Firefox 19 protects you from search engine changes, sort of

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 2, 2012

Sometimes when you install software on a Windows system you may end up with more than you have bargained for. I'm talking about toolbar installations and the changes they make to your operating system and web browsers that you use. This may include the installation of a toolbar in browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer, as well as the modification of the default search provider and home page.

Depending on the level of integration into the system, it may take a while to get things cleaned up again. It should not take you too long for instance to get Firefox cleaned up again if you are tech savvy, but regular users may find it difficult to change the search provider or home page to their previous values.

The homepage itself is not that difficult to change, all you need to do is click on the Firefox button, select Option and change the Home Page value back to what you want to use.

The search engine is another beast though, especially if you do not display the search form in one of the toolbars. Your best option until now was to load the about:config configuration page, filter for keyword.url and enter another search engine into the form.

Firefox from version 19 on will make that a little bit more comfortable for its users. Users of the browser will receive a notification at the top of it that informs them about the search engine change first time that is happening.

firefox search engine protection

It informs you about the search engine the browser is using for searches from the location bar, and provides you with the option to keep using that search engine or to switch to Google Search instead. Why Google? Because it is the default search engine of Firefox.

If you select no, you won't be bothered again by the notification. This can be an issue if the search engine that you are using gets changed in the future, as you won't get the option anymore to restore it.

The parameter browser.keywordURLPromptDeclined defines if you have denied (1) that prompt or if you did not (0). You can change it to 0 at any time to get the notification again, but it only lets you change it to Google Search.

A feature to restore any search engine that is currently configured would have been better in my opinion. Still, the protection is a great addition for users who work with Google Search and want a quick way of changing the search engine back in case it gets changed.

The feature will launch in Firefox 19. It is currently already live in Aurora and Nightly builds.


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  1. Radbrad said on April 1, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Firefox 19 didnt give me an option on my search engine. Just took over and gave me yahoo. Im now in forums trying to work out how to get my freedom of choice back.


  2. FX said on December 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    WebRTC coming soon in Firefox

  3. Ray said on December 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    This is a step in the right direction. I hate it when AVG will sneak its own search engine through toolbar install.

  4. Ken Saunders said on December 3, 2012 at 12:41 am

    This article brings up a few questions for me.
    Does locking preferences still work as described at the URLs below?
    If not what has changed)?

    And why doesn’t Firefox make locking preferences user friendly to prevent unrelated software from changing things?

  5. Mark Mcc said on December 3, 2012 at 12:36 am

    If they’re going to start improving the search bar (and they should) I’d much prefer them to integrate search providers into Firefox Sync. I tend to use the Add to Search Bar extension to add lots of custom search providers with keywords and it bugs me when a provider I added on my netbook or tablet isn’t on my PC.

    Chrome and Opera sync this pretty seamlessly.

    More protection from search hijacks is nice, although nothing can provide as much protection as paying attention to the installation steps when installing new software instead of clicking Next->Next->Next.

  6. boris said on December 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Better than nothing. Although I would have preferred smarter approach of Firefox remembering previous configuration or yesterday’s configuration

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