Mozilla to Bar Many Legacy Plug-ins in Firefox By End of 2016

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 12, 2015

As we've reported several times, Google has been introducing big changes in its Chrome browser, especially when it comes to how the browser handles extensions. If you've regularly used either or both of the most popular open source Internet browsers--Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox--then you're probably familiar with the performance and security problems that some extensions for them have caused.

Mozilla, like the Chrome team, is also focused on the effect that extensions have on performance and reliability. Now, Benjamin Smedberg, a Mozilla senior engineering manager, in a post to a blog, has confirmed that Mozilla will bar almost all plug-ins built using decades-old NPAPI technology by the end of 2016.

Both Mozilla and Google have decreed that the longstanding Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI), which extensions have worked with for many years, is the source of many performance and reliability problems in their browsers. And, Google already decreed that extensions in the Chrome Web Store would be phasing out NPAPI support. 

Now, Mozilla is heading in the same direction, although it will not bar the use of Adobe Flash. According to the Mozilla blog post:

"Features such as clipboard access which used to require plugins are now available via native Web APIs. As browsers and the Web have grown, NPAPI has shown its age. Plugins are a source of performance problems, crashes, and security incidents for Web users. Mozilla intends to remove support for most NPAPI plugins in Firefox by the end of 2016. Firefox began this process several years ago with manual plugin activation, allowing users to activate plugins only when they were necessary. This decision mirrors actions by other modern browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, which have already removed support for legacy plugins."

"Because Adobe Flash is still a common part of the Web experience for most users, we will continue to support Flash within Firefox as an exception to the general plugin policy. Mozilla and Adobe will continue to collaborate to bring improvements to the Flash experience on Firefox, including on stability and performance, features and security architecture."

Mozilla is wise not to bar Adobe Flash, as nearly 80 percent of video content on the web is still Flash-based. Several attempts to popularize other video formats have hardly put a dent in Flash's dominance.

"The Mozilla team wants to work closely with affected publishers to make this transition as painless as possible," the blog post notes. Undoubtedly, during the transition period, there will be some frustrated users who depend on longstanding Firefox extensions, but Mozilla is making the right move overall.