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Mozilla launches first revenue-generating service, VPN for Firefox

Mozilla launches first revenue-generating service, VPN for Firefox

Virtual private network is part of Mozilla's strategy to expand revenue options for Firefox browser

Credit: Dreamstime

Mozilla has launched its virtual private network (VPN) in the US, Canada, the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand, forming part of its strategy to expand revenue opportunities for its Firefox browser.

Dubbed Mozilla VPN, the service costs US$4.99 per month and is available for devices running Windows and Android.

The service will be offered on macOS and Linux devices "soon," while the iOS version is currently in beta, Mozilla said. For the monthly fee, users can access the VPN from up to five devices.

Mozilla kicked off a VPN preview – then tagged Firefox Private Network – nearly a year ago that relied on a browser extension and was free to users within the U.S.

The Firefox Private Network was seen as the first of the paid services Mozilla would eventually introduce – another might be online storage – in an attempt to create new revenue streams to augment what the organisation is paid to make specific search engines the Firefox default.

It's not clear what portion, if any, of the fees for Mozilla VPN will be retained by the browser maker. The supplier of Mozilla's VPN servers, Swedish-company Mullvad, sells VPN service for the flat rate of €5 per month, the equivalent of $5.72 a month at the moment.

Although Firefox Private Network utilised Cloudflare's proxy servers, Mozilla switched to Mullvad, an open-source creator and maintainer of a global network of proxy servers. Mullvad's policies appear to be a good fit with Mozilla's overarching attention to privacy: Mullvad logs "nothing whatsoever that can be connected to" an account, which is labeled with a number rather than a user name.

Mozilla VPN will use the WireGuard open-source protocol – it promises better performance and less power consumption than rival standards. Mullvad supports WireGuard.

VPN usage exploded in March when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses and governments to shutter, then send employees home to work from there. In most cases, those people needed a VPN to remotely access organization data, ensuring that the transmissions back and forth between home and office or agency servers was secure.

VPN usage in the U.S. climbed by over 120% between March 8 and March 22, for instance.

It's unlikely that Mozilla VPN will benefit from that work-at-home requirement. Workers would have been long equipped with VPN, almost certainly by their employer.

Mozilla made its case for VPN without citing the above. Instead, the firm ticked off general security and privacy reasons for using VPN, including broad-based anonymity and encryption when using public Wi-Fi, such as that in classrooms and coffee shops. Mozilla did hint at the endemic chaos of 2020, though.

"In a world where unpredictability has become the 'new normal,' we know that it's more important than ever for you to feel safe, and for you to know that what you do online is your own business," Mozilla said in a July 15 post to its main blog.

Users can register with Mozilla VPN here. A Firefox account – used primarily for syncing copies of the browser on multiple devices – as is a credit card.


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