No, Mozilla is not abandoning its Tracking Protection feature

Martin Brinkmann
May 29, 2015
Updated • May 31, 2015

Mozilla's Tracking Protection feature is one of the many exciting features that the organization is working on currently.

Designed to block the bulk of online tracking without blocking advertisement outright, it can be seen as a compromise between blocking ads completely and not blocking them at all.

As an added benefit, it is said to improve page loading time significantly since it blocks tracking connections from being made by the browser.

Ed Bott suggested today in a post on ZDnet that Mozilla appears to have abandoned the tracking protection initiative in Firefox, stating that the main bug on Mozilla's bug tracking site has not received a comment in months.

Another reason brought forward in the article is that Monica Chew left Mozilla recently after working on the feature.

If you check the bug you will notice that the last comment dates back to January 2015. You will notice however as well that updates have been posted, dependencies mostly and that the bug is the main tracking bug for the feature linking to dozens of bugs it depends on.

If you check these bugs, you will notice that updates have been posted to several of the bugs this month and in past months.

It makes no sense to update bugs if the project has indeed been abandoned. The conclusion is that Tracking Protection is still being worked on.

Ed Bott is right in stating that Mozilla has not yet revealed when and how the feature will land in Firefox, but that too is not uncommon.

If you compare that to e10s, Firefox's multi-process feature, you will find the same approach used by Mozilla. Some features may take years to complete depending on how many people are working on it actively, and whether other features are prioritized by Mozilla.

Tracking Protection is also included in a mockup of Firefox's new control center. You can check out the wireframe on Bugzilla which shows its integration. While that dates back two months, it is a clear sign that Mozilla is still planning to integrate the feature in the browser.


If you take all of this together, you cannot possibly come to the conclusion that the Tracking Protection feature has been abandoned by Mozilla. It may not be priority number one though but that is understandable as Mozilla is working on e10s and other major features at the same time.

There is obviously always a chance that a feature won't make it and will be abandoned before its launch but it seems highly unlikely at this point in time that this will be the fate of the Tracking Protection feature.

No, Mozilla is not abandoning its Tracking Protection feature
Article Name
No, Mozilla is not abandoning its Tracking Protection feature
Ed Bott suggested recently that Mozilla has abandoned the Tracking Protection feature. The article refutes the claim.

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  1. GunGunGun said on May 30, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Martin, do you know how the Tracking Protection ahgorithm work, I mean this feature is like Antivirus heurestic or it is just like AdBlock Plus url blocking feature ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 30, 2015 at 10:11 am

      It is a blocklist as far as I know.

  2. Dave said on May 30, 2015 at 8:23 am

    when i enable tracking protection in FF i do NOT see adds in your site and also so far i have found that the youtube notification for comment likes does not work as well

  3. David Pro said on May 30, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Is there a trimmed down version of firefox without all the bloat?

    1. ElGoopo said on May 31, 2015 at 3:44 am

      What bloat? More to the point, is any of it actually impacting you, given that most features Mozilla releases aren’t even enabled by default?

    2. happysurf said on May 30, 2015 at 8:19 am

      Yes, Cyberfox.

  4. Glory said on May 30, 2015 at 2:09 am

    I have it activated in Firefox 38 stable and does it’s job as expected, as well as any other third-party anti-tracker. At this point, it’s a ”set and forget” tracking protection and I hope it stays that way. It’s main selling point seems to be it’s lightness on ressources. It is barely noticeable on RAM usage and will indeed speed up browsing on heavy-laden websites (those full of ads & trackers).

    So, keep it up Mozilla. We are counting on you to help protect our privacy.

  5. Tom Hawack said on May 30, 2015 at 12:10 am

    What I don’t understand is why this tracking protection feature (privacy.trackingprotection.enabled=true) requires the safebrowsing feature to be enabled (browser.safebrowsing.enabled=true) in order to work.

    I tested privacy.trackingprotection.enabled and set consequently browser.safebrowsing.enabled to true. I was surprised to notice that the downloaded tracking database was very small and remained small while the safebrowsing data (Google’s) kept rising every half hour.

    I think that for the time being the tracking protection feature is in a rather preliminary stage : less than 100kB when Google’s safebrowsing downloads 5, 6, 7 mB and running. Why are both tied?

