Mozilla unblocks one sneaky Microsoft add-in

Second component to be unblocked within 48 hours, Mozilla's top engineer says

In the future, Firefox will include built-in tools that check whether components have been added by third-party software, then disable the add-on or plug-in by default and notify the user and allow him or her to enable the component(s). That kind of check, if it had existed earlier this year, would have kept the Microsoft software from being installed without Firefox users noticing.

"We're big believers in informed user choice," said Shaver. "So we're going to improve notifications to users when plug-ins are installed. We do that with add-ons in Firefox now, which checks for those added since the last time you ran the browser. We will do the same thing for plug-ins, likely in Firefox 3.7."

That version of Firefox, the second of two minor upgrades scheduled for the next six months, is currently slated to ship in March 2010.

Since Version 3.0, Firefox has notified users when any new add-ons, called "extensions" by Mozilla, have been installed since the last time the browser was launched. That notification, however, is "poor," acknowledged Shaver, since it simply highlights the new add-ons in a window and most importantly, does so after the add-on has already been installed.

The plan now is to make those notifications clearer, and also to warn about system-installed items before they're running, Shaver said.

"We're also building our plug-in check into the product for Firefox 3.6," added Shaver, referring to the outdated plug-in campaign that Mozilla kicked off last month, and bolstered last week when it launched a plug-in checking service . Firefox 3.6 will warn users of outdated third-party plug-ins, like Adobe's Flash or Apple 's QuickTime, when the browser reaches a site that calls upon such software.

"We've learned a lot from this," concluded Shaver. "We're not trying to get into an adversarial model, but this was more visible than most [blocks in the past] because of the size of the company involved and the history of the plug-in.

"I would call the communication between us and Microsoft 'greatly clarified' as of now," Shaver said.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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