For a long time, Mozilla has been working on what is supposed to be the future of Firefox, a revamped web browser ready to offer the best in security and performance. To achieve this, the company has been working on several new features, such as a new theme engine, blocking NPAPI plugins, multithreading and WebExtension. All functions, except the WebExtension are already implemented in the browser and have not had serious repercussions in the system. However, the latter is giving us more and more to talk about.
WebExtension, as we have explained on other occasions, is a new concept of extensions for the browser. These extensions are very similar to those of its main rival, Google Chrome, and will allow the browser to reduce resource consumption and improve security. However to do so, it will have to sacrifice a large number of features that are not compatible with this new format. Additionally, it will also have to adapt all the current extensions to this format.
Undoubtedly, the decision to move from normal extensions to the new WebExtension format has been one of the most criticized decisions by the Mozilla user community. It is true that this feature, in addition to improving the performance and security of the extensions will shorten distances with Google Chrome. Many (but not all) of the extensions will still be compatible with the new Firefox 57. However, the price to pay is too high according to many users. Also many of the extensions that in the past marked the difference between both browsers are going to be totally unusable.
A quick search in the Mozilla extension store shows that, as of today, only 2279 of the 18814 total extensions available for this browser are ready to run on Firefox 57 and the new WebExtension concept, leaving the rest remaining from that version totally unusable.
Extensions for Firefox 57
There is still time as the Firefox 57 will not reach users until next November 14, 2017. The number of unusable extensions will be reduced somewhat to that date; however the numbers of extensions that will stop working in the new version of Mozilla browser are important and will be a definite blow to users.
Making Firefox extensions compatible with WebExtension does not depend only on the developers
Some of the changes that Firefox has recently recieved, such as Electrolysis (the multiprocess) required that both developers adapt the extensions and Mozilla adjust the browser to make it compatible with them. That’s why today we can enjoy this excellent and necessary function without great sacrifices but with the new web extensions it will be the opposite.
In addition to having developers re-program their projects almost from scratch, not all of it will work because WebExtension’s access limitations are far superior (for security) to those of normal extensions. Hence, many extensions like the mythical Classic Theme Restoree will no longer work in this browser.
We will have to rethink this in the next month of November. After recording the impact of these new extensions and registering how many have been able to adapt to the new format. However it’s pretty clear that it will be a very hard blow for many users and that in turn will affect Mozilla’s market share.