    I’ve reset safebrowsing to false and left trackingprotection to its default value : off

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on June 12, 2015 at 2:26 am

      @Tom Hawack:

      “What I don’t understand is why this tracking protection feature (privacy.trackingprotection.enabled=true) requires the safebrowsing feature to be enabled (browser.safebrowsing.enabled=true) in order to work.”

      It was a bug and should be fixed with tomorrows’s Nightly (bug #1157081).

      1. Tom Hawack said on June 12, 2015 at 9:21 am

        @Sören Hentzschel, thanks for this information.

    2. gh said on May 30, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Tom, as I mentioned in comment to another recent ghacks article, mozilla chose to use the “safebrowsing API” to handle listserver/client communications. The “browser.safebroswing.enabled” apparently serves as generic killswitch, with additional prefs to enable each of the safebrowsing -dependent features (phish,malware,tracking).

      Color me cynical, but I suspect mozilla’s primary interest in dabbling at this “feature” is toward monitization ~~ they’re jealous of the success (!) achieved by AdblockPlus in selling “acceptable ads whitelist” subscriptions. The fact that they’ve omitted a GUI so that users can view/add/edit the nannylisted items certainly suggests that avoidance of placement on mozilla’s “curated list” might be achieved, for a price. (After the fact, I can imagine the lame excuse: “we try to maintain a comprehensive list, but we can’t catch ALL the bad actors…”)

      1. Tom Hawack said on May 31, 2015 at 9:53 am

        I read you loud and clear.
        Anyway, at this time on Firefox’s Options / Security panel we have :

        Block reported attack sites which corresponds to browser.safebrowsing.malware.enabled (default=true)
        Block reported web forgeries which corresponds to browser.safebrowsing.enabled (default=true)

        These two options are independent from each other.

        Why not add in the panel, independent as both above :
        Block reported tracking forgeries which would correspond to privacy.trackingprotection.enabled (default=false)

        I have no way of using the tracking feature without the web forgeries feature. I just cannot believe this is a hazard. Mozilla has tied the tracking feature to the Web forgeries feature, and this is annoying. The tracking database is from Mozilla, the others are from Google.
        Can, will Mozilla ever emancipate from Google?

  6. baparam said on May 29, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Telling part of the truth is as bad as lying. What do you have to say to this from Monica Chew…

    …I believe that Mozilla can make progress in privacy, but leadership needs to recognize that current advertising practices that enable “free” content are in direct conflict with security, privacy, stability, and performance concerns…

    For that matter you should publish the links to Monica’s posts so that everyone can have the benefit of her views too. To make it easy here are the links…

    1. Tom Hawack said on May 30, 2015 at 9:24 am

      Many thanks for these links. I’m discovering Moniica Chew, her blog, a gap between her philosophy and a company’s policy she has moved away from, at least to the extent of the specificity of her approach. Most interesting. Must be read. There is most likely a strong internal debate (or are things already packed?) within Mozilla.

      1. gh said on May 30, 2015 at 8:26 pm

        Martin’s article mentioned that Monica left Mozilla’s employment recently. Ed Botfly’s op-ed states “Her parting shot…” and quotes a parargraph from her blog. “parting shot” begs a negative connotation — I didn’t read it that way.

        She was employed by Mozilla as a “software engineer” for several years, was paid for her contributions to Polaris, Lightbeam, and trackingprotection. On one hand, perhaps she became disillusioned because mozilla didn’t place higher emphasis on (more priority, more resources toward) Polaris. On the other hand, after paying her for SEVERAL YEARS to work on this, maybe Mozilla decided she & her peers were providing too little value, too slow progress? Across the months, I had repeatedly read the various “issues” pages for lightbeam etc. projects at github… and found them to be rife with committee chairperson-like attention toward beauracratic micromanagement (“ah, maybe the button should be blue? Ah, let’s try moving it 4px to the left.”) ~~ contrasts sharply with Mozilla’s “release early, release often” modus operandi.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 30, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Well it seems she was in disagreement with the decisions made by Mozilla executives. Unless we get the other side of the story and more substantial claims, I cannot possibly use it in an argument.

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