Firefox Automatic Extension Updates
Firefox users will be automatically notified if an update to an installed extension or theme is available for public download. The add-on can be downloaded directly from within the web browser's interface. It will be installed and the browser restarted afterwards. Several problems with this procedure exist which can be exemplified by looking at the latest Fast Dial update. Roman Sharp send me information about the problems this add-on was causing with its 2.16 update.
The developer of the Fast Dial add-on did add malware like features to his add-on according to hundreds of angry commenters on the official add-on page at Mozilla. The latest versions of the Fast Dial add-on changed the default search engine and removed the first three fast dial fields with links pointing to websites selected by the author of the extension. The add-on did also change the browser's homepage to a Fast Dial page. What makes the matter worse is that there is no dialog to notify the user about the changes and no way to opt out during the installation.
The problems with the automatic update of add-ons and themes are therefor the following:
- There is no telling what changes are made to the system. No direct display of a changelog or information about the changes.
- There is no lock on system settings, add-ons can change various user defined settings without notification
- A backup is missing which could be used to restore the old properties prior to the installation
It would be really great to see a System Restore like feature in Firefox so that it would be possible to undo changes done by add-ons, themes or even Firefox updates.
Update: Fast Dial is still maintained and updated by its author. We have added a screenshot to this article so that you can see how the extension looks like in the browser.Advertisement