Mitchell Baker is disappointed. The president of the Mozilla foundation, which develops the Firefox browser, cites the evolution of the internet towards an “economy of addiction”, but do not despair to find alternatives, even to the ubiquitous Google.
The foundation depends to a good part of the earnings of Google, the search engine dominant, a relationship which puts Mitchell Baker “increasingly uncomfortable,” she admitted to AFP during an interview at Web Summit, which ends Thursday in Lisbon.
Like all browsers, Firefox receives a portion of the revenue generated by the advertisements that appear on the search result pages, regardless of the engine.
In 2005, the year of the first research “paid” on Firefox, this is not a problem. “Google has aroused so much enthusiasm at the time. The advertising was infinitesimal,” recalls the president.
“They were completely aligned with the web that we thought to be in the process of building. With time this has become less true,” says Mitchell Baker.
Google and large groups are not only responsible for the evolution of the internet. Human behaviour also played a role.
Because the economic models based on advertising, which have helped finance websites and online services “free of charge”, would not necessarily have taken on such a scale without the fascination of users for some content, including violent or aguicheurs, and their propensity to share.
“The practice of +come here, stay there, continuing to click, spreading this information as fast as possible+ without thinking about… This is akin to an addiction, it is like a slot machine,” said Mitchell Baker.
– “trackers” –
The president of the foundation at the little fox orange continues to marvel at the promise held by the web, as is the immense ease with which we can now communicate, to discover, to learn and collaborate with each other.
But it also shares the finding of many other veterans of the web: the deep changes that are needed.
“The problem is that addiction, it’s cost effective, whether it’s drugs, sugar, and / or technology”, quips she. How, therefore, construct an alternative for everyone, not just those who can afford to pay for services without advertising ?
Firefox, which accounted for 5% of the market share of browsers in the world in October, compared to over 60% for Google Chrome (according to the analytics service Statcounter), has developed a number of features designed to allow users to prevent their data to be collected.
Since October, the browser offers to its 277 million users (active customers monthly to November 3, 2018, according to Mozilla) the option to block “trackers”, software, (“cookies” that track users from one site to another site to send you targeted advertisements.
“We are not against advertising,” says AFP Katharina Borchert, director of innovation at Mozilla. “We want to find a better balance between the experience of the user, and the control of its data, security and opportunities for monetization.”
– “programmed” –
“Protection against tracking, it is a first step. It does not eliminate the pub, just this vacuum of data that the internet has really aware of it”, she adds.
The foundation board also on Meridio, a project still blur data market, where publishers of websites, and the users may conclude agreements, within a framework of ethics, with full transparency.
“The current system does not serve as to a few intermediate and very large businesses”, argues Katharina Borchert. “It serves the same advertisers who pay for advertisements, including a large portion never touches anyone”, explains she.
Side search engine, the little fox orange has not yet found a way to get round the giant Google.
“We conducted experiments, but the users were baffled by an operation different from their habits,” says Mitchell Baker. “We have become programmed to a certain type of research.”
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