All contemporary browsers allow you to surf the Internet in private or incognito mode. To private browsing Mozilla Firefox has also added ad blocking and tracking protection.
When you browse the Internet in the private or incognito mode, your history is not saved. Information like the sites that you have visited and the sundry details that you have entered in online forms are not saved. Even cookies are not saved. Please keep in mind that private or incognito mode does not mean anonymous browsing. That’s totally different concept. Whereas private or incognito mode stops your browser from saving information regarding what websites you are visiting and what links you are clicking, anonymous browsing stops your ISP and your government to keep a watch on your online behaviour and this is much more sophisticated and difficult to achieve.
To private and incognito browsing, Firefox 42 has also added ad blocking and tracking protection. It blocks all the scripts that may identify you while you visit various websites. Ads that track you, analytics counters and social networking buttons that link to your profile will now be completely blocked.
Online advertisements are almost the backbone of the Internet economy, but they can also be a bane for the common user especially people using their browsers on their mobile phones. Then these advertisements can be a big nuisance and even discourage people from visiting the websites they would otherwise have visited.
Another problem on the Internet these days, which is a boom for the advertisers but a big nuisance for casual surfers, is something called “retargeting”. The retargeting scripts analyse your behaviour on various websites – what you have purchased recently, what you had almost added to your shopping cart, which adds you had clicked to check out where they lead to, which items you have read descriptions of and so on – and then according to the analysis, ads are shown to you when you are surfing different websites even if those ads that are irrelevant to the content you are currently viewing.
Up till now you could install add-ons and plug-ins into your browser to block ads. Even Apple recently introduced ad blocking apps on iOS. The Ghostery add-on/extension was allowing Firefox users to do the same. But the problem with such extensions is that not everybody can use them. You need to be able to find the appropriate add-ons and extensions, install them and then manage them which can become much of a hassle for a regular user.
Private browsing on the other hand is much more direct and if ad blocking and tracking protection is inbuilt, people won’t have to go to all the trouble of installing extra add-ons.
Although many blog posts and articles on the Internet are hailing this new move by Firefox and comparing Firefox with Google Chrome, people need to understand that the scenarios are different for both the browsers. Google gets a big part of its revenue from advertising. Already ad blockers are blocking Google advertisements on various websites. Allowing people to block ads and retargeting scripts will go counter to its revenue model.
What about the ethical question? Many websites publish content to earn money from the ads that they publish. Some websites publish high quality content so that people are drawn to their websites and blogs and while they are on these websites and blogs they might as well click on the advertisements. Although they are publishing high-quality content to help or entertain their visitors, they also need to make money. This money they make by publishing ads.
So blocking ads by visiting websites that publish content so that they can sell ads may be same as indulging in piracy. It’s a complicated question.
Again, the problem is with mobile devices. Most of the websites haven’t gotten around publishing content-friendly advertisements on their blogs and websites that won’t hinder the main content.