How to monitor extension updates in Chrome and Firefox

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 18, 2014
Updated • Jun 11, 2019
Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet

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The purchase of popular browser extensions for Google chrome or Mozilla Firefox is a lucrative business. Companies offer developers sums in the four or five digit range to get full control over the extension.

I have described a year ago how companies take advantage of users by acquiring Firefox add-ons, and Chrome has seen its fair share of extension controversy as well.

Once the deal has been completed, work beings to implement monetization features into the newly acquired extension. A popular choice right now is the inclusion of affiliate marketing links on web pages that are visited by users who run the extension.

Other options are the direct injection of ads on web pages, or the tracking of user movement across the web.

The main issue here is not the monetization or the tracking, but the fact that this is enabled for all users of the extension without information.

Chrome extensions update automatically, and as long as they do not require any additional privileges, users are not notified about updates.  Firefox add-ons can be updated automatically as well.

How to deal with extension updates

You have two options here. The first is to block extensions from updating automatically. This can be done quite easily in Firefox, as you have full control over each extension individually in the browser.

firefox automatic addon updates

  1. Load about:addons in the browser's address bar.
  2. Click on the more link next to the add-on that you want to modify the updating preferences for.
  3. Locate the automatic updates preference and switch it from default to on or off

Alternatively, do the following to disable all automatic updates:

update addons automatically

  1. Locate the preferences icon on the about:addons website. It is displayed next to the search on top.
  2. Click on the icon, and make sure that "Update add-ons automatically" is not checked.

Chrome on the other hand does not provide you with options to do so directly. There is a workaround though for that, but it is not pretty, and you will have to repeat the process after each upgrade. Here is how that is done:

chrome extension updates

  1. Load the chrome://extensions/ page in the Chrome browser.
  2. Check the ID listed there, you will need it to identify it later.
  3. Open the Chrome folder on your system, on Windows Vista and newer, it is located in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Extensions
  4. Open the folder that corresponds to the ID of the extension.
  5. Open the current version folder.
  6. Locate the manifest.json file.
  7. Open it in a plain text editor such as Notepad.
  8. Replace the update_url variable with https://localhost/service/update2/crx
  9. Repeat the process for extension that you want to disable automatic updates for.

Second option

Update: The two Firefox add-ons described below are no longer available. Mozilla changed the Firefox add-on system with the release of Firefox 57. There is no comparable add-on available for Firefox at the time of writing. End

The second option that you have is to use extensions that inform you about updates. Firefox users can install the Add-on Update Checker extension for the browser and configure it to alert you when updates are available. You can furthermore use it to block update checks for specific extensions, and whether you want addon updates to be installed automatically.

Addons Recent Updates is a related extension. It displays more add-ons under recent updates on the about:addons page, which can be useful to track down which add-ons have been updated recently in Firefox.

Google Chrome users can check out Extensions Update Notifier which informs you when Chrome extensions get updated. In addition to notifying you, it will also display a change log if available.

How to monitor extension updates in Chrome and Firefox
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How to monitor extension updates in Chrome and Firefox
The guide offers tips and instructions on monitoring extension updates in the Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers.
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  1. anonymous said on September 23, 2020 at 9:50 am

    thanks you saved my 1000 tabs :)

  2. Anonymous said on September 23, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Fantastic! Thank you! This worked like a charm. Had exactly the same issue in Firefox on a PC and this fixed it.

  3. J Smith said on September 23, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! Like you, I’d noticed that disabling/re-enabling the extension would work for that browser session, but I hadn’t tried anything yet to force a fix. I’m SO glad it was this easy!

    I sure hope the OneTab team issues an official fix ASAP, though. Now that it’s been a few days, they’re starting to get bad reviews, which is unfortunate.

    1. White said on September 23, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      Yes! I also tried the workaround. I also reported this bug to OneTab team on the first day I faced this issue.
      Thanks, Ashwin for the fix!

  4. Ken said on September 23, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    I was nearing desperation when I found your direction. It worked.

    Thank you so much.

  5. OneTab team said on September 23, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Hi, OneTab developer here. Sorry for this – it’s not clear why this bug is suddenly happening for some people, but we’re urgently investigating this with the Mozilla/Firefox team and will be providing a fix very shortly.

