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Firefox is launching a new test pilot with Scroll to pay web publishers

Mozilla and Scroll have made an earlier-announced partnership slightly more official today with the wider release of a browser extension called “Firefox Better Web.” It’s part of Firefox’s ongoing effort to combat tracking on the web, but with the small twist that it includes the option to sign up for Scroll.

Scroll, if you don’t recall, is the $5-a-month service that stops ads from loading on certain websites. It’s not technically an ad blocker, but rather lets publishers know they shouldn’t serve them in the first place when you visit. For a limited time, the subscription will cost $2.50 per month for the first six months.

The Mozilla partnership essentially builds Scroll into a package of tools that Mozilla offers as a test pilot. The idea is to see how far Firefox can go blocking trackers and other malfeasance (short of full ad blocking) without fully breaking the web or de-funding publishers.

The extension includes Scroll and also a “customized Enhanced Tracking Protection setting that will block third-party trackers, fingerprinters, and cryptominers,” according to Mozilla. It will work across different desktop browsers, but of course it is designed primarily to be used with Firefox.

The deal with Mozilla should get Scroll a much larger userbase, but neither company would disclose any financial terms. Scroll takes a 30 percent cut of your subscription fee and pays the rest out to its partner publishers based on your web browsing habits.

It tracks those habits automatically, and the company tells me that it will soon offer users tools to delete their data — on top of a pledge to never sell that data. Scroll also pledges to make it easier for small publishers to sign up through an automated system soon.

Vox Media and The Verge are Scroll partners, but most websites aren’t. Now that Mozilla is giving the service some small seal of approval, perhaps that might change. If it doesn’t, it would be a little odd for Firefox to so prominently feature this single startup’s publisher payment system.

Both Mozilla and Scroll say they’d welcome more competition and a larger ecosystem of companies trying to figure out ways to pay publishers directly. But outside of systems like Brave Rewards, there just don’t seem to be that many out there that are viable.

Scroll is just the latest in a long line of attempts to get users to directly pay for visiting websites without asking them to sign up for a million different subscriptions or worry about convoluted micropayment systems. It does seem to have more momentum than earlier efforts.

Mozilla, for its part, is characterizing the partnership as a “test pilot,” and as such it will only be available in the US for the time being.