all the time, often due to public scrutiny.
I know no one is promoting Bezos. I'm just saying it's ridiculous how Bezos gets to white-wash incidents like this while causing untold harm to society, while Eich legitimately was furthering good causes in good ways and a single personal superficial detail prevented him from continuing to do that.
> Yes, because Brave is the model of ethics! Oh, wait a sec...
Well, compared to FF and the fine article that we are commenting on ... yes, it's certainly a model that FF could adopt!
Long answer: I don't see ads in Brave. I don't recall even installing any third parties to block ads. As far as the adtech space goes, Brave is indeed more ethical than FF (or Chrome, or Edge).
Now if you are of the view that, ethically, blocking ads is a bad thing, then I'm afraid we cannot actually discuss this any further, because there are very few arguments that will get me to change my mind about blocking advertisements, not least of which is the ad under discussion, i.e. "FULL-SCREEN-IN-YOUR-FACE-COVER-EVERYTHING-AND-STOP-THE-USER-FROM-DOING-ANYTHING-UNTIL-THE-AD-IS-DISMISSED" type of ad.
Microsoft basically got in on this with a lot of their recent Windows stuff. With Windows 7, suddenly you saw people's PCs were no longer full of adware. Then by 8 or 10, Microsoft thought, "Wait, people put up with adware for decades, let's get on that and put it into the OS ourselves."
>Makes you wonder how someone thought this was a good idea in a browser that was an early pioneer of popup blockers.
Two reasons: clueless management who chases short term returns, and a rabid fanbase that will constantly make excuses for them no matter how much they decline, because "at least they're not Google/Microsoft"
>and a rabid fanbase that will constantly make excuses for them no matter how much they decline, because "at least they're not Google/Microsoft"
To their defense, that ought to be more about the rate of decline that Google/MS goes compared to Mozilla. It is usually supported out of necessity, not ideology. But I'm not sure for how long this will actually work.
I think something not getting enough attention is the design of the popup itself. It is chock-full of dark patterns (different sized click targets, "not now" dismiss action instead of "No") and doesn't include any way to disable similar "messages" in the future.
It's concerning that someone at Mozilla designed this and didn't see any problem with foisting these dark patterns on their users. This is the kind of user-hostile design I expected from Microsoft Edge not Firefox, which I thought was trying to be a user-respecting alternative.
Someone needs to make a "Firefox Marketing Department Greatest Hits" page; this isn't the first time, by far, they've tried to shoe-horn some absolutely user-hostile garbage into some release, followed by the usual "we will do better" back-pedalling non-apology
>"We’re continuously working to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox. Ultimately, we accomplished the exact opposite of what we intended in this experiment and quickly rolled the experience back.
What absolute lies.
All they would have to do is a quick search on HN and boom - enough user input to last quite some time.
In my country (perhaps others), the best way to "continuously work[ing] to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox." would be to actually communicate with people...
"Ultimately, we accomplished the exact opposite of what we intended in this experiment" No, you got called out for trying to cheat people.
I suppose now is a good time to ask if there are any good _non-corporate_ open source browsers out there?
Seems to me that businesses operate within an incentive structure that will always encourage them to take maximum advantage of users and do anti-user things no matter what their original goals were. The non-corporate part is key imo (see Canonical, Mozilla now etc.)
Safari is the fastest browser, the most standards compliant browser, and regularly updated, the only similarity to IE6 is it’s buggy. Chrome, on the other hand, followed IE’s whole playbook: leverage a platform monopoly to push the browser, then leverage browser monopoly to undermine standards, coercing devs into dropping support for the competition.
We're not getting anywhere without the social support for it. Virtually all tech conferences are corporate-funded, for example, so they're not going to praise independent browsers. Conversations get stifled.
Self-plug but my indie conferences  promote software that respect the user's quality of experience. One of my favorite presentations that we've featured is SerenityOS (including their open-source browser) which made headlines at the time. 
Gnome-Web if you're on linux and it is fine. It is a little light on features, but it does the basics. Falkon is another for the QT/KDE crowd. There are several forks of chrome and firefox, if that's your thing.
I'm trying to ungoogle and switched to Vivaldi without enough research. Its a really nice browser and I really like the community around it (like their Mastodon service), but I basically jumped from one corporation's browser to another.
Wow, I experienced this yesterday while I was absentmindedly using my computer.... I assumed I had clicked something without realizing it. The idea that it was an intentional pop up didn't even enter my head.
For me it hit as a double-whammy. I tried opening a new tab, but had to stop what I was doing to restart Firefox instead because of a Snap update, then I got this immediately after Firefox started back up. A really nasty snapshot of where free software is at in 2023.
I went through the song-and-dance for several versions to remove the Snap firefox and go back to the deb, and now that the deb is gone I just downloaded it directly from mozilla so it can use its own internal autoupdate feature. It works better that way anyway.
