Mozilla Whitelists Some Firefox Extensions, But Has it Out for Them

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 04, 2014

Early last year, I posted a piece on Mozilla radically changing its approach to plugins in the Firefox browser. Plugins and extensions are, of course, part of the reason why many of us chose to use Firefox in the first place. There is a huge ecosystem of useful ones. However, especially since Firefox moved to a rapid release cycle, extensions have cause many performance problems. For that reason, Mozilla has been steadily overhauling its process of handling extensions in Firefox, especially when it comes to extensions that are automatically enabled.

In a new blog post, Mozilla makes clear that it is taking all of this to the next level.  "To provide a better and safer experience on the Web, we have been working to move Firefox away from plugins," the post says. Is this the end of Firefox as we know it?

According to the post:

"After much testing and iteration, we determined that Firefox would no longer activate most plugins by default and instead opted to let people choose when to enable plugins on sites they visit. We call this feature in Firefox click-to-play plugins. We strongly encourage site authors to phase out their use of plugins. The power of the Web itself, especially with new technologies like emscripten and asm.js, makes plugins much less essential than they once were. Plus, plugins present real costs to Firefox users. Though people may not always realize it, we know plugins are a significant source of poor performance, crashes and security vulnerabilities. Developers will increasingly find what they need in the Web platform."

This is a fairly two-fisted approach for Mozilla to take, given the creativity that many plug-in developers have brought to their game. Mozilla does allow the following: "We know there are plugins that our users rely on for essential tasks and we want to provide plugin authors and developers with a short-term exemption from our default click-to-play approach. Today, we’re announcing the creation of a temporary plugin whitelist."

Essentially, any plugin author can submit an application to be considered for inclusion on the whitelist by following the steps outlined in Mozilla's plugin whitelist policy. Most importantly, the company is asking for authors to demonstrate a credible plan for moving away from NPAPI-based plugins and towards standards-based Web solutions.

Can you live without your favorite Firefox plugins? Mozilla appears to be headed toward officially eschewing them.