NEW YORK: Mozilla, the owner of the Firefox browser, is the latest business to embrace native advertising, following in the footsteps of firms including Facebook, Hearst Newspapers and Pandora.

Mozilla plans to sell sponsored positions within its desktop browser, which currently displays nine tiles on opening, showing a user's most visited sites. Three of these would be available to advertisers in a format Mozilla is calling Directory Tiles.

The development came as a surprise as the company has been in the front line of the cookie wars, with its plan to adopt a default position of blocking third-party cookies. These enable advertisers to track online users' visits to the websites on which they advertise. 

Consequently it has been seen as having an anti-marketing stance.

Denelle Dixon-Thayer, vp of business affairs, disagreed with this point, telling Advertising Week that Mozilla was open to any content that brought value to users.

And Darren Herman, vp of content services at Mozilla, told The Drum that Directory Tiles "aligns with our vision of a better internet through trust and transparency". He added that the "product roadmap" had yet to be fully developed but that content partners were being approached.

The native ad bandwagon has gathered pace in the past few weeks. Hearst Newspapers partnered with Nativo, a native ad technology business, with a view to implementing native advertising across its 1,700 US newspapers sites and associated digital properties.

Justin Choi, Nativo CEO, told MediaPost: "Native has gone from being a question mark among publishers to now, where it's just a matter of time, and timing."

Elsewhere, Facebook Paper, the social networking site's recently launched news app, drew praise from observers, who saw its potential to pull in more advertising expenditure.

"Paper is Facebook's latest - and smartest - move towards controlling the flow of content, and all the native ad dollars that go with it," said Contently, the professional content provider.

And streaming music service Pandora intends to get in on the act as well. VentureBeat reported CEO Brian McAndrews telling a quarterly earnings call that it would be investing more in native advertising opportunities, particularly with regard to connected automobiles.

Data sourced from Advertising Week, The Drum, MediaPost, Contently, VentureBeat; additional content by Warc staff