Mozilla, the Business Killa?

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Industry groups: Firefox's new feature.
Industry groups: Firefox's new feature.

Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) president Randall Rothenberg yesterday called for Mozilla to rescind planned changes to Firefox, saying that it will jeopardize small businesses. At the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) DC conference yesterday, Stuart Ingis, counsel of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), observed that Mozilla could also hurt its own business by providing a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Mozilla's proposed new version of Firefox will, by default, block third-party cookies (when an individual visits a web page, a cookie placed by an external site is a third-party cookie; conversely, a cookie placed by the site the individual is visiting is a first-party cookie). As a result of Mozilla's changes, advertisers who set first-party cookies—typically large businesses with extensive advertising resources—will have a competitive advantage over advertisers who don't.

“Small businesses can't afford to hire large ad sales teams. Advertisers can't afford the time to make individual buys across thousands of websites,” Rothenberg said in a statement condemning Mozilla's proposed release. “The technology  that brings these two interests together is the third-party cookie.”

Mozilla aims to make Firefox more appealing to consumers who fear having their privacy violated by advertisers that create profiles of them based on their online behaviors. Ingis pointed out to DMA members that all consumers already have the option to block third-party cookies from individual advertisers or from all of them at once by clicking a single button on the DAA website.

“Cookies are the entire way that behavioral advertising and clickstream data is collected and used today,” said Ingis. “So if the real notion of Mozilla is to stop that kind of collection, that option has existed for some time now.”

Ingis further questioned whether Mozilla truly took consumers' attitudes into account on the issue, noting that many welcome relevant offers from advertisers and appreciate the free content advertising revenue provides. “Some 20 million consumers have visited [the DAA] site and more than a million have opted out of cookies,” he said. “Presented with the option, more people don't opt out than do.”

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