Mozilla limits Firefox's Add-ons Manager search results to fully reviewed add-ons

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 29, 2013

You have three options when it comes to install extensions or add-ons in the Firefox web browser. You can head over to the official Mozilla website and search for add-ons there, use the built-in Add-ons Manager in Firefox to do the very same thing, or rely on third party sources to do so.

The two official ways of finding and installing add-ons in Firefox provided users with the same functionality up until now. A search in the Add-ons Manager or on the website returned the same set of add-ons for the browser that users could install in it afterwards.

Mozilla announced a change to this practice yesterday on the official Mozilla Add-ons Blog.

The Add-ons Manager from now on will only return fully reviewed add-ons in the browser, while the Mozilla Add-ons website continues to display both preliminary and fully reviewed extensions.

The difference between preliminary and fully reviewed Firefox Add-ons

The core reason for this according to the blog post is that the Add-ons Manager never made the distinction between partially and fully reviewed extensions.

Unfortunately, we never implemented this distinction in the Firefox Add-ons Manager. This meant that users were able to find and install preliminarily reviewed add-ons without any indication of their review level. Since we believe this can be detrimental for the majority of our users, we decided to limit Add-ons Manager search results to fully reviewed add-ons.

It is not clear why Mozilla did not make the decision to highlight preliminary reviewed extensions in the same way they are highlighted on the Add-ons website.  If you visit the website, you will notice that fully reviewed add-ons are highlighted with a green download button, while preliminary reviewed add-ons with a striped yellow button instead and a notification underneath that the "add-on has been preliminary reviewed by Mozilla".

fully reviewed addon

firefox preliminary reviewed extension

Mozilla defines the two review types in the following ways:

  • Full Review — a thorough functional and code review of the add-on, appropriate for add-ons ready for distribution to the masses. All site features are available to these add-ons.
  • Preliminary Review — a faster review intended for experimental add-ons. Preliminary reviews do not check for functionality or full policy compliance, but the reviewed add-ons have install button cautions and some feature limitations.

The change that was announced yesterday is server-side, which means that it affects all versions of the Firefox browser.

In case you are wondering, you open the Add-ons Manager in the following way:

  1. Either type about:addons in the browser's address bar and hit enter, use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-A, or tap on the Alt-key and select Tools > Add-ons this way.
  2. A click on Get Add-ons here opens the manager. You can use the search up top to find matching extensions.

firefox add-ons manager

Users who want all Firefox add-ons to be included in searches need to use the Add-ons website from now on and avoid the built-in Add-ons Manager, as it won't include preliminary or experimental add-ons anymore.


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  1. rpwheeler said on August 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Damn the freaking Mozilla changes again. I used to say that my PC and my browser are my personal things, where I want to get what I want, not what the damn policy designed by some bureaucrat is “appropriate” for me.

    Thanks for the notifying me, Martin.
    Away with built-in search then.

  2. Neal said on August 29, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    This is all well and good, but the review times for addons take weeks not or months. For example Xmarks one of the most popular addon has only been reviewed for version 4.2.1 a version released in May. Xmarks officially released 4.2.3 on own website July and it just been waiting review since forever on the Mozilla addon site, and these aren’t minor updates, you need 4.2.3 to properly work with the latest Firefox.

    The result is, anybody installing xmarks from the addon store will get a lot of freezes or outright crashes thus the recent negative reviews of xmarks on the Mozilla addon site which of course isn’t Xmarks fault. All b/c Mozilla can’t get it’s act together.

  3. JohnP said on August 29, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Where does Mozilla publish their telemetry data? I want to know the percentage of people that actually use addons.

  4. Robert Palmar said on August 29, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    I always use the website and sometimes search engines for Firefox add-ons.
    Searching from the Add-ons Manager is more likely by a casual user
    who uses few add-ons and the fully reviewed are probably
    best for such a user so I can see Mozilla’s logic.

  5. Caspy7 said on August 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    I wonder if they simply haven’t determined the best UX for the circumstance yet.
    Users are more likely to be trusting of what they see offered through the Addon Manager. Surely this is the primary issue here. That is, perhaps *if* they’re going to include preliminarily reviewed addons, they feel the current method via the website is not enough for the built-in manager.

  6. Richard said on August 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    When I first started using Firefox (pre-version 1) it was designed for people who wanted more from a browser than the crap IE experience.

    Today, Mozilla’s design and UX philosophy seems to be design for the lowest common denominator and mimic Google Chrome or Opera features. If it weren’t for the fantastic extension library I might abandon Firefox.

    The above referenced policy change only reinforces my dislike of the current Mozilla management regime.

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