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Mozilla reveals Firefox add-on lockdown

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 13, 2015
Mozilla yesterday detailed plans to require Firefox add-ons to be digitally signed, a move meant to bear down on rogue and malicious extensions, and one that resembled Google's decision years ago to secure Chrome's add-on ecosystem.

Villalobos said that Mozilla aims to debut the warning-only transition with Firefox 39, now slated for release on June 30. If it makes that schedule — Mozilla often pushes back changes to future release cycles — that means only signed add-ons would be allowed as of Firefox 41, which has a Sept. 22 launch date.

Mozilla's current Release build is Firefox 35; the next, Firefox 36, is scheduled to launch Feb. 24.

The Firefox add-on changes are reminiscent of those Google has pursued for Chrome since mid-2012, when the search company gradually began applying controls over extensions. Like Villalobos yesterday, Google cited rogue add-ons — particularly those that changed the browser's home page and sneaky criminals, who silently installed malicious extensions onto unwary users' copies of Chrome — for its lockdown.

In May 2014, Google crippled almost all add-ons that had been installed from sources other than the Chrome Web Store, the browser's official distribution market.

While Mozilla won't go that far, Villalobos' announcement was met with skepticism by many who appended comments to his post.

"This is contrary to all of Mozilla's values," asserted Daniel Miranda in a Thursday comment. "All the talk of openness and then turning the browser into a walled garden is unacceptable. It is not compatible with anything Mozilla has stood for. It is a political solution masking over a technical failure of Firefox to properly sandbox its add-ons."

"So Mozilla principle #5, 'Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on it,' is now a misnomer," said AnonCoward. "They only have this ability IF approved by Mozilla."

AnonCoward's reference was to the fifth of 10 principles that Mozilla touts as its "manifesto."

"This is a very bad idea," Mike said yesterday. "Making the browser yet more Chrome-like will not help regain users, and will not help your goodwill. Someone should hire some people with a better sense of the Firefox community at Mozilla. Really, this is getting dire."

Mozilla also solicited comments and questions about the new policy in a new discussion thread on one of its add-on forums.


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