back to article Mozilla tries to silence add-on developers' scream

Mozilla has been forced to justify its decision to herd third party coders, whose add-ons sometimes break the Firefox user interface, away form the browser's components directory. In a meaty blog post on Saturday, the open source browser maker’s development boss, Mike Connor, explained the rationale behind Mozilla’s move to …


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  1. adam payne

    What the hell?!?

    People like extensions, I like extensions, lock them down at your peril Mozilla.

    1. pedrodude


      Some extensions are unnecessary though, especially many of the available UI customisation ones lacking any functionality except to to make FF look good in Aero or whatever. FF has personas, leave it at that.

      Having said that I oppose the lockdown in principle; it's the user's own fault if they install a near useless UI tweak and then it goes and breaks on them when it's time to upgrade.

      1. bocan

        Re: Hmm...

        As I said in another comment, no one's talking about extensions here. This is how software makers would install dll's into the components directory to get around having a properly tested and approved add-in.

  2. Greg J Preece

    I smell a fork...

    You can take my Firebug from my cold, dead hands.

  3. Glen 9


    If they take Adblock away from me I'm giving up on Firefox.

    1. SIGTERMer

      There are other ways you know...

      you can use your hosts file to block ads. there's a regularly updated file containing all known ad hosts out there.

      besides, while your completely free to block ads, some websites depend on them.

      1. Mostor Astrakan
        Thumb Up

        I have this great idea!

        "while your completely free to block ads, some websites depend on them."

        Well, for those with unlimited bandwidth, why not make an advertisement management system that will download and in some cases click through the ads for you, storing the relevant data in a pre-determined space for later perusal at your leisure, without actually showing them just yet?

        The websites would still get their revenue, the advertising company would still get the click-throughs they crave so much, the users would enjoy a content-rich environment with no distractions... Everyone's a winner!

        Actually, I'm amazed that such a thing doesn't exist yet.


          Exists already

          and a number of them at that. Ougo, for example.

  4. The Indomitable Gall


    Lockdown, in an open source product? How does that work then?

  5. Doug Glass

    Let Me Get This Right

    The independent developers want to use Mozilla's bat, ball, glove, bases and complete stadium and then make up their own set of rules. Never happen; get use to it guys the landscape has just changed.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      The landscape changed...

      ...and stayed the same.

      You really don't get free software, do you? If enough people care about having a platform with "unlimited customisation" then they'll fork Firefox. There are an infinite number of landscapes. Ask Mosaic and Netscape.

      I think that Mozilla underestimates the extent to which many of us use Firefox *because of* the extensions, though. If they're worried about the drag that extensions impose, just watch how many of us stick with version 3.5 indefinitely.

  6. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    If they try to kill off Adblock and/or NoScript ...

    ... Then Firefox will be forced to branch. Many people want these features and its *their choice* to have them, so Mozilla will only drive people away from their version of Firefox. (But then thats what every control freak always seems to fail to learn. Every attempt at controlling people creates a pressure for change away from that control. So go ahead Mozilla, try to impose your control over us. You will loose more than us).

    Big Brother Icon, because that's the Utopian world for all control freaks, yet the Dystopia for the vast majority of people, so the control freaks will ultimately always loose their power to control.

  7. davebarnes

    Huge mistake

    I use Firefox for 2 reasons:

    1. The ability to view my bookmarks in a left window pane.

    2. Addons. While I only use 4, they are extremely important to me. Without them, what is the point of using Firefox? I might as well use Safari or Chrome or Opera.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Opera bookmarks in left-pane

      Opera 10 has bookmarks in a left- or right-pane, button or F4 key away.

      (And given Opera's billion hidden features -- including Adblock, I bet those 4 FF add-ons are unneccessary, as well. Or use Opera User Javascript extensions, if you need to.) ;)

      Try it and you won't go back. ;)

      1. Trixr
        Thumb Down

        (no title)

        The trouble with the wonderful world of Opera is that the built-in adblocker is shite, at least it was the last time I tried (in the last year or so).

        Also, no Gmail Manager, which is my second-most wanted extension.

      2. Bilgepipe


        Opera is incompatible with far too many websites for it to be taken seriously, much as I like it. I can even open Google Mail with it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dont upgrade due to extensions!

    Thats me !

    Recently i have been hounded by more updates to FF than i can remember for a long time.

    Both my windows, linux and mac machines seem to want to update every other week and i depend on web developer, firebug and ABP so without those i have held back my upgrade.

    1. Phil 33


      Web Developer, Firebug and ABP work fine in the latest 3.5 updates, so why not upgrade?

  9. Inachu
    Thumb Up


    This is the equivalent to WIndows and the old days of DLL hell where a programmer would place their DLL files in any place they chose as if they had free reign over the OS when in

    fact they should have have their name on a CODERS WALL OF SHAME.

    Look people keep your stuff in your own directory.

    If I install pacman on my pc I expect not to see any pacman icon in my system32 folder!

