By Craig Buckler

Mozilla Blocks Unwanted Add-Ons in Firefox

By Craig Buckler

Firefox owes much of its success to add-ons. There are thousands of third-party extensions and 1.5 million are downloaded every day. Firebug is an essential tool for web developers and I use around a dozen other add-ons which make life a little more bearable.

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous software vendors have capitalized on Firefox’s extensions system. Third-party applications often bundle sneaky add-ons which are hidden within installation settings or installed without the user’s consent. Many vendors claim their add-on is a browsing enhancement (similarly, many will claim their OS boot-time processes aid the user’s experience). The fact remains that few of these add-ons are genuinely useful; many offer poor functionality, clutter the interface, hog memory and increase start-up times.

It’s not only software from dubious vendors either. You’ll find add-ons hiding in products from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Oracle, Nokia, and most anti-virus companies. Several are Mozilla’s competitors — will those companies care if a Firefox add-on is rigorously tested, slow, unstable, or unreliable? In the worse cases, add-ons have an adverse effect on security, are rarely updated or prevent uninstallation.

Mozilla has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism regarding Firefox’s speed. While some is justified, it often comes from users running numerous add-ons which they didn’t necessarily authorize. Finally, Mozilla has decided to rectify the situation…

Browser Upgrade Opt-in

When a user upgrades to a version of Firefox with add-on blocking, they’ll be presented with a list of installed add-ons. Those not previously authorized by the user will be disabled by default:

Firefox Add-On Opt-in

A confirmation dialog will summarize the user’s choices.

Add-On Opt-in will Become Essential

On start-up, Firefox will disable all new add-ons which were not previously authorized by the user. To enable the functionality, the user must tick the confirmation box:

Firefox Add-On Opt-in

Mozilla’s Add-Ons blog states:

We understand that there are legitimate use cases for some third-party add-on installations, and that those developers have done the right thing by asking users to opt in to the add-on, following our performance best practices, and providing a good user experience. Unfortunately, the extent of unwanted add-ons installed through these methods has caused us to take action, but we’re confident that users who truly want such add-ons to be installed will opt in when Firefox prompts them.

It’s about time. To be fair, Mozilla could not have foreseen the success of add-ons or how they would be hijacked, but this feature should have been added years ago.

Add-on blocking will appear in Firefox 8.0. We’re only at version 5, but Mozilla’s rapid update schedule means it should appear during early 2012.

  • I just paîd $22.85 for an îPad 2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Canon EOS Rebel Camera that we got for $38.78 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $625 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, CentHub.cöm

  • Firefox 6 is being released officially tomorrow.

  • Kaf

    They should be releasing this immediately as an urgent security update.

  • Alex Hall

    What I also don’t understand is why I can’t manually remove these add-ons. Sure, they can be disabled, but I don’t want my list of add-ons cluttered by those I didn’t ask for and now can’t actually remove!

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s funny that you describe Microsoft as “not [a] dubious vendor”. ;-)

  • ffx6 is not compatible with firebug, last time it was google toolbar, I’m going to opera

    • Other way around there champ… and… uh… enjoy lol

  • I hope they have an update for Firebug soon!

  • Don Morse

    Ummm, firebug is working here for me on Firefox 6. ??

  • Olivier B Deland

    If you have Firebug 1.7.1, you will get the warning about it not being compatible with FF 6. You just need to update to Firebug 1.8.1 manually, as the it doesn’t seem to give the option to update automatically.

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