Mozilla teases subscription-based Firefox release

Premium VPN and secure storage features among privacy-centric add-ons touted for the web browser

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Mozilla is planning to release a subscription-based version of its Firefox browser with premium features that are centred on boosting security and user privacy.

In a bid rebalance the firm's revenue streams, the company will explore releasing premium versions of its software, with a subscription-based version of the flagship Firefox internet browser on the cards for a 2019 release.

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Such a release may comprise an in-built virtual private network (VPN) service, with higher bandwidth than a free' version, plus a means for users to securely store data, according to the firm's CEO Chris Beard.

Moreover, the developer will aim to roll out its first subscription service before the end of 2019, in all likelihood for October, Beard said in an interview with German publication t3n.

"We are working on three sources of income and we want to rebalance them," he said. "We have Search, but we also make content. We have a company called Pocket that discovers and curates content. There is also sponsored content. This is the content business.

"And the third one we are working on and developing as we think about products and services are premium levels for some of these offerings."

The revelation comes shortly after Mozilla announced a string of privacy-centric features last week for its Firefox browser.

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Third-party trackers will be blocked by default with Enhanced Tracking Protection available as standard, and the browser will block Facebook from tracking users altogether. Mozilla is also releasing features to help users manage password logins and monitor email accounts for a potential breach.

Beard confirmed that no feature currently available on the free Firefox version will then become a premium feature; rather any subscription-based web browser will launch with new features altogether.

"We were founded on the belief that the internet should be open and accessible to all," said Mozilla's senior vice president for Firefox, Dave Camp. "A high-performing, free and private-by-default Firefox browser will continue to be central to our core service offerings.

"We also recognize that there are consumers who want access to premium offerings, and we can serve those users too without compromising the development and reach of the existing products and services that Firefox users know and love.

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"We will share more details in the coming months about the types of premium service options that we will be making available."

Mozilla's plans for premium services may fall into a wider business strategy that also includes significant changes to its Thunderbird email client.

The company announced plans in early January to revamp the service with a fresh roadmap, new hires, and a vastly improved user experience (UX). Specifically, this will involve better Gmail integration and mechanisms to fix slowness in the software, among other improvements.

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