    I also do not expect to see any PACMAN icon in ANY subfolder of the c:\windows or c:\winnt

    Some of you coders still put your uninstall programs in c:\windows\temp and that

    just screams NOOB!

    If I was your manager I'd fire you for the above practices!

    Good going firefox team for setting good standards! Please ban those who refuse to follow those standards.

    1. Bruno Girin
      Thumb Up


      Thanks Inachu! At last a rational reply to that article!

      Note for those who need to RTFA: Mozilla are not saying they are getting rid of extensions, they are changing the way extensions work to ensure that:

      1. badly written extensions no longer break the browser,

      2. add-on compatibility with different versions of FF is improved to reduce issues when upgrading,

      3. simple extensions are easier to write.

      So in practice, you should see more extensions rather than less. But some extension mechanisms will be phased out (XUL overlays in particular) to favour mechanisms that are less at risk of breaking the browser if misused (or badly written) and are easier to upgrade.

      At the end of the day, if the developers of Firebug, possibly one of the largest and most complex extensions available, say that it's "not a big deal" (, it probably isn't.

      As for AdBlock and NoScript, the developers of those extensions are probably some of the most talented and dedicated coders on the Mozilla stack so they should be able to adapt their work to the new interfaces and/or liaise with Mozilla efficiently in order to resolve porting issues.

      The ones who should be worried are the ones who wrote extensions without understanding the underlying technology or can't be worried to update them but I won't shed a tear over the loss of those.

  10. Michael Fremlins

    He has a point

    I can't actually remember a time when I have updated Mozilla and one or two add-ons are not available for the new version at that time. Alas I find out the hard way - update Mozilla, then get a warning that so and so add-on is kaput.

    Perhaps the Mozilla people should add something to the update process that informs users before updating that George's or Bill's add-on won't be available. I could do this myself, by why should I need to?

    Of course, some of the blame for this shenanigans is down to the add-on writers. As I look now, Mozilla Firefox is at version 3.5.7. Adblock is shown as "not compatible". I wonder what a straw poll would show for incompatible add-ons.

  11. bocan
    Thumb Up

    Why not actually read the article?

    All the posters here need to buy a clue. They're not talking about extensions. They're talking about the back door injection of code through the "components" directory.

    1. Inachu

      Most post deals with your reply.

      When any programmer makes a cool program but insists his program must jump outside of any folder to do his big whoopdiedoo eye candy make over then leads to infections on those files that do not conform to this new procedure that the firefox dev team says they want to take place.

      Should there be a lock down? YES!

      Should the developers listen to those who do not heed the call? NO!

      If you can not play well then use your own fork of Firefox and use the source code and make your own browser but DO NOT CALL IT FIREFOX OR MOZILLA!

      The Firefox team is trying to shrink their foot print to lessen the amount of errors and sources for malware injections and other bad stuff.

      By reducing your foot print you get better security and a faster product.

      If you do not like those two things get off the firefoxboat.

    2. Luckyrat

      Which article?

      The problem is that this reg article is reporting about something completely unrelated to the blog post it references. There are valid comments here regarding the components directory change and Connor’s blog but the confusion sewn by the El Reg author means this is not the best place to discuss either issue. (maybe try El Reg's recent articles about the components directory and/or Connor's post?).

  12. OkKTY8KK5U

    Someone is drinking their own Kool-Aid

    The only reason I use Firefox - and because I'm one of those heretics who does not care about tabs or side-panes or whatnot, the only reason I have ever used Firefox - is the add-ons. And because Firefox has changed things I dislike over the years (using a non diff-able database for bookmarks, mucking with the "Library" interface, etc), I've come to rely on interface-changing add-ons just to make my browsing experience tolerable. And, as noted, the internet is actually broken without AdBlock and NoScript. Broken. As in, unusable.

    I might be the only one, of course, but I doubt it. So I wonder what the Firefox devs are smoking. This business about add-ons "breaking" the user interface sounds a lot like Steve Jobs thinking that it "breaks" his beautiful works of art for users to install software of which he has not personally approved.

    I agree with MinionZero: if Mozilla tries to lock Firefox down too much, the project will end up being forked. And everyone will lose.

    I'd like to take this moment to humbly suggest the addition of a "facepalm" icon.

  13. blackworx
    Thumb Up

    Doubt it'll affect Adblock...

    ...but I am partial to the Noia Xtreme theme's UI customisations, which I've never had a problem with but will no doubt be stymied from now on. Oh well.

    I agree with the decision. Fine when the main competition was piss-poor IE6, but the plugins free-for-all can't carry on if Firefox is to compete with supposedly slicker stuff like Chrome.

  14. Mark McC

    Title add-on incompatible with this version of ElReg

    Maybe Mozilla should start incorporating more add-ons' functionality into their core product? As Firefox stands, a vanilla install is slower and clunkier than Chrome or Opera, and lacking in features compared to most of the competition. I'm scratching my head trying to remember the last innovative browser feature to debut in Firefox that wasn't simply copied from somewhere else. Add-ons are the only trump card in its deck - without them it's a pretty poor browser in today's market.