How do you forcefully eject an ineffective "CEO" of a nonprofit from their position when they have failed their duties and violated their org's charter/mission while giving themself unjustified pay-raises and bonuses? Is there any gov process we can invoke to hold them accountable?
I think that there needs to be a level of accountability here for the programmers who did this. Tech workers need to stand up against this kind of anti-user hostility. Firefox is an openly-developed project, who wrote the code to allow this kind of attack, and should we ask them to commit to not writing such code again?
I'm not sure what this would achieve? I mean, surely it wasn't some random developer who came up with this idea and implemented it. This is a management decision and management decisions are driven by the company culture.
If I joined a company like Mozilla as a programmer rather than Google etc my motivation would probably be to create a privacy-protecting browser. If my company asked me to implement user-hostile features I’d just walk out. It’s not like someone like that can’t find a different job somewhere else.
Unlikely. My guess is that the ad code runs in the context of the browser itself or some newly created context, rather than of the page you were reading before, but whatever fetch() or similar call it makes to load the ad goes through a subsystem that is affected by ad blockers.
Put another way, when you allow ublock or whatever you're using permission to intercept requests for ALL pages, that includes the "page" that mozilla is using to serve this ad.
Further evidence in favour of this hypothesis is that the ad can temporarily disable the rest of the firefox UI until you deal with it, which normal pages certainly can't do.
The browser does a lot of my computing now, and I'm not surprised the "General Purpose Browser" is disappearing, replaced by an appliance with user-hostile behavior that might, maybe, sometimes ... give you some internet browsing. Remember AOL Online?
The solution isn't very complicated. Copyleft  uses copyright to preserve user freedom, instead of restricting it -- so the company that wants to monetize the software can't block the user from making copies of the source code.
Let's skip the quibbling over Affero GPL, that's boring. How about inventing a license, where the license restricts the valid activites of the software?
A browser restricted to only make network requests authorized by the user. An OS restricted from spying on the user. A computer that is personal again.
Hear, hear! The problem is that browser complexity has exploded to the degree that at this point it seems impossible for a small team to reinvent the wheel. Who wants to write a web assembly engine from scratch, let alone the rest?
My main browser has been Waterfox which I update manually, which doubly insulated me from this. But don't misunderstand...I hate pretty much all browsers now, too.
> Who wants to write a web assembly engine from scratch
Webassembly engine is one of the simpler things to implement in a browser. It's essentially a giant switch statement in a loop.
> let alone the rest?
Mozilla needs a new wway to make decisions, the current one is obviously not working. New features should have an Enhancement Proposal document that the community can read beforehand and a council that approves it.
All directly or indirectly ad-supported business models will sooner or later come to the point of breakage in serving user”s best interests, as the fundamental misalignment of incentives between the business and its users creates a force too strong to contain.
This is entirely driven by a simple fact that in ad-supported businesses users are not the same as the customers.
I advocated several times and will do it again - Firefox should completely embrace a freemium browser business model, align incentives with its users, and attempt to have a second golden age (first was 2005-2010).
Agreed. I can't help but think that giving normal, technical users a great browser, and then catering on bended knee to enterprises for a very controllable, supported, extended version as the source of revenue that supports the normal browser is a sustainable model. Maybe not a model that takes over the world, but one that sustains development of a good open source browser.
Are there any open source projects run like that? The closest thing I can think of is, like, Chromium but they don’t really make a framework that anyone can customize, they are inextricably tied to Google, right?
IMO open source works best as a community implementing small, single-purpose programs, which the users can integrate however they’d like. Web browsers have gotten too monolithic and the internet has gotten too over-complicated for a healthy open source web browser to exist.
So, what do people think of Vivaldi? I'm a long-time Firefox user but I've been scanning for a new browser for a while now. Even if it weren't for stuff like this, I'll have to change anyway when Firefox dips below ~3% and websites stop supporting Gecko.
I use it as main browser for the last 7 years I believe. And honestly - I love it. It have some gimmicks - sometime its slow a bit, sometime there some bugs that you have to wait for fix in the new version, but amount of customizability is a thing that overcome any issues.
With Vivaldi I can be sure that my preference will not be removed in the next version as unnecessary or as not popular enough. And there a LOT of preferences to customize as you want.
So, I personally, love it. Again, its not perfect with performance and bug minor happens, but for me its ok. I prefer the feeling that I decide what browser will do and how it feels. Not some corp.
I used Vivaldi on and off over the past few years, but I've been using FF full time since late last year. Vivaldi eventually starting slowing way down for some reason. Startup took nearly 10 seconds, when it used to be < 3. Not sure what did it. It may be due to the chrome (UI) as it's a very heavy custom CSS solution.
Also their address bar behavior was way different than Chrome or FF, and it kept messing me up.
It might be better now, they've had many updates since I last used it. Might give it another go, now that FF is doing this stuff.