  6. TRS said on September 23, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this fix! You saved my tabs. The only note/point I would like to add is for Step 2.

    Perhaps put a note stating they should copy Step 3 and forward of your tutorial to Word. Once we close Firefox, we lose visibility to your tutorial. For me, I know I would not be able to remember the .bkp.

    Again, thank you!

  7. OneTab team said on September 23, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Easy temporary fix: To make OneTab work again, type “about:addons” in your Firefox address bar. Then find OneTab in the list of extensions, and click the blue toggle button twice. This will disable and then re-enable OneTab, and cause it to work again.

    We’re working with Mozilla for a permanent fix. Sorry for the inconvenience, this is a very strange issue that is only affecting the Firefox version of OneTab.

  8. don backer said on September 23, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    I have found by disabling and then re-enable in the add on menu I get my tab back. Short term fix. Will try yours.

  9. Anonymous said on September 23, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you. I thought I had lost a month of digging. I’ll be a little more attentive about exporting the urls from the extension list now. It’s a great tool but Firefox doesn’t always play nice with its extensions.

  10. OneTab team said on September 23, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Good news – I’ve been working with Mozilla all morning to resolve this. Mozilla have confirmed it was due to a bug in Firefox (related to extension permissions downgrades).

    To fix OneTab, just go to “about:addons” in your Firefox address bar, click the ‘cog’ icon in the top right, and click ‘Check for updates’. This will upgrade you to OneTab v1.39, which fixes the issue.

  11. Anonymous said on September 24, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Darn, I tried everything here and I still can’t get my tabs back. I even did a full system restore to a point last week hoping that my saved tabs would be in the old .xpi file, but no luck.

    I’m pretty disappointed :(

  12. Anonymous said on September 26, 2020 at 6:22 am

    Probably I should’ve been more patient, but now I don’t know how to feel about this. I lost about 900 tabs in the recovery process (I reinstalled OneTab), which, incredible as it sounds, weren’t all just a messy dump I’m never going back to, but actually important stuff (yeah, I have a peculiar workflow).

    Trying to suppress the anger and reflecting on what happened, it seems I should blame myself for not having a backup. But surely I couldn’t back it up manually every time I save a tab, it would defy all purpose of having this addon in the first place. A couple of years ago data was stored at “~/.mozilla/firefox/%PROFILE%/jetpack/[email protected]/simple-storage”, and you could back it up with simple crontab. This is no longer the case, this folder is just empty. And since OneTab is closed-source black box, I couldn’t have done anything else as well.

    So the only reasonable lesson to be learned is that I actually must stop relying on OneTab, since sooner or later it will let me down again. Fuck it.

  13. ckjk said on September 26, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I just disable and re-enable. No tabs lost!

  14. bsdaddict said on September 29, 2020 at 10:21 am

    I switched from OneTab to Tab Stash ( months ago and haven’t looked back. I had never experienced any data loss with OneTab, although I was a bit concerned by some reports of data loss I read about. My main issue was with OneTabs performance, it’s a hog. I had been looking for a replacement and testing out a ton of addons for a couple of months when I finally discovered Tab Stash, and am damn glad I did. I really can’t recommend it strongly enough…

    1. Anonymous said on September 29, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks, bsdaddict. Never tried it, looks nice, but I’m a bit concerned by small number of stashed tabs on these screenshots, not sure if it’d be usable when stashing a lot of tabs. How many tabs do you usually have stashed?

  15. bsdaddict said on October 3, 2020 at 3:40 am

    Tab Stash is is a great alternative to One Tab, y’all… I made the switch months ago and am very happy with it.

  16. Nostradamus said on April 26, 2023 at 4:03 pm

    >DO THIS FIRST: Before trying the following fix, I recommend disabling OneTab and re-enabling it from the about:addons page, to access and regain your tabs.

    Worked for me! Many, many thanks!

  17. MartinS said on August 18, 2023 at 7:07 pm

    I know it’s late but ist there an option for chrome on android tablets aswell? My wife hates it that the search bar and Tab list will just come Up again when she Scrolls up

  18. JellyKid said on September 30, 2023 at 1:33 am

    You are truly a hero and a scholar, sir or madam. I salute you!

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