    I don't know what ramifications this will have for extension developers, but for Mozilla's sake I hope it isn't serious. Chrome's extensions project is making great strides, and any move that might damage Firefox's only killer feature probably isn't a good idea.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Freedom - Lest we forget

    Remember how the 'free' in open source is not just about cost but the freedom to do what you want?

    No? Didn't think so. It's been a very long time since that aspect of 'free software' was explored around the billion dollar Mo$illa Corporation. (Is it true the CEO drives a battered up jalopy and lives in a shotgun shack? No? Oh. I see...)

    Where's has the freedom been *expressed* to remove all the unwanted bloat from Firefox and restore it to a simple browser? Oh, you nerds can waffle to normal humans that they can download the source and remove it all if they want... but where has this actually happened? Where is the FireLight download from someone know knows how? What's the URL?

    Firefox being open source is as nonsensical as the Freedom of Information Act or your right to have your DNA taken off the police database when you've done nothing wrong - You have to jump though so many hoops that in practical terms those rights may as well not exist for most people.

  16. rseeker

    Misleading article!

    Connor's blog post had nothing to do with locking down the components directory. By trying to tie together two things that have nothing to do with each other, this article really creates a false impression. The article should be updated and/or withdrawn.

    The components directory was locked down so that all add-ons would have to be installed through the normal Add-ons Manager mechanism, meaning that users would know they were installed, would be able to manage them through the Add-ons Manager UI, and would have the option to uninstall them. The components directory was locked down to prevent sneaky installers from adding add-ons that the user didn't know was there and couldn't remove.

    Connor's post was about plans to create an easier (for users and developers) way to create add-ons. That's it.

  17. raving angry loony

    works for me

    I fail to see how Mozilla can completely lock down what I would call "stealth" extensions - extensions that don't actually show up in the extensions listing and don't allow you to manage them yourself.

    That said, if they can manage it, I'm all for it. I, as the user, want to know what extensions are installed, and be able to remove them. Stealth installation of hidden extensions is a problem that really does need to be resolved.

    From what I can see, Mozilla is not stopping add-on developers from creating the things. They're simply trying to stop the installation of stealth add-ons that then don't show up and can't be managed via the add-on management menu. So all the protests about this "lock down" seem to me to be based on false assumptions at best.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    I am already using SeaMonkey :)

    Gave up on FF as soon as it was introduced as it lacked a critical (for me) setup option - the ability to set the cache directory in a place of my choosing (separate hard drive and dedicated partition on all my PCs). I know there is some way to do it if you want to manually edit XML files, but it was easier to switch from Mozilla to SeaMonkey, which preserved the setting. Looked at FF a couple of times since, but I found no reason to switch away from SeaMonkey - more functionality (HTML editor and mail client built-in), and more stable.

    Re idea to lock down FF - I have no issues with "put all your add-ons in separate directories" but maybe FF development team would consider LOCKING DOWN THEIR ADD ON INTERFACE so they stop breaking add-ons each time a new version comes along, and maybe include in the basic package some basic tools to save/restore the state of the XML config files so you can try out and uninstall add-ons without having to wipe out and reinstall FF from scratch (happened a few times and mozbackup can only do so much).

    They talk about bad developers - and yes, there are plenty of those - but FF regularly breaks plugins written TO THEIR OWN SPECS, and I think they need to take some blame for it. Maybe they need to STOP CHANGING plugin interfaces and spend some time thinking about backwards compatibility. MS would have failed ages ago if most programs written for DOS 3.3 would have failed on DOS 4.01, 5.0, 6.0 or 6.2. Even on Windows, I can run Win 3.0 programs on my quad core and XP Pro almost 20 years later, while in the world of Mozilla developers, they expect to change the rules every one to two years and get away with it.

    There is no testing tool you can download as a regular Joe to test if a plugin adheres to FF development guidelines - maybe because said guidelines are in a state of flux? Could it be that Mozilla team needs to spend some time on a certification tool ANYBODY can run to validate a good vs a bad plugin or extension instead of deciding which plugins are allowed and which are not? God forbid, maybe include it in the browser itself, so when you install a new toy it tells you "This plugin does not conform to Mozilla guideline #200009, abort or continue"?

    Most plugins were broken between FF1.x and FF2.xx; now it seems that breaking will be at each .x revision - from 3.5 to 3.6 to.... :(

    1. Inachu

      Good point.

      Not sure if they will offer any validation tool other than using visual inspections.

  19. Ted Mielczarek


    Your previous article and Mike Connor's blog post are completely unrelated. The "component directory lockdown" has no effect on properly written extensions. It's intended to prevent misguided software that drops files directly into Firefox's install directory from breaking users when they update (a problem we've seen in the real world). Mike Connor's blog post is about the future direction of extensions, which has nothing to do with that.

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