The popular browser Firefox has hundreds of popular and actively used add-ons or extensions. Now Mozilla, the parent non-profit organization developing the web browser, appears to be curating the Extensions Marketplace on the Firefox Browser add-ons website. A subtle but clear cautionary sentence greets Mozilla Firefox users who attempt to install popular addons or extensions not audited by Mozilla.
Mozilla created the Recommended Extensions program for Firefox in April 2019, and it appears the organization is now putting the plan to curate the extensions into place. The Firefox Extension Website now displays a warning that cautions users about the extension ‘Not being monitored by Mozilla’. Simply put, Mozilla could be dissuading Firefox web browser users from using certain extensions and promoting a few through the Recommended Extensions program.
Mozilla Following Apple Inc.’s Route In Curating Addons And Extensions?
It appears Mozilla has successfully created a two-tier system for addons or extensions through the Recommended Extensions program for Firefox. Although there are hundreds of popular Firefox addons being actively used by millions of Firefox users, there are only 100 extensions that are listed on the official add-ons repository, which is officially vetted by Mozilla. The organization calls them ‘Recommended Extensions’.
Any extension for Firefox, be it popular or not, which is not a part of the ‘Recommended Extensions program for Firefox’ has a clear warning label that reads as follows:
“This extension isn’t monitored by Mozilla. Make sure you trust the extension before you install it.”
Mozilla assures the Recommended Extensions program for Firefox is a way to ensure the popular web browser has the safest and most reliable add-ons or extensions. The organization claims the extensions that are included in the Recommended Extensions program undergo rigorous auditing. Moreover, the audit process not only happens before admitting the extensions but also after every update. Only after the extensions clear the Mozilla’s audit, are they allowed to go live.
Apart from the security and reliability audit, Mozilla requires that developers show commitment and that the extensions need to offer an “exceptional user experience”, and be relevant. In exchange for complying with the requirements, developers get the “recommended extension” stamp. Additionally, their extension is promoted on Mozilla’s AMO website and also in the Firefox web browser as part of the integrated recommendation program.
— ghacksnews (@ghacks) January 20, 2020
Currently, the curation of the addons or extensions for Firefox is visible on the Extensions hub on the Mozilla website. Firefox users who access the hub can browse add-ons in multiple ways. Mozilla displays categories at the top and then a list of recommended, top-rated, and trending extensions. Only the categories link and search list recommended and regular extensions. The rest of the categories offer extensions that are recommended by Mozilla.
Firefox web browser users who wish to access, view and download addons or extensions without Mozilla’s curation, can uncheck the option to only display recommended extensions. However, for the majority of the occasions, users are exposed to recommended extensions first. In other words, the exposure and promotion of the recommended addons for Firefox continue to remain high.
Are Extensions Not Recommended By Mozilla Unsafe To Download And Use?
All the extensions that are part of the Mozilla’s Recommended Extensions program for Firefox are assuredly audited and hence, come with a strong reliability factor. However, the decision to create the program will certainly have an impact on the majority of extensions for the Firefox web browser.
— RSSFeedsCloud (@RSSFeedsCloud) September 25, 2019
The first issue is of significantly decreased visibility of addons. This is because recommended extensions are displayed exclusively in many of the listings. The second issue is pertaining to usage. Owing to the rather scary looking cautionary sentence, quite a few Firefox users would be instantly dissuaded. The sentence seems to strongly imply that there may be a risk involved in installing these extensions. Interestingly, Mozilla’s “learn more” link that is displayed next to the warning tries to explain the risks of installing non-Recommended extensions. Needless to add, the explanation is straightforward and takes away a lot of implied danger.
Incidentally, Google hasn’t started displaying such a warning on its webpage for Chrome extensions. That doesn’t mean popular extensions for Google Chrome are much safer than those for Firefox. Incidentally, Mozilla did audit all extensions in the past before they were made available on the Firefox AMO extensions store. Hence the cautionary sentence appears to unnecessarily downgrade the appeal of several good Firefox extensions.