I saw this yesterday while I was using the browser at work. At first I really thought nothing of it. It was was strange seeing it out of nowhere and I was indifferent about it. I love the browser and it has saved me time and my sanity by allowing be to block advertisements that infect us all and being reliable as a browser I can always count on to work how I want.
With that said, after reading the bug reports and comments a sense of indignation did wash over me. But only after reading the comments. I honestly forgot about it right after clicking the button.
I saw this too and wasn't too bothered, although I wondered if there was something I did on the page that somehow triggered the "we think you should know about our VPN thing" popup. Which IMO is also a bad thing - users don't know why you're showing them that thing at that particular moment.
The best place to show something like this is probably in an update splash screen. "Hey great news you're updated to v.next, you might want to know about our VPN thing too"
i gave up on firefox when i couldn't stop it from connecting to Google on a network device i was working on. Removing all the links from the advanced settings made it fail to start. That's when I realized how hypocritical they are. ( arm64 firefox-esr.) Even the latest chromium on arm64 connects to Google almost daily. i use epiphany-browser for that project now. no unwanted internet traffic from epiphany.
Yeah when my DNS went sporty I noticed Firefox got very slow to load even local ips and investigated.
Turns out it does two dozen queries on every start. Mostly to unknown Mozilla services but also a few from Google and others I couldn't identify (IP on either AWS or CloudFlare, likely just more Mozilla). And when it can't resolve those hosts it seems to continually retry every few seconds...
Before the apologists arrive, try it yourself. Disable all your add-ons and set your homepage to blank, close Firefox, start wireshark, start Firefox and watch the avalanche.
I keep hoping some of the laid off devs will fork the project and we can get back to a mostly volunteer model focused on just the browser. I'd much rather donate to something like that than the Mozilla foundation, at least as it currently stands.
The particularly terrible thing about this is that the Mozilla VPN product is actually Mullvad underneath, one of the better and more ethical VPN providers. Then they have to do this popup ad bullshit pushed by the browser and take a dump all over it.
I have Mullvad running on my devices all the time...
I wonder if they showed the ad to Mullvad users?
Also, Mullvad is unique in that it generally doesn't do commissions or special sale prices, etc. The "top rated" VPNs on review sites and YouTube channels are usually the ones paying the most in commission. And it's a reason Mullvad is rarely in the "top rated" lists -- it doesn't pay commissions.
I wonder how that works with Mozilla? Surely Mozilla is getting a commission?
I use Mozilla VPN rather than Mullvad because it was a nice way of supporting mozilla and thus firefox.
I also think that while mozilla may handle my finances, mullvad handle the VPN. Mozilla doesn't get the technical details of mullvad and thus don't know what IP I'm on, and I don't think mullvad know my name. Sure it's not quite cash in an envelope, but paranoia comes with a cost too.
> Also, has Mozilla VPN also a windows client, or is it more like the Opera Proxies (which were called VPN for some reason)?
No idea, but it has a linux client and an ios client. It's a nice simple wireguard VPN
For myself as possible VPN end user I don't see the value proposition, but presumably, Mozilla is treating this as a new source of revenue (they get some percentage of the total monthly recurring or a one time sign up commmission or something from Mullvad?) as a way to be very slightly less dependent on Google for most of their incoming revenue stream.
I can see ordinary non technical users who want to "buy a VPN service" going with this as a decent option. It seems to be fairly consumer friendly and have a well documented setup process.
Did you even read the article? There's a screenshot which shows that this "feature" even got its own config items (browser.vpn_promo.*). This hardly looks like an "accident".
Also note the weasel language of their statement: "We’re continuously working to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox. ...".
"Communicate" my *ss. It really makes my blood boil how the Mozilla management hijacked Firefox for their unethical bullshit (because it happens again and again, as soon as the dust has settled over the last 'accident').
Firefox's responses are absolutely shit, for sure.
But Firefox has all kind of promo things (the latest I saw was adverts on their overview/links page - which you can also disable), so the presence of a config item for this doesn't mean they intended for it to show up where it did.
What else could they have been trying to do? From seeing the bug filed/fixed wrt the issue, it seems like the only unintentual part was that the popup appeared to quickly, it was showing up after 20ms instead of 20s or something like that
they could have been intending to insert the advert into other places, which wouldn't be quite as outrageous (though I happen dislike them inserting them anywhere, but some places are definitely worse than others).
I don't know exactly what anyone else experienced. What I experienced is: I was away from my computer and noticed that my Syncthing folders were out of date, so I used KDE Connect to make sure Syncthing was running on my PC, which opens a tab connecting to Syncthing on the local machine in the default browser - Firefox in my case. Some time later, I unlocked my PC and found the advertisement on top of my Syncthing admin page.
So yes, it popped something up while I was AFK, though I can't guess whether it would have done so if I hadn't remotely triggered a new tab. Needless to say, I was very surprised to see that behavior from Firefox, and even more surprised that despite posts to reddit and HN complaining, I didn't find a report in Bugzilla.