Would you pay a subscription fee for Mozilla FireFox's pro features?

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Sébastien Portebois's photo

I voted «Not yet decided», although I already made donations to Mozilla (and do annual donations to EFF, which are the only outside-the-country things I donate money to) But my very first feeling was «yes, absolutely yes, obviously», so let me explain my reasoning here a little bit. I’m curious to learn if other people think like me, or not, and please please comment, because I’m really not set on this!

First things first: Mozilla is one of the few organization around that really do an awesome job to make the internet a greater place. Really, EFF is the only one non-profit org I can think of on the top of my head (then there are many country-oriented orgs, like owasp chapters, Canada’s CDS (@CDS_GC on Twitter), UK’s NCSC which are great, and probably others from other countries I should know of. But you got my point: these people work hard to make the internet a safe and free place for all of us, and we owe them a lot.

And for this I will continue to give money to Mozilla.

Then in this Verge article (I haven’t read about it elsewhere so I might be biased and I might review my judgement when new pieces of information became available), there’s some smell up upsell I’m not sure I like. Which is the reason I voted «Not yet decided», which could be translated in «ok, I’m ready to give you some money, but please tell me more» The reason is this: When Firefox bundled Pocket directly in the browser, I was confused. And don’t get me wrong: I love Pocket and use it a lot (it replaced Evernote a few years ago for my use-cases)

But I am confused when software I trust for its freedom and stance on freedom and privacy and security opens the door to a third company. So I found it really useful (because I already was a Pocket user), but wasn’t super comfortable about the mix of a third party business finding its way directly in the browser I trust for being free of money pressures.

Which leads us to this news.

If Firefox offers some «subscription» for new features, which they approve, I would trust them and use it to support them. And let’s face it: choosing a good VPN isn’t easy, so if Firefox makes it easier for me, gives me a trustworthy solution (and no good VPN comes for free) and at the same times helps me support them, then I’ll subscribe! But the way this is described makes me uncomfortable. I’ll be even more precise: «The goal for Mozilla is to develop “diverse sources of revenue” ». When I read this, this makes me think: Ok, so what if a shady VPN vendor offers a better deal to Firefox, will they suggest me do subscribe to some VPN vendor which will sell my data to 3rd parties? I am neither a marketing guy nor a lawyer, but let’s imagine the quote was «The goal for Mozilla is to help their user choose the best possible way to secure their connection through a network of trusted partners». And we understand that a service like this cost money to run, so required money. But that shift the message enough for me to think «Ok. they need money, but they still put the user and its privacy and security first», which is totally different from that quote in Verge which tells us «Mozilla needs money» (not the real quote, but that’s exactly what it says, which let us make assumptions about how they prioritize the way they find this money.

One thing I learnt in the last years if that it’s never good to let your users/teammates/partners/whoever make assumptions. They’ll imagine the worse. Tell them the truth. And if you need money: tell them, but tell them how you choose to make it, how you put priorities between money and users privacy and security.

For now this message is unclear, at least to me.