Last week, Mozil­la said its Fire­fox brows­er would block third-par­ty track­ers for every­one by default and yes­ter­day, Mozil­la announced a new prod­uct that could give Fire­fox users even more pri­va­cy on the web: the Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work, which claims to be “a secure, encrypt­ed path to the web” — essen­tial­ly, a Fire­fox-made VPN (though Mozil­la nev­er calls it one).

The Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work seems like it could be use­ful, but it does have its lim­its. It’s a brows­er-based VPN, so it won’t mask any­thing you’re doing on the inter­net out­side of Fire­fox — you’d need to install a ded­i­cat­ed VPN app if you want to pro­tect more of your inter­net traf­fic. Mozil­la rec­om­mends using Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work if you want to have an encrypt­ed con­nec­tion while using Fire­fox on a pub­lic Wi-Fi net­work or if you just want to bet­ter hide from ad track­ers.

If you want to try the Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work, which is free, but in beta, you’ll have to be US-based, using Fire­fox on your desk­top or lap­top, and logged into your Fire­fox account. If you are, install the Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work from this page, click the icon that shows up in your tool­bar, and a small menu will drop down where you can switch the VPN on or off.

Image: Mozil­la

In a brief test, I did notice my down­load speed was 17 Mbps slow­er with the switch flipped on, but hon­est­ly couldn’t tell the dif­fer­ence while brows­ing. The Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work did change my IP, which should hin­der third-par­ty track­ers; but since it only moved my loca­tion out to a near­by sub­urb, sites might have still been able to serve me local ads. Also know that if you want to appear to browse from some­where you aren’t — or just want to watch episodes of Ter­race House before they air in the US — you’ll need to use anoth­er VPN ser­vice.

Mozil­la says Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work will be “free for a lim­it­ed time,” sug­gest­ing it may become a paid ser­vice in the future — which isn’t exact­ly a sur­prise. Last Octo­ber, Fire­fox showed an ad for a sub­scrip­tion to Pro­ton­VPN to a small group of Fire­fox users, sug­gest­ing Mozil­la may have been gaug­ing inter­est in offer­ing its own VPN. And Mozilla’s CEO recent­ly said Fire­fox intends to offer a paid sub­scrip­tion ser­vice for “pre­mi­um” fea­tures in Octo­ber and that band­width for a VPN ser­vice could be one of them.


How to set up a VPN The best VPN to use to pro­tect your pri­va­cy

The Fire­fox Pri­vate Net­work is the first project from Firefox’s revi­tal­ized Test Pilot pro­gram. The pro­gram used to be focused on let­ting users try more exper­i­men­tal fea­tures like ver­ti­cal tabs, but Mozil­la says the Test Pilot pro­gram will now be focused on “new, pri­va­cy-cen­tric prod­ucts” that are “just one step shy of gen­er­al pub­lic release.” Mozil­la hasn’t giv­en an indi­ca­tion of what might come next.

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