In recent years, web browsers from Google and Apple have begun to block bad ads and limit ad tracking. Mozilla is going a step further by testing a feature in its Firefox browser that automatically blocks trackers by default. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO of Mozilla, spoke with eMarketer’s Ross Benes about the significance of browsers blocking ad trackers.
Why are you cutting ad trackers in Firefox?
People want to get the content that they care about fast. And over the past several years, we've found that trackers deter quick access to content by slowing page loading times. This is really a fundamental code problem.
So first and foremost, we're making this decision because the internet isn't as fast as it should be. Extraneous tracking systems are slowing down the user experience. In fact, a lot of the studies out there show that increasing speed is one of the primary motivations for using ad blockers.
First and foremost, we're making this decision because the internet isn't as fast as it should be.
Are there any other motivations to reduce ad trackers?
Many people are not OK with the advertising they’re getting online. They don’t like that their behaviors are being tracked by advertisers. The data collected by a lot of these trackers actually do create real harm, and it's not harm that we can reasonably expect people to anticipate or know how to solve. Users want not only speed on the internet, but also certainty that their information is not being tracked and used in a weird way. But they don't quite know how to do that.
What sort of timeline do you have for these tests?
We’re using the Firefox Nightly and Firefox Beta products to test, experiment and understand what the actual impact will be. Over the next few months, we’re going to begin to roll out these changes in some of our mainline products. It’s not going to be done ad hoc, and it’s not going to be done without a lot of thought.
When Apple introduced some ad tracking restrictions into Safari last year, it received a lot of blowback from ad industry trade groups. Are you concerned that advertisers will push back?
We’re open to any discussions or feedback that anyone would like to give us. It’s important to note that we at Mozilla do not think advertising is bad. That being said, the revenue model is broken.
What do you mean by that?
It’s broken because there’s consumer trust being damaged. Part of why we’re introducing these new features is to empower users who are going to agitate the bad actors in the industry. We think there’s a better way to do advertising so that you can build consumer trust, and that includes allowing people to give consent about the information they’re sharing.
What is the significance of blocking ad trackers?
People are not happy with what's happening with their data, and that's a global phenomenon. It's the responsibility of technology companies to treat people like people, to use their information respectfully, and to get consent when they do collect it.
If we can help solve those issues by making changes in our product—and spurring change and innovations among different industries and our peers—that's the best outcome we can possibly have.
You’re hoping competitor web browsers make these changes, too?