Mozilla announced yesterday that it plans to remove heavyweight theme support from Firefox as part of the organization's great or dead initiative.
Heavyweight themes, sometimes also called full themes or complete themes, can modify all elements of the web browser opposed to so-called lightweight themes which modify basic elements such as the header bar only.
Mozilla launched support for lightweight themes back in 2010 and has been pushing them to the forefront ever since.
Benjamin Smedberg, Sr. Engineering Manager at Mozilla, stated in the bug report that heavyweight themes can do "arbitrary styling and replace chrome packages" but did not list reasons for Mozilla's decision on the bug tracking site.
One likely reason for the change is Mozilla's plan to move away from giving extensions -- and themes -- full control over the browser. Another that complete themes are not overly popular. Only three complete themes have more than 100,000 users each.
This can be explained easily by neglecting full themes as they are hard to find on Mozilla's website and because Mozilla put the focus on lightweight themes ever since support was added for them to Firefox.
A deadline has not been announced yet, only that Mozilla plans to have a "specific product plan for themes" ready by December 1.
It is possible that full themes will be removed entirely, or that some features, such as changing icons and colors, find their way into lightweight themes.
The removal of full theme support in Firefox is another blow to the browser's customization options. It moves Firefox even closer to Google Chrome in terms of what users can and cannot do with the browser, and will surely irritate all users who run full themes right now in it.
Those users are left with only a handful of options: forget about the theme and install a light theme or no theme in Firefox, stop upgrading Firefox to keep support for the theme, or switch to another browser.
Third-party browsers based on Firefox such as Pale Moon will -- likely -- continue supporting themes.
The move may look good on paper, considering that it affects only a tiny fraction of Firefox users who have installed full themes but it is another blow against the browser's massive customization framework.
It is disheartening to see customization options removed left and right as it is one of Firefox's few features that Chrome and the majority of browsers out there cannot compete with.
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