“No shady privacy policies or back doors for advertisers. Just a lightning fast browser that doesn’t sell you out.” That’s the quote you see from Mozilla when you go to download Firefox for the first time. The company advertises itself as the superior choice for protecting yourself while browsing the internet, but a recent update suggests that Mozilla might be going back on its word, at least a little.
Here’s the thing: Nobody likes ads. They can be intrusive, irrelevant, too relevant, and can feel a bit slimy in the wrong context. On the other hand, ads are what keep so much of the internet free. You didn’t have to pay to read this article; the ads you see supported that click. You can play thousands of games on your phone for free because pop-ups keep the developers running. It’s just the nature of the internet.
Most of us can live with that, to a degree. What isn’t cool is when ads are served to us in sneaky or obnoxious ways. Until recently, Samsung users were forced to see ads when using the built-in weather app on their phones; meanwhile, Waze shows you ads for nearby locations whenever you stop at a red light. Believe it or not, I don’t want to take a 10-minute detour to Wendy’s at every stop sign.
Firefox now shows ads in the address bar
That brings us back to Mozilla. Firefox is all about not selling itself to maximise ad exposure. The company is proud that Firefox blocks cookies by default, stops social trackers from following your activity, and generally blocks more elements than other browsers. And yet, with one update you go from a normal, private address bar experience to one that serves you ads as you type.
looks like firefox quietly added ads into the address bar. here's where to turn it off ???? pic.twitter.com/wvTcz6258N
— spooky distance fields (@ladyaeva) October 6, 2021
It appears this new “feature” comes as part of Firefox version 92. If you simply don’t update, you won’t see it on your browser (I didn’t see it when I first opened Firefox today) but that’s not a sustainable solution. You should be able to update your browser to take advantage of new features and bug fixes without worrying about these ads.
How to disable address bar ads in Firefox
Luckily, it’s easy to disable these ads if you know where to look. Open Firefox’s settings, then click the “Privacy & Security” tab. Now, scroll down to Address Bar — Firefox Suggest. Here, you’ll see a new option at the bottom of the list, “Contextual suggestions,” with a new sub-option, “Include occasional sponsored suggestions.” That latter option is the one responsible for providing ads as you type in the address bar.
To stop those ads from appearing, you can just disable “Include occasional sponsored suggestions.” With that option turned off, you should never see ads displayed in the address bar. However, feel free to disable the parent option “Contextual suggestions” as well, if you don’t want Firefox suggesting websites and searches for you.