Earlier this year the team at Mozilla had announced that they were partnering with Scroll, a startup for allowing users to explore an ad-free internet without hurting publishers. Several months after this news, yesterday Mozilla teased a new landing page detailing a subscription-based service where users can get access to content from “some of the world’s greatest publishers to bring you a better journalism experience,” for $4.99 per month.
Users often have a bad experience with advertisements as it is quite disturbing and sometimes irrelevant. Ads also capture user data and predict user behaviour. These ads could also be malicious at times and clicking on them could end up storing users’ personal information. It seems Mozilla is trying to make an effort towards providing a better user experience by giving them an ad-free experience. According to a Mozilla blog post, it hit upon the new idea because it wasn’t happy with the “terrible experiences and pervasive tracking” designed to persuade users to click on ads and share their personal data.
The official post reads, “We share your payment directly with the sites you read. They make more money which means they can bring you great content without needing to distract you with ads just to keep the lights on.”The idea is that users will be paying for an ad-free experience, and the money will then be distributed to publishers that users choose.
Subscribers will also get access to audio versions of articles as well as bookmarks that are synced across devices. They will also get exclusive top recommended reads and an app that would help users to find great content without the disturbance from ads. This service would be cross-platform which would allow users to read the content on a phone or a PC. Reading an article will still be ad-free in case a reader reaches the content by clicking a link from Twitter or opening a website.
Mozilla is yet to share the specifics of this service and says that the initiative “will help shape our direction with respect to finding alternatives to the status quo advertising models. As always, we will continue to put users first and operate transparently as our explorations progress towards more concrete product plans” The partnership with Scroll will also help balance the digital advertising revenue, most of which is going to a handful to big companies, endangering the existence of many smaller publishers. Though, it is still not clear if the revenue generated for the publishers would be enough for them.
Users have given a mixed reaction and few think that it is not a new idea and companies like Google, Patreon, and Flattr have already tried this. A user commented on HackerNews, “I mean, isn’t this essentially the idea behind patreon? You batch the micropayments payments into single transactions on the credit card network to reduce the marginal cost of the fixed fees? Didn’t Google already do something similar with new subscriptions? Didn’t flattr do this a decade ago? It’s not a new idea, and as I ranted elsewhere, is only even required because of the fixed fees on credit card transactions.”
While the rest are expecting the company to opt for better partners. Another user commented, “In principle, I could be interested in this, but they’ll need a much better range of partners than what currently shows up on https://scroll.com/ before it looks worthwhile to me. Less of the celebrity/pop-culture gossip, and more real news